Dropping out of university, becoming a bodybuilder and working as a doorman at a couple of Perth nightclubs is not your average start to a lengthy career in executive management, but Dominique Thatcher AFAIM has always done things a little differently.
Describing those early working experiences as “perfect for the development of your interpersonal skills”, the Fremantle Ports Senior Logistics Officer has embraced every moment of his professional career.
Nearly 30 years ago, the Mauritian-born rugby enthusiast decided to take up another night-time position as a part-time mail officer at Australia Post, in what would prove to be a life-changing decision.
Even at the beginning of this career move, Mr Thatcher believed management skills were part of his DNA.
“I vividly remember telling my colleagues one morning at 2am, six months into the job, that I could easily manage this shift of 40 or so staff,” he said.
“The comments I got back weren’t even fit to be repeated to my rugby mates after more than a few Emu Exports.”
Unperturbed by the remarks, Mr Thatcher decided to begin what he called “the game of snakes and ladders”.
“My experience of climbing the corporate ladder is you must carefully pick your path to climb, and sometimes sideways is better than up, until the time is right to go up,” he said.
Studying extensively at TAFE, going through almost all the internal training Australia Post had to offer and heading back to university in Perth and Melbourne, Mr Thatcher was a man on a mission.
Starting from the small beginnings of that mail room, he spent 15 years of his professional career with Australia Post as a senior executive, successfully motivating thousands of employees to efficiently deliver one of the nation’s most vital services.
“Having grown from the engine room to the boardroom, I had an unprecedented conceptual and intimate knowledge of the business,” Mr Thatcher said.
“But more importantly I surrounded myself with a team of ‘trusted lieutenants’ with a common goal of connecting Australians everyday by delivering their letters and parcels.
“When you inspire the workforce to believe in that goal, you suddenly generate this synchronised and consistent supply chain, where people genuinely take pride in what they do.”
Playing an integral role in changing Australia Post from an organisation of manual reliance to a mechanised and automated digital workhorse, Mr Thatcher successfully implemented cultural change – something which can be a challenge for businesses.
“From my experience, we focus too much on the ‘element’ of change – may it be process, technology, merger and acquisition, innovative culture or customer centricity,” Mr Thatcher said.
“Over the years I have learnt to question the ‘fitness’ of the current culture to change. You must ask are the people ready to change? And if not, prepare them for the change and support them through the journey.
“Change is not optional, but it is my opinion there is a correct and dignified way to successfully approach it; regardless of the ‘what’ it is about the ‘who’ and the ‘how’.”
After a life-shaping experience with Australia Post, Mr Thatcher took a
12-month sabbatical for travel and study, allowing him to further develop his passion for strategy, technology, management and end-to-end supply chain logistics.
Working in project management roles at Main Roads WA and the Public Transport Authority, Mr Thatcher has recently settled himself at Fremantle Ports as Senior Logistics Officer.
“Having ticked the air, road and rail boxes, I was on the lookout for my ‘maritime’ chapter when Fremantle Ports offered me the opportunity to join its team,” Mr Thatcher said.
“So much excites me at Fremantle Ports. Productivity, efficiency, planning and strategy – the very stuff that runs in my veins, so I’m in my element.
“A peek at the wharf gives you a daily tangible economic indicator of the state.”
Giving an insight into how he manages to switch between different sectors of the workforce with such success, Mr Thatcher said learning the ropes at the bottom rung of businesses allowed him to adapt quickly.
“Driven by my goal and my thirst of learning has made me very adaptable and modest, allowing me to press the ‘reset button’, clear the hard drive and repeat the Australia Post journey,” he said.
“Another important factor is the support of my family and my extensive network built over the past 30 years, what I call my ‘business village’, referring to the African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.
“A pinch of ‘who you know and not what you know’ comes in handy while successfully navigating between different sectors – so truly maximise and optimise those network opportunities and nurture meaningful relationships.”