Howardco Interview Series with Katina Rosker
Join me for this month’s inspiring interview on Leadership where I speak with Katina Rosker (our youngest leader so far to be interviewed!), Managing Director at Milkbar Digital.
If you’d prefer to read this interview, please see the transcript below.
Well, hello and welcome to our
leadership interview series.
I’m Warren Howard and at Howard Co.
We help our clients build sustainable,
high performing organizations
that attract and retain the best people.
Now today I’m going to reflect
on leadership and particularly
with a focus on emerging leaders.
In the past, I’ve asked our guests about
their advice and tips for people
who are new to a leadership role.
Well, today we’re going to be talking
to someone who is in fact an emerging
leader, and they are well-placed to give
us their insight into what it’s
like to being a senior leader for the first time.
Now the business environment we’ve all
been experiencing in the last 18 months
has been challenging,
even for the most experienced senior
leaders amongst us,
because the things we’ve had to work with
and deal with have been unprecedented.
But what if you’re a new leader and you
don’t have those years of experience behind you.
Is approaching things
with a fresh set of eyes an advantage,
since so much of what we’re going through,
we really haven’t been through before.
So today’s guest is someone who I’ve known
for over five years,
and I’ve had the pleasure in seeing her
evolve and grow in both ability
and responsibility into her role today as
the managing director of Milk Bar Digital.
So I’m so looking forward to our
discussion, and I have great pleasure
in welcoming Katina Rosker
to our interview today.
Hi, Katina, how are you?
Good, thank you.
I’m really looking forward
to our chat today.
Well, me as well, Katrina, as I said,
I’ve known you for over five years now.
It’s been such a thrill to be
working with you and the team at Milk Bar Digital,
and so I’m really, really looking forward
to having this interview and this
conversation where we can
share what you’ve learned and
some of your thoughts about
being a new leader in your role.
So let’s ask you
a brief overview of your career and your
background to Milk Bar and what
brings you to where you are today.
So I’ve been at Milk Bar Digital
for just over five years now.
When I first joined Milk Bar,
it was quite a small team.
So that was Sam, who is our founder
and director and two other people, two days a week.
I joined the team and started off part time as well, and I was a social media coordinator.
So I essentially helped out some clients with whatever they really
needed across their social media channels.
And sort of over the years,
that role developed into being a social
media manager, and I started looking after
my own team, which was very nerve
wracking, but also very exciting.
So that was my first time managing.
I was in that position
for about two years.
And then probably just over a year ago,
I started the very exciting role
of managing director Milk Bar.
So a bit of a transition
and a shift for me.
So no longer taking care of my own clients,
which I had been doing
for four years so, a big change.
And I’m mainly taking care of an immediate
team, the team as a whole,
new business development,
a lot of strategy work and basically
whatever anyone else needs a hand with.
So it’s a very varied role,
no two days look the same.
And I guess prior to Milk Bar,
I had a small contract role at a social
media agency for a few months.
And pretty much before then it
was all just Uni and internships.
So I had a lot of internships in my final
couple of years at Uni,
and thats when I really discovered
the world of social media,
and that’s when I realized
that’s where I wanted to head.
Well, thanks Katina.
Let me ask, a couple of quick questions there
based on all of that wonderful information
when you started you said what, there was three or four in the team?
How many today?
of today, we had a new starter, officially 21.
So from 4 to 21
Over what period of time?
About five years.
About five years.
So that’s pretty rapid growth, isn’t it?
It’s a great time to be on board.
And of course, that that growth has
mirrored the explosion
in social media over the time.
It has really, really grown.
When I was at uni,
it wasn’t part of the curriculum.
It just didn’t exist, really.
I think I had
one unit at Uni, that was called digital
marketing, but they never even
touched on this concern.
So I’m sure its very different these days.
Well, that really is very,
very different. I imagine back then would
it have been Facebook
the only sort of social media platform
that people were talking about?
Yeah, pretty much.
I think Instagram was new when it
came to businesses being on there.
I think it was there for your personal
use, but it’s definitely
really taken off now.
Well, exciting time to be on board.
And obviously you must be doing a good job
because you don’t get to 21 people unless
people like what you’re doing and there’s
more demand for your services.
I know there’s a lot more story behind all
of that, and I’m sure we’re going
to dig a bit deeper as we go into.
The next questions,
but let’s reflect on your experience,
particularly over the last 18 months,
as they have been challenging times.
What three words would you use to describe
your own personal experience as a leader?
During the last 18 months,
I think the first would be ever changing.
I think, you know, no two
days are really the same.
You didn’t know it was around the corner.
And I think because of that as well,
it was a little bit scary.
you know, just not knowing where things
would head, what’s next
week even look like.
But I think overall as well,
it’s also been a very rewarding year.
I think it’s been particularly
a big year of growth for Milk Bar.
And I think we’ve been one
of the lucky businesses during COVID.
So yeah, I think I’d probably pick
scary, ever-changing and rewarding.
How have you grown as a person,
Katina as the, you know, apart
from the responsibilities of the role?
What have you learned about
yourself in that time?
If I was looking back at myself 18 months
ago, I probably would have been very
scared like I mentioned,
just not really knowing what was ahead.
I’m a lot more resilient
than I probably thought,
able to think on my feet more
than I thought I could too.
I’m someone who’s very process and yeah,
anything to do with systems and whatever
can be organized is sort
of my default way of thinking.
So that’s been a bit of a challenge,
but I think I’ve learnt that I can do
whatever is needed on the fly,
even though I might be
a bit hard sometimes.
And I think that’s probably like a big
part of my growth in the last years.
Having to adapt to that kind of mindset
and that way of working.
Great answer Katrina, resilience is certainly something
that we’ve all had to learn
if we didn’t have it already.
And the other thing you talked about
being adaptable and agile, you know,
being able to move with the times
and adjust your style,
adjust the way you’re going about managing
so, you know, resilience and agility.
I think two very positive outcomes
of our experiences in the last 18 months.
So well done.
Thank you for asking that question.
That was a bit of an impromptu one, but
I knew you’d answer it well, thank you.
What are some of the challenges
that you’ve experienced in your new role,
particularly something perhaps you weren’t expecting?
Theres kind of two that come to mind,
one of them is probably just the best way
to make decisions,
and I think that was a big part of what I
was concerned about. I guess stepping
into this new role,
like how do I make the right decision? How
do I make sure it’s right for everyone
involved? How do I make sure I’m not
taking too long because obviously some
decisions have to be made quite quickly?
And I knew that going into it.
But then when you’re kind of in it
for real, when you have a lot of things
going on at the same time,
it can be a tough one.
So I think yeah, making decisions and you
know, it’s different when you’re working
on your own clients and things that you’re
across every single day because
you’ve got all the information.
But whereas with a team member,
they might come to you and you might have
to make decisions, but you might not have
all the facts, and you might have to spend
a bit of time looking into it and trying
to figure out what’s the best thing for
the team member as a whole or for the client.
So that’s been a bit of a challenge.
to try to navigate.
And I think with decision making too,
everything is always new,
so you can’t really default on a past
process that you might have had in place
because there’s no such thing as
the same problem, kind of twice.
So that’s been a bit of a challenge.
And then I’d say the other one
is probably time management.
I think that’s a big one because when
you’re in a leadership role,
you of course have your own
responsibilities and things
that you have to tick off.
And you know, you might go into tomorrow
thinking, I’ve got the whole day
to literally do admin and I can
have no meetings.
It’s looking like a lot of desk time.
It looks great.
And then all of a sudden you get
in and there’s a lot of things
that suddenly need your attention and you
have to kind of really shift your mindset
and move things around because you
obviously don’t want to be a bottleneck
and hold things up for people.
But then if you’re moving your things
to the other side, it’s like,
when are you going to have time for that?
So that’s been definitely a bit
of a challenge, trying to
move things around and try to find time
for my own things versus
whatever the team needs.
So that’s been a bit
of an interesting one as well.
I’m sure many people will relate
to exactly what you were
talking about there.
You know, first of all,
the ever changing nature of making
decisions, no two decisions are the same.
But the other thing is about
the the constant demands on your time
and having to set priorities.
And with all those competing interests,
whether it be customers,
other stakeholders, your team,
the business owner,
there’s a lot of juggling that has to go
on in a day to actually get the important
things done and making sure that you’re
doing that, the important not
just the urgent ones as well.
Okay, some really great insights.
What about the flip side of this?
What would have been the rewards of being
a new managing director?
Theres been heaps.
Yeah, I think a lot of the time when you
can reflect, you might think about
the challenges and that sort of thing,
but I feel like I’ve been able to have
a look at a lot of the positives
and a lot of the rewards.
And I think
particularly for me,
a lot comes down to where Milk Bar first started
and where I was in my journey
and where Milk Bar was five years ago.
So I guess to to see
Milk Bar where it is now.
It’s really nice knowing I’ve played a bit
of a part in that and I feel like
a piece of the furniture, really.
So yeah, for me, a lot of the rewards are
I guess, training new team members,
seeing where they end up,
whether that’s progression for them
internally at Milk Bar or it’s seeing them
move on to somewhere amazing and then
being able to bring all those skills
and things that I’ve
personally helped train them with.
And I find that that’s been great.
And I think that some other advantages or
other rewards this year has again just
been the growth, but particularly in terms
of the project side of our business.
So we’ve started doing a lot of project
work, which never really was a thing
for us a few years ago, and it’s
really great to see that happen
and I think a big one
too moving into this role,
I never expected it,
I guess this early on in my career,
I never thought that this would be
where I’d be five years down the track.
So I think a massive reward of it is
really how much Sam,
the founder of Milk Bar,
also trust me to be in this role so
that in itself is probably one
of the biggest rewards, I think.
And Sam, I’m sure, would agree with all
of that, and I know Sam very well also.
So look what you said,
that was really interesting and made me
think about, you know,
the nature of your industry.
As we said, it’s, you know,
it’s quite a young industry and therefore
it’s a it’s an industry
for younger people.
It’s, you know, it’s definitely
a younger generation industry.
And for Milk Bar, you know,
it’s been for some of your and probably
many of your team, a starting point
for their career, which is just terrific.
And it was really nice to hear how you how
you look at that role that you play
in developing up people and even if they
end up leaving that you’ve added to their
career development and their future.
And I think, you know, we know
that people are looking in that for jobs.
They want a good place to work somewhere
with a purpose where they
can make a contribution.
But people do want to grow.
They want to develop their
skills at the same time.
You’re obviously doing that well, well done.
Next question. Can you tell us about your
own approach to leadership
now as you have developed it?
And also who or what has
inspired you in your career?
perhaps in some of the more
challenging times when you may
have even doubted yourself?
Yeah, that’s a great question.
I think in terms of my overall leadership
approach, I think I’m quite collaborative
and I like to think nurturing as well.
I kind of see myself as someone who loves
really working closely with the team.
So whether that’s my direct team or anyone
at Milk Bar, I love the training aspect.
I love really helping people up
skill, helping people problem solve.
I love being in that team
environment as well.
And then I think whenever I do have
to make those decisions whenever possible,
I love really being able to consult
with other people to try to get a few
opinions like feel like I’m
really covering all bases.
Really, I think I’m also
a bit nurturing in the way where I like
to kind of like, think the best of people.
And, you know, if someone might
skip out on something,
it’s not necessarily like a finger wagging
moment or anything like that,
but it’s like, Oh, like,
is this something I actually could have
done to help support them? Like,
what’s that extra bit of training
that I need to do to make sure
this doesn’t happen again?
And then I’m also quite process
driven, like I mentioned.
So sometimes that’s in the mix a little
bit too. I guess, in terms
of who or what has inspired me.
I think from day one being at Milk Bar,
I’ve always found the way
that Sam leads and manages.
I’ve always found that really inspiring.
She struck the balance of being someone
that you can have a great relationship
with at work, but also feel
a really good personal connection with.
And I feel like that’s always been
a management style that I’ve
wanted to pick up myself.
I think that you can still have
a successful business and a team
that respects you and works towards goals,
but you don’t always have to necessarily
be someone who’s very strict
or that type of thing.
So I think that’s something I always
try to remember in my own style.
And obviously there’s times
to be more assertive.
yeah, I feel like Sam’s really inspired
me, and that’s definitely impacted
how I like to manage or lead.
And in terms of, yeah,
what’s inspired me during challenging
times or what’s
helped when I’ve doubted of myself? I guess
just talking to others getting, you know,
you’re doing the right thing or little
bits of feedback even from the team.
And could even just be like really
small things that people mention and kind
of just gives you a little
bit of a tap on the back.
I know I’m doing all right
and I think, yeah, it’s like every day is
a new day, a day to try something new.
yeah, I think especially in the last year,
it’s like a lot of the time has been
challenging, not even just because
of the pandemic and everything
but moving into this new role.
So I think it was almost just a case
of needing a few months to really find
my feet and everything like that as well.
You know, I mean,
everyone is inspired by somebody or some
event in their life,
and we learn things both
positive and negative, don’t we?
From from people we’ve worked
with and situations we’ve had to face?
And look, it’s really, you know,
it’s really lovely to hear what
what you’ve gained from working
with Sam as well.
I agree with all of that.
But here’s the interesting thing, while
you’ve been watching and observing Sam,
others have been watching
and observing you.
So, you know, as you said,
being a leader is also
being that inspiration for others.
And I really like what you
said about your coaching role
leader as coach is a really,
really important attribute for, you know,
leaders of today and everyone’s a leader.
Everyone has the potential to be a leader
and everyone has the potential
to influence and help others grow.
Here’s the last question.
Well no its’s actually the second last.
If you hadn’t chosen this career, you said
before, you’re not sure what you would
have been doing. But what do you think you
might have been doing right now if
you hadn’t got into social media?
I feel like if you’d asked me five years
ago, like before I started at Milk Bar,
I probably would have had
a much different answer to now.
I think before this, this job,
I probably would have…
I don’t know.
I might have even wanted to go into like
graphic design or maybe a different
part of digital marketing.
I think things like
SEO and that kind of thing always
kind of tickled my fancy as well.
But yeah, now that I’m I’m here and
I’ve I’ve obviously learnt everything.
I feel a really interesting part
that I’ve learned about myself is how much
I love to manage
or how much I love to organize or,
yeah, take care of processes.
So I don’t know what that would look like,
but I think, yeah, if I had these skills
five years ago,
I think I could potentially have
gone down a different path.
Yeah, it’s interesting, I don’t know,
but it’s interesting because
my whole job now, the part that I probably
enjoy the most, is the management
and like the leadership sort
of aspect, but the process is always
there. So I’m like, what can
you give me and what can I organize?
You know, I think that’s a really,
really good thing to reflect
on for many people these days,
because sometimes it’s difficult to try
and project forward what your career might
look like or even what job you might be
doing, given the jobs seem
to be changing so rapidly.
What’s more important isn’t it is
to actually think about what
are the things I’m good at?
What do I like doing
and how can I apply those in my career?
Because that way
you open up a lot more options to
yourself, for your self-growth.
So it’s really good, you know, really,
really good sound information
and advice there.
Here’s the last one.
This is really the last one.
Knowing what you know now,
what advice would you give to your younger
self about how to approach your career?
I feel like for me personally,
it’s interesting because, and we sort of touched on it, and it’s like,
I didn’t think a place like this
existed when I was studying.
So it’s not something that I could have
dreamt of if that makes sense,
because it wasn’t there.
I’ve always been a really big advocate of
internships like I know that’s a thing
that I will always pass
on and talk to people about.
I think I’d definitely pass that advice
on to my younger self again.
It kind of connects with the idea of just
wanting to be a sponge and soaking
up as much as you can.
So from anyone at uni that you
feel like is doing a great job.
People at an internship, a tutor, managers, anyone.
And it could even be like pulling out tips
and tricks from jobs that aren’t actually
related to what you want to actually do.
But you might have a retail job that you
did when you were in high school,
but you can still pull out some skills or
pull out some key learnings
from different situations.
So I think just being a sponge as much as
possible is probably something, and I think
a part of the internship thing as well
is just trying things out,
because when you’re in uni,
you might have an ideal career in mind
and you might have an internship
and realise, hey, this isn’t actually
anything that tickles my fancy.
I don’t actually think
I want a career here.
Let me try something else
instead at another internship.
And I think internships themselves,
you can just open a lot of doors,
whether that is
a potential job offer or is the connection
that you can have
and that kind of thing too.
I think probably another thing for me
that I probably would tell myself because
I know, especially years ago,
I was a lot more more strictly
like process or goal driven.
And I think that while that’s great,
it’s not always practical.
So I think just reminding myself that,
you know, it’s OK to go
with the flow or trust your gut,
live in the moment sometimes because,
yeah, it doesn’t really matter.
As long as you’re putting your best foot
forward, you’re probably going to keep
learning and get to the spot
that you want to anyway.
very wise words.
There’s a little piece of the jigsaw here
that I thought we probably should add back
in just for people who were
listening, who don’t possibly know
the full scenario here
because we’ve mentioned Sam.
Yes, sound of the business.
We know you are now the managing director.
Probably, what we haven’t really covered off on is
what were the circumstances
that lead Sam Sidney,
to hand over responsibility for running
the business to Katina Rosker?
Yes, that is true.
Let’s explain that.
I guess like to even
backpedal a bit from there.
When I joined Milk Bar, I always sort
of knew that it was somewhere special.
It was something that I felt really
hungry for, I guess from day one.
And I kind of knew early on and I was
like, wow, I was like,
Milk Bar is going somewhere.
It’s so exciting.
And from, I think even like six months in,
I was already saying to Sam my like,
I’d love to put my hand up like,
I really want to help.
Like, what can I do?
How can I help?
And I wasn’t even thinking about
the next step or anything like that.
I was literally just like
Sam’s doing everything.
What can I do?
So I think that’s kind of been my attitude
since day one, and I think that’s probably
helped my progression to this point.
I guess the real transition
into this exact role was I was that social
media manager for a couple of years and
I feel more recently to
getting this new position,
I started helping out with some
other things around the business.
So whether that was new business
development or putting together pitches
and talking to potential
clients and all that.
I started doing a lot more of that,
and in my previous performance review,
I remember Sam saying something like,
Oh, you know, in the future,
can you imagine yourself in
a kind of role where you’re taking care
of my clients and you maybe helping me out
with more of the business side of things?
I was like, Yeah, that sounds good.
Maybe in the next like three to four
years or something like that.
And then fast forward, turns out Sam is
going to be going on maternity leave.
So that was all basically incredibly fast
forwarded a lot earlier than
I think we both anticipated.
So, yeah, it was basically a chat of,
Hey, do you want to try this new rollout?
And I said, Yes, so
here we are.
So yeah, it was definitely
a challenging transition as well.
Obviously, Sam getting ready
to go on maternity leave as well.
So it made handover not as
straightforward or I guess as process
driven has been probably both wanted.
So that probably made it a little bit more
challenging, but also exciting as well.
I really wanted to sort of join the dots
there for everyone because you
know that it is not obvious to everyone.
But can I just say thank you very much.
I’ve really enjoyed listening to your
insights and your learnings from from your
career, your wonderful career so far.
It’s been an honor to have been part
of that as a coach to yourself
and to the business and to see
the growth that you’ve all experienced.
For me, it’s very,
very rewarding and satisfying.
I’ve learned a lot from you as well
and I would hope that anyone who’s
listening to this has also, you know,
really taking something on board,
whether you are that person who is new
into a leadership role and now hearing it
from someone else’s perspective,
or perhaps like Katina was
earlier in her career as someone
who aspired to this role but was
looking for the opportunity.
There’s been a lot in this
conversation for everyone.
There’s also something in it for business
owners as well for you to reflect on what
would happen if you wanted to step out
of the business. Needed to, wanted to.
Who would run the business for you?
And do you have someone in the pipeline
who you’re developing and growing
to be able to do that?
Succession planning is such an important
role for any business owner to think about
who would run the business if
I didn’t want to or couldn’t.
And maybe a bigger question,
could they do it better?
I’ll leave you with that thought.
Katina, thanks so much.
You’ve been a delight, as always.
I’m sure people are going to get
a lot out of this interview.
I hope you enjoyed it as well.
Oh, I did.
Thank you so much Warren .
It’s been great and thank you
for all your help over the years.
I just wouldn’t be here with all this
wisdom and with all these ideas,
if not for your help as well.
Thats wonderful Katina. Thanks so much.
See you soon.