Neighbourhood natters: We chat to a project management maestro from Gilbert + Tobin, and our very own water-loving eco-warrior.
Effie Kabourakis, Head of Procurement and Facilities, Gilbert + Tobin
Project management maestro with more than 30 years making things happen.
The job description of a title like Head of Procurement and Facilities can differ wildly between organisations depending on the nature of the business, so the first thing we ask Effie Kabourakis is what that role entails in her work for leading Australian law firm, Gilbert + Tobin? And we’re ready to take lots of notes, because we see from her LinkedIn profile that she’s been with the company since 1990.
Her first answer is as simple as it is humble, “I look after the day-to-day operation of the firm, and I give support to staff and partners,” Effie replies, and it feels like she wants to leave it there. But we’re not buying it. We’ve heard rumours about the wonderful difference Effie’s wide skill set makes to the way things get done at G+T, so we dig a bit deeper, and sure enough there’s a list as long as your arm of crucial operational elements under the close watch of her expert eye.
Human resources. Leadership initiatives. Project and operations management. Purchasing. Budgeting. The facilities universe including mailroom, front of house, inhouse café, catering, car parking, lift maintenance, air con management, ID passes. The list goes on. Effie is clearly intrinsic to the very fabric of G+T and her relationship with the firm is obviously a love affair that’s been going strong for 30 years and counting. We’re intrigued, and we ask her nicely to tell us all about it.
“I started at G+T as a secretary in 1990, working with Danny Gilbert, the G+T Managing Partner, and it didn’t take long to work out what a wonderful firm I’d found. I had my first child, Nicholas, in 1992. ‘Bring the baby in’ they said, and they let me work with total flexibility which enabled me to continue to develop my career, while still being the best mum I could be. And remember, this is 1992, back when flexible or professional part time work just did not exist. As a mum then you either worked full time and hardly saw your children, or you had to put your career on pause. I knew at the time that I was lucky to have such a great boss in Danny, and such a flexible arrangement, but with hindsight it says something much bigger about G+T in a wider context. Such a progressive approach to employment, so ahead of their time.”
How to build a family and a career in perfect harmony.
As it turned out, G+T and their pro-parent employment ethic was exactly the right place for Effie, because there were more children on the way. “I moved seamlessly between full time and part time roles as baby number two, James, and baby number three, Andrew, came along over the years that followed. And again, I need to thank another G+T gem of a boss for their generosity and flexibility - my General Manager for a time, Lynda. My husband, Tom, was working untimely shifts, so we really couldn’t have done it without Lynda’s support. This organisation just oozes good people.”
With three beautiful boys in the bag, Effie returned once more to full time work and her journey to becoming G+T operational guru began in earnest. “I worked in HR for around 15 years, and I absolutely loved it. The company was growing strong and fast, and when it came time to set-up the first Melbourne office, I was asked to manage the project and found talents I didn’t know I had. I led the entire fit out from start to finish and the work really suited me. Being the insightful man that Danny is, he realised this before I did, and when a facilities role came up he urged me to take it, saying I’d be great at it. And the rest, as they say, is history. It was the best professional move I’ve ever made.”
After such a long-lasting working relationship with a single employer, which has seen so much progression, we can’t resist asking if there is one standout achievement. Effie replies without a second thought, “Oh that’s easy, it would have to be project managing the mammoth task of moving our offices from Park Street to Barangaroo. Moving everyone over one weekend, oh my god, I think about that and have no idea how we achieved what we did, and I’m not sure it would happen again so smoothly if we did it all again today,” Effie jokes with a wistful smile. “It was an all-consuming, at times stressful project for us, but when we saw how at home and happy everyone was on that first Monday after the weekend move, without losing one single billable hour, it was well worth the extraordinary effort.”
A ‘to-do’ list of Greek Islands, grandkids and dinner with mum.
At the time of the interview, Sydney was in the last week of a long Covid lockdown, so we asked Effie what her and her family got up to before the pandemic, and what they are looking forward to doing most when things opened up. “Well,” she says with a glowing smile, “The boys are 29, 26 and 23 now, so until they give us some grandchildren there’s no more babies for us to look after. Which means, after a busy kid-focussed few decades, Tom and I are free to enjoy the good things in life. Fun friends, delicious food and drinks, getting out and about and soaking up the ambience of this glorious city. And when things open up? Well, the first thing we’ll do when it’s safe is take my marvellous 85-year-old mum out to dinner with the family. The second thing we’ll do is book a tour around the gloriously sunny Greek Islands,” says Effie with another beaming smile.
Time has escaped us, so we close by asking what next? What does this delightful individual wish for in what we hope is a restriction-free future?
“Grandchildren,” is the resolute reply. “And after Covid caused a wedding cancellation, my son and his fiancée are finally getting married, so you never know your luck!” (Said with a wink.)
“And normality,” Effie adds after a beat. “A bit of that would be nice, too.”
Shane Mulcahy. Head of Operations, Engineering and Sustainability, JLL
Water-loving eco-warrior, with a thing for giving back.
You may remember Shane Mulcahy from the videos we shared of our partners who participated in Steptember last year, fundraising for those affected by and living with Cerebral Palsy. He was the smiling guy in the cap and glasses, proudly stating that he was “here for the babies at risk of Cerebral Palsy”, with the rolling surf of Sydney’s eastern suburbs behind him. So, we have to start by asking, what is it about Steptember that prompts this predominantly behind-the-scenes operator to step in front of the camera?
“Among many happy memories as a very content kid growing up, there’s a particular tug on my heart that’s always stayed with me. One of our neighbour’s kids, Jason, had Cerebral Palsy. I remember how much I wanted Jason to join in the fun with us, how sad I was that he couldn’t, and I also starkly remember the flow on effect that Jason’s condition had on his family. I might not have completely understood it, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. When Steptember got up and running and did brilliant work raising awareness of the hardship faced by families impacted by Cerebral Palsy, I couldn’t help thinking – I wish Jason had this support and understanding back then.”
We think Shane looked especially ‘at one’ with the outdoors in his video, particularly proud of the ocean behind him, so we have a poke around and find out we’re onto something.
“Yep,” says Shane with a big smile. “I love the ocean. The ocean was my whole life growing up in South Maroubra. Swimming. Surfing. Fishing. You name it. My younger years were basically a constant rolling montage of holidays and road trips with mum, dad, my sister, and our family friends, gravitating towards the water at every turn, laughing all the way. I was very lucky back then to enjoy such a water-fuelled childhood, and I still feel very lucky today to have the choice to make sure the surf continues to play such a big part in my adult life.”
Pulling pipes and learning the professional life.
After painting such a glorious picture of his life as a child, it’s no surprise to us that, in adult life, it’s still family that drives this delightful man. In a statement that no writer could improve upon, Shane tells us that his wife, Christine, and his daughter, Ella, are the “reason why I come to work.” And even when we move onto the subject of work, family still has a huge influence. Shane explains, “My first 13 years of work was in my mum and dad’s family plumbing business, I was pulling pipes with my dad while mum ran the office. They taught me everything I know about business, customers, ethics and service. They really were formative years in terms of my professional life, and I still judge my own performance at work by wondering what mum and dad would think.”
Shane is Head of Operations, Engineering and Sustainability for JLL – ‘world leader in real estate services, powered by an entrepreneurial spirit’ – and we ask him exactly what that means in terms of his day-to-day at the office.
There’s a beautiful simplicity to Shane’s reply. “My role is to ensure that the premium grade assets I manage are fully operational, every single second of every single day. Our premises must be the safest, cleanest, most professionally run places in town – with not one exception. Most people call them offices, but we think of our premises as a home away from home, for everyone who steps through the door, be they permanent employee, contractor, or visitor. From the security to the aircon, our keyword is perfection. I see any interaction with JLL property as a journey, and it’s my job to make sure that journey is a flawless experience to remember.”
A people-person with a passion for sustainability.
After nearly 20 years and such an impressive route through the ranks of JLL – arriving at International Towers via other premium properties such as Australia Square, Darling Park Precinct and 420 George Street – we have to ask Shane, what flicks his switch professionally? If he had to pick one or two successes or passions, in a quick chat with a stranger, what would they be?
“How do I put this?” he asks himself, followed by a thoughtful pause. (And we’re immediately intrigued, literally hanging on his next words.) “To start with, I’m on a mission with my colleagues to dispel the ‘old school’ corporate culture, where bosses boss and staff or contractors follow orders with their heads down. As we see it, absolutely everyone is a partner, and each and every day is an opportunity to find new parity, new ways of working together in pursuit of the same goals.” And then he adds, with a humorous raise of his eyebrow, “Don’t get me wrong, there are still clashes in the process of robust negotiation and I don’t like being told something can’t be done… but even in those rare situations, I believe everyone is on the same level and deserves the same respect.”
“And don’t get me started on sustainability,” continues Shane. In a professional context, he passionately oversees many JLL and International Towers sustainability initiatives designed to reduce footprints, use less energy, and recycle waste correctly, to name just a few.
And when it comes to his personal life, we hope Shane doesn’t mind us describing his passion for sustainability as more of an obsession. There’s a clear, pure hatred of landfill sites and, on the subject of plastic, the look on his face becomes the most serious we’ve seen in this chat when he says, with a stern glare, “We need to keep that [bleep] out of the ocean.”
That powerful note feels like the perfect place to say our goodbyes. As we part company we ask what Shane did over the holidays, and we’ll give you a clue what he told us. It’s got something to do with family, fresh air, and surf.