Michelle Melbourne - Passion, People and Solving Deeply Human Problems

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In this week's episode I talk with the amazing Michelle Melbourne who with her husband Phil has built a globally focused tech business taking on some of the biggest names on the planet.

Michelle is deeply passionate about people and about how technology can be used to address both challenges in government and business but also the deeply human issues of poverty in developing nations.

Michelle has a fascinating back story involving a deep interest in the physical world, the sciences, psychology and music. This synthesis of these unique interests has been integral in developing a business that brings the best out of her tribe and brings their best to the world.

5.51 - We talk about courage in the business journey.

6:54 - passion and persistence and their relationship to courage. Michelle discusses the power of being deliberate, persistent and consistent.

11.50 - Michelle begins to discuss her passion for technology and how it can help solve genuine human problems.

13.35 - Michelle describes what Intelledox software really does and how it can address major processes in business and public life.

13.58 - How Intelledox can help solve the issues caused by poverty in developing nations.

18:25 - Learning to be proud of your team and making sure you attract the right people.

19:10 - The importance of learning to 'disrupt yourself' and keep up with your industry.

20:40 The importance of being 'just in time' 

21:22 The 'impossible climb' and how you need to be positioned to take advantage of changes in your business environment.

22:24 - The importance of simply never giving up.


24:50 What keeps Michelle going when faced with adversity.

28:00 Educating an emerging market. Innovation or business as usual.

29:39 - Dealing with failure and setbacks

34:15 - Hiring people for potential not their current ability. 

43:05 - The power of showing up with relentless excellence.

45:04 A non-binary - evolutionary approach to decision making.

46:51 - The landing airplanes approach to controlling chaos

47:32 Dealing with imposter syndrome.

51:06 - Smooth waters do not make good sailors. Learning to love the struggle.

54:14 - Punching above your weight and being a 'giant beater' 

56"04  - What is so special about Canberra?

58:10 Michelles shares three key pieces of final advice.

Find Intelledox here:

Michelle on Twitter here

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jonathan Doyle: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the Canberra Business podcast. I've got the wonderful pleasure of welcome Michelle Melbourne Melbourne to the podcast. Michelle Melbourne, thanks for joining us.

Michelle Melbourne: Thanks, Jonathan. Please call me Shelly.

Jonathan Doyle: I'll call you Shelly. I want to start with something very contentious. Despite all the success of this wonderful business that you and Phil have created, Intelledox, there's one great tragedy and that it may have deprived the world of a possible concert trumpet player. Was there a moment when you just went, "Do I build a globally successful technology business, or pursue my dream?" Tell us about that.

Michelle Melbourne: Oh, you are very funny. That's a great way to introduce me. One thing about me is that I have a great love for my older brother, Brett Melbourne. He's two and a half years older than me, and he got into the school band, and I was too young to join. As soon as I got into fourth grade, there I was at the Garran Primary School tryouts for the school band, and I just wanted to be like my older brother. To that day, I still want to be like my older brother.

Jonathan Doyle: What drew you to the trumpet? Did they say, "We've got everything except a trumpet player,"? What drew you to that?

Michelle Melbourne: Well, that's a really good question. I knew I didn't want to play the flute, because I think that's a bit predictable, possibly. 

Jonathan Doyle: Can be hard on a family too, in the practice phase.

Michelle Melbourne: The flute?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: You don't think the trumpet is?

Jonathan Doyle: Okay, because Karen, my wife, her brother played the trumpet too, and when I saw that you did, I was really interested.

Michelle Melbourne: Oh nice. 

Jonathan Doyle: Well she tells the story of, everybody would be familiar with that famous Christmas song, "Little Drummer Boy." 

Michelle Melbourne: Oh, yeah. Beautiful.

Jonathan Doyle: Ben was learning the trumpet, and he played the (singing) part kind of a lot. Kind of like for hours at a time. Do you still play music?

Michelle Melbourne: I still have my trumpet that I had when I was a teenager, so it's [inaudible 00:01:43] Jim and trumpets still in my cupboard. About two years ago I had it serviced, so I'm kind of ready.

Jonathan Doyle: You haven't played it for a while?

Michelle Melbourne: Well once a trumpeter, always a trumpeter and particularly once a trumpeter when you had braces you can do anything seriously. You can take on the world if you can play the trumpet with braces. Later on in high school, I went to the lovely St Clair's College, and somehow a box of chocolates would end up in my locker, my locked locker on about the 19th or 20th of April. Of course that was just a few days before [inaudible 00:02:22] day.

Jonathan Doyle: Right. 

Michelle Melbourne: That was the way the deputy principal sang to me, "Shelly you're up on stage playing the last post," at assembly. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really? Did you do that? 

Michelle Melbourne: Character building. Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Did you do it? Did you get nervous? 

Michelle Melbourne: Always.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Michelle Melbourne: Always, yeah. Probably in a way that you probably couldn't say on radio. You know you're packing it, character building. 

Jonathan Doyle: How did you deal with nerves back then?

Michelle Melbourne: Lots of practice.

Jonathan Doyle: Is it?

Michelle Melbourne: Lots of practice.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, the last post is a open valve trumpet, so it can be played on a bugle, but I didn't have a bugle, so you play it on your trumpet. It is when you've got, I don't know how many girls were there, probably 1200 girls who, some of them are your mates.

Jonathan Doyle: A little staring. 

Michelle Melbourne: Looking at you going, "Oh my God," taking the last post. 

Jonathan Doyle: Don't get this wrong.

Michelle Melbourne: It's a deeply emotive piece of music.

Jonathan Doyle: It's a beautiful piece, yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: It is, a trumpet is a business card if you like, so you're a real trumpeter if you can play that. 

Jonathan Doyle: You want to get that right.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. I can still play it.

Jonathan Doyle: You can still ...?

Michelle Melbourne: Yup comes out at dinner parties. 

Jonathan Doyle: At what point, not at the start, probably later in the evening. There's so much I want to ask you, and I'm going to jump around a little bit, but just on that, standing up in front of your peers as an adolescent, playing a trumpet and facing a challenging situation, there's something that you talk about in the notes that I've had a look at. Another things where you talk about passion, confidence, knowledge and courage in the business journey you've had. Where has courage had to show up for you so far in this journey? 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, I think courage again, it's a signature of mine. I think that the kind of experiences that we've had in our business have required a lot of courage to keep going. We've always competed against some of the biggest companies in the world in our business. It can be brutal, absolutely brutal. You pop your head up and you're successful, kind of gets advertised and it gets listed that this small company from Canberra Australia has won an international software contract. 

Michelle Melbourne: You're a target, yeah. Like people want to take you out. They seriously pop your head up and you've got to be careful what happens next. It's not always easy.

Jonathan Doyle: What is courage to you like? Churchill made the point, he said that, the courageous person isn't brave than the person next to them. They're just brave for 30 seconds longer.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: He also said that it's, courage is the most crucial virtues, because it guarantees all the others. Without coverage, it's hard to have the other virtues of prudence and wisdom, temperance that sort of stuff. What is courage for you? What is that?

Michelle Melbourne: For me I think courage goes hand in hand with passion and persistence. I often talk about being very deliberate, consistent and persistent, and that means you need to know what you're doing really, really well. You need to be extremely confident that you can be the world's best, and you can beat the world's best. Then you just need courage to keep showing up.

Jonathan Doyle: Where does that confidence come from? I'm going to jump a little.

Michelle Melbourne: Probably my trumpet playing days. 

Jonathan Doyle: That's right, yeah, it's interesting how many of these conversations we've had, that it's these rich childhood experiences that shape so much.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, it's true. Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk a little bit about that. You're a psychologist, you're a scientist, but I want to pick up on a couple of key things, this all starts in your brother's bedroom with the Star Wars wallpaper. Even before that, there's a conversation, well there's with your father where he's encouraged you to get into computer science and stuff. 

Jonathan Doyle: You have an interest in science. I want to talk about that. You know there's a bigger push these days to bring young women into STEM, especially in the US and here now. What was your interest? Where you a science family?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: What attracted you to it? 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well my dad was a surveyor, so he came to Canberra in the late 50s as a cadet surveyor. He was very, so that's very technical vocation and a very deeply steeped in mathematics and calculations and computations. In the light 50s here in Canberra, there was, it was the early days of large computing power that was resident here at the university. My dad booked time to use that computer. 

Jonathan Doyle: As a surveyor?

Michelle Melbourne: Well, so they were processing mapping data.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow!

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, and so I used to draw on the back of his punch cards that with the, if you like the programming interface for early computing.

Jonathan Doyle: How old were you then?

Michelle Melbourne: Oh well I wasn't born then, but I suppose tiny. I would have been as old as I was to hold a pencil. That would have been early 70s, and so dad just grew up in a world of somebody who loved the outdoors. Surveyors were always outside. They know the tides, they know the sun rise and the sunset, and it was a thing in our family that dad would always have a pop quiz for my brother and I. He'd go, "Right kids, where's north?"

Jonathan Doyle: Oh really?

Michelle Melbourne: No matter where we were, he taught us that we would always instantly be able to tell him where North was.

Jonathan Doyle: You just took out your iPhone, opened the app and there, no not quite?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, so he taught us all these great things and he was a tinkerer. He had an old car that was always in 100 paces in the front driveway and I'd always just sit there cross-legged on the driveway with him and say, "What's that? What's that do? What's that dad?" He'd go, "Hold this, be quiet, just watch."

Jonathan Doyle: You guys were close?

Michelle Melbourne: Very. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, very close. Look, I used to, I remember he taught me how to take a distributed to bits and put it back together again and distributed, I mean cars don't have them anymore. There was always, my car now was my favorite thing and so it's always intense curiosity about everything.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, that's what I want to ask you about. 

Michelle Melbourne: Nature and Science, very features rich. 

Jonathan Doyle: Well you talked about your many videos and I'm going to, with your permission, I'll put this video with the show because it's really interesting. You talk about a fascination with the world.

Michelle Melbourne: Yes. 

Jonathan Doyle: That really comes through just looking at you and hearing from you. Did that, was that in the air growing up with a man like that, that was just, "Where's the tides? Where's the sun? Take this apart." Did you grow up with that kind of fascination with just reality?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. They would say in each of us there's nature, I can't tell you exactly where it came from, but my dad definitely stirred that pot. It was just the way he was, very practical man who loved the outdoors and I suppose he was drawn to surveying for that purpose or because of that. 

Michelle Melbourne: My mom was a complete nurture, she was a schoolteacher and very, very nurturing, caring, caring woman. Between the two of them, we had a great childhood growing up in Canberra. 

Jonathan Doyle: Well this is, kind of comes through a lot, because you talk about, we're going to get to this later, your genuine care for your people. Tim Kirk from Clinic Healer was big on that, and I think you are to, so it's, listening to you just initially, it's like you married these kind of two realities of your parents almost. The interest, the fascination, with this genuine care for people. What do you think looking back, what characteristics of both of them do you think you carry most these days of your parents? 

Michelle Melbourne: Well my dad liked to understand how things worked, so that really draws my intense curiosity about everything. Whether it's alive or animate or inanimate, it's probably the way to say it. I'm intensely curious about people and what makes them tick, and we're all put together differently. I have a deep love and fascination for technology and belief in how technology can be used for the greater good. 

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk about that, because I was reading this before and I thought, "Not everybody has that and people, we all use technology." To be genuinely passionate about its implications for human life, for the world that we live, where did that start for you, this genuine, passion for the interplay of human problems and challenges we face and how technology, where was that? Where did it come from?

Michelle Melbourne: Well I think, look, we sell our software technology to very large government organizations and banks and insurance companies. Some of the biggest brands around the world, right, and you kind of think, "Wow, that's all great." We're helping governments be better at governing and citizen interaction and we're helping banks, well in this particular month when we're having banks, right?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, don't mention all, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: To be more efficient and to-

Jonathan Doyle: Transparent.

Michelle Melbourne: ... be more transparent and to help avoid thing, minting money laundering and these kind of things.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure. 

Michelle Melbourne: We big wicked problems where our technology's helping banks to do their work better, right, in a digital context. Where's the purpose in that? Yeah, it's all very corporate and commercial and kind of important, but where's the heart, there's the word I'm looking for. Where's the heart? We're working on, we have some range of projects going on where we are actively looking for the heart and putting a call out there to people to say, "Well, can our technology platform be a match for your pursuit of heart or goodness in the world?" We'll show up with our technology to help enable that. 

Jonathan Doyle: What's your gut feeling on what some of those possibilities might be? Like where do you think the human ...? 

Michelle Melbourne: Well, I'm actively, yeah, I'm actively looking for a project at the moment and talking to range of people. I need to kind of describe what our software does, so where it's a digital platform that helps automate what would be otherwise cumbersome or frustrating paper based processes, right, that the world imposes on us. 

Michelle Melbourne: Whether it's applying for your child to go to school or applying for a passport, applying for a mortgage, filling the paperwork to go to hospital. These are the kind of things that I'm talking about. If you imagine if you're a mother of a new born baby in a third world country, you have to register your baby's birth. It's kind of the law in inverted commas. 

Michelle Melbourne: In a third world nation, where poverty and there's so many factors that are going on in that mother's life, that it's just not a case of getting in the car and going down to the government office to register your birth or your baby.

Jonathan Doyle: That would have huge implications later for things like property ownership and all those stuff.

Michelle Melbourne: Well that often, yes it often, 99% of the time it just doesn't get done, so that child is person non grata in the world right?

Jonathan Doyle: They don't have an identity as such.

Michelle Melbourne: They can't go to school, they can't get treatment et cetera. It's a real problem, and quite often the local government office is a three day walk from where that mother may live. If you think about it, you seriously think about it that, that child has to be registered let's say within the first 90 days of that child's birth. The mother probably didn't have the child in a hospital, and that child probably didn't get a four point five rating on the healthiness of a newborn baby.

Michelle Melbourne: Imagine that mother either having to leave that child, to go and register the birth or to take that child with them on the road. Probably a three day walk. The chance of them even making it is not great. There's all kinds of dreadful things that happened. I'm making it easy to register the birth of a baby in an impoverished nation is a project I'm looking for very actively.

Jonathan Doyle: Here's the really obvious question right, which is businesses exist to problems, businesses exist to drive shareholder value. Why not focus on the dollar? Why not do what 95% of businesses doing justifiably and build a bigger and bigger thing, which you're doing, which is happening organically. Why do you care about this?

Michelle Melbourne: Well, it's part of who we are, it's part of our culture of our organization. We, I like to say I've collected a bunch of good people along the way. You can't do that when you're a leader in a company, you can deliberately choose certain types of people that you want in your culture. We have a very caring human based tribe I like to call it.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk about that for a second, because I want to talk to you about blue footed boobies. I want to talk about outliers and people ...

Michelle Melbourne: Outliers, love them. 

Jonathan Doyle: Watch the video here, hopefully if Michelle Melbourne's happy, I'll put this video in, which she gives a lovely speech in Melbourne. Where she talks about blue footed boobies, which are these, they've evolved in a particular blue feet and they're unusual and striking. She says in this video, you know look, if they came in, you've got to find them interesting.

Jonathan Doyle: Let's talk about, you talk about and when you give this talk you give some beautiful lines about smooth waters, not making good sailors. You're teaching the young women in that room about being different, about humility. What do you look for in new people? How do you know when you find it? What do you look for?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, so Jonathan's referring to a presentation I gave to a group of up and coming girls in STEM. It was at Sydney University and that the Galaxy convention gathered a whole bunch of young women in years 10, 11 and 12, who are interested in studying science and further when they leave school. It was a really interesting day and a really interesting presentation. You could feel the room full of intensely curious young people. 

Michelle Melbourne: I wanted to talk to them about something different. There was a lot of people on the agenda who'd achieved success and all that kind of stuff. I think that it's not about the success really that you want to talk about, because there's been, there's a long way, this journey of successes is not necessarily easy and happy, right, it's a lot of things that you have to go.

Michelle Melbourne: You really want to enjoy it, you really want to do it with people who understand the mission and who subscribe to that vision. Mostly it is that actually able to put up a vision on a projector and say, "This is where we're going." It's about actually defining something that can be defined, and then trying to get there.

Michelle Melbourne: I always say that our team could fly to moon and back. Our team could figure out, and I guarantee you, if we had that as our mission, that we would fly to the moon and back ...

Jonathan Doyle: They'd work it out. 

Michelle Melbourne: My favorite movie is Matt Damon in Mars.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah? Okay. Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: Great movie if you guys haven't seen it, there's this scientist right, look at what he had to overcome.

Jonathan Doyle: That's right. 

Michelle Melbourne: Look at what he had to do.

Jonathan Doyle: What are you looking for when like you ... Let's just go back to what you've just said. You said, well, a lot of leaders actually can struggle to put that vision up. You guys you've obviously been able to do with ...

Michelle Melbourne: It's subscribing to the journey, that's what it is, yeah, because the vision changes. If you think about the industry that we're in, that I need to change the vision every six months, because there's a new vision of something out that ... Iron industry is very disruptive, and if you don't disrupt yourself every six months and keep up with the market, you're out of business. 

Jonathan Doyle: That kind of [inaudible 00:17:15], I had it in my notes here, you talk about reinvention, that you constantly have to learn what's new. What happens? Do you, how does that really play out for you? You just have your eyes wide open all the time, you're listening, you're attentive to the space, and then what happens next? You just ...

Michelle Melbourne: Well, my favorite saying to the world is, you've got to look up and look out. That's kind of, it's a bit Darwinism, Darwin 101. If you're in the swamp, and you're down there living in the swamp, and you don't see an opportunity outside the swamp, you might not be ready for it. Certainly in our business, we've been in the software technology game for 26 years now.

Michelle Melbourne: I started, my first career was with a software startup company in 1990. 

Jonathan Doyle: This is city?

Michelle Melbourne: City Data.

Jonathan Doyle: City Data in Sydney, yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah in Sydney. 

Jonathan Doyle: Now I love this, great.

Michelle Melbourne: Great company. 

Jonathan Doyle: This is your sliding doors moment, where you go and I love this, because you're like, you have this line I've got it here where you say, "Be confident, control the environment, be on top of the telecom content in the training manual. Just one page ahead of the class you are teaching." This comes through as a theme for you, because you're like, it's seems that so often in your business journey, you both, for you and Phil, there's been this punching above you weight for sure. There's also been this grumbling kind of just be, fair enough, tell us about that. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. Well just in time is another one of my famous proverbs that I say. It's like you can overthink things, and if you overthink and you over calculate and you over strategize you can kind of get stuck in what that plan was. We've always had to be very adaptable. I use a lot of Darwinism in my world.

Jonathan Doyle: As a scientist. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yup. You look out, you look up and look out, and your opportunity will come. Jim Collins is one of my favorite leadership experts. Tells this great story of a friend of his who's a world class rock climber. There's a climb in Boulder Colorado that is impossible, it's an impossible climb. It's a grade impossible. 

Jonathan Doyle: [inaudible 00:19:21] I think. 

Michelle Melbourne: Well, it's in, no that's in [inaudible 00:19:25] right, but it's, the parable kind of relates to something like that. Is it's the Nirvana for climates right? It's never been done. There was this famous climber, I don't know his name now and I'm borrowing Jim Collins' story, right, I'll keep it brief. 

Michelle Melbourne: Essentially, he climbed that 1000 times, and couldn't get the last-

Jonathan Doyle: The last bit. 

Michelle Melbourne: ... 20 grab holes or whatever, the elusive, and he persisted and he persisted. He kept adjusting, he kept adapting in style, he kept building his fitness. He got better equipment. He just kept trying, it was just too impossible. Everybody else had given up. He never gave up. He just kept, he showed up, kept trying, showed up, kept trying.

Michelle Melbourne: One day, I don't know, maybe the season changed and there was a little bit of ice on the rock face. That ice had never lasted that long in the day before, so let's call it early morning ice, that stayed there a bit longer. The morning was cloudy, there was a stronger breeze than normal from the west and those three conditions helped this very accomplished climber to just slide his rope across an extra couple of inches, that got him to that grab hold that nobody had ever been able to get before. 

Michelle Melbourne: It was literally just out of reach, physically out of reach, but a combination of timing.

Jonathan Doyle: Environment.

Michelle Melbourne: Environment, persistence, luck and he got it, he got the luck. If he wasn't there, determined, persistent, believing in himself, never giving up, it would never have happened. I take a lot of heart from that parable.

Jonathan Doyle: It's a positioning thing like you do?

Michelle Melbourne: Belief, persistence.

Jonathan Doyle: All you do is prepared as you can. 

Michelle Melbourne: Just keep trying, keep showing up. For us as a small company, punching above our weight, competing with some of the biggest technology companies in the world, we could have easily given up. Easily given up, many, many times and we've won, we've been awarded the preferred tender a status in a whole bunch of contracts that we've won, where our technology has prevailed. 

Michelle Melbourne: You get the fun call saying, "Yup, we're going to go with your technology, it's the best." Then two weeks later you get a phone call from them saying, "Oh look, we're really sorry. We're really sorry. We actually can't contract with you. You're not an American company, you're a small company and our risk team just gave it the red light." 

Michelle Melbourne: Right, so stab me in the heart. Like man, so what have you got to do? You've got to look up and look out and you've got to change, you've got to adapt. Always having that confidence that your product is world class, next one, that your people are world class. The next one, and then you've got to overcome those kind of barriers.

Michelle Melbourne: In that case for us, we just needed to partner well, yeah we needed it, but I got a market partner that was the big, that big organization that the big clients of American were happy.

Jonathan Doyle: That could be [crosstalk 00:22:32], yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: We're very happy with our partner with, so we've done that. That's a really good example of adaptation. 

Jonathan Doyle: Let me ask you, I'm thinking of all the business people listening who are in the trenches. What keeps you going? At what point does another person go, "Oh this is too hard,"? How do you explain that to yourself? Is Phil there pushing you forward? Are you pushing each other forward? What's happening that, I want to know the psychology, I want to know how you keep, because I get it.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well Phil and I are a great team, we are yin and yang.

Jonathan Doyle: Salt and caramel. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, salt and caramel. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, so I care deeply about the people and the team and the journey and that resilience, and that complementary kind of skills that we have in the team. Phil's a visionary. He can see around corners when it comes to technology. Look, if I could give you a dollar for every idea that he's had in the past, that you write it down and then five years later someone launches that right, he's always five years ahead. 

Michelle Melbourne: That's challenging actually for an organization to actually monetize innovation. It's technically impossible for you to make money out of true innovation.

Jonathan Doyle: Because it's cannibalized so fast or it's ...?

Michelle Melbourne: No, no, no. If you think about from a scientific perspective, innovation is pure research, yeah, so it's like how are we going to fly to the moon and back? It's not immediately commercializable. You can't immediately derive a, you can't make a business out of innovation, because, and I'm not a defeatist and I'm a big innovation supporter. 

Michelle Melbourne: Don't get me wrong, what I'm trying to say is, that the current world thrives on business as usual. Right, we use our in the swamp analogy. We're all in the swamp, we're doing what we do living in the swamp. True innovation is that creature in the swamp flying to the moon. It's just kind of, there's a big gap between what it's doing now and what innovation means. 

Michelle Melbourne: For all organizations to be agile and living on the edge of what's new and what's next, there needs to be a very small gap between BAU and innovation. Most organizations have a very big gap. We have always had a very small gap between running a business to be profitable, but also to be attractive to the market today. The market wants something that they understand. I don't want cowboys, I actually don't want shiny new things.

Jonathan Doyle: They want stuff that works. 

Michelle Melbourne: They want stuff that works. They want stuff that's proven. What we figured out how to do is to push that to its very, very edge of its boundaries.

Jonathan Doyle: To the end of the loop. Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: We find the early adopters, we find the people that really genuinely have to get out of that swamp. The swamp, they know the swamp's draining and they know that the dinosaurs are coming, right, but most of the world doesn't work that way. I'd say 85% of the world is very busy with BAU. 

Jonathan Doyle: There's obviously huge implications here with things like block chain coming down the line. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: I wanted to ask you, is there a, there's sense in what you're saying, it's really interesting, but there's a sense in what you're saying of most people in business as usual. We found that some of what we've done that it's educating the market, it's probably, like you have to say to people, "Look, there's this thing, there's this thing and it's really good." They go, "We don't need that thing, we have this thing. It's always ..."

Jonathan Doyle: I mean is that a sales and marketing question?

Michelle Melbourne: It is. 

Jonathan Doyle: How do you educate and emerge a non existent market?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, it's tough. I mean you look at Apple, that's a classic post a child for innovation and really pushing the envelope. In a very proud of what they've done for the world, love it or hate it, but they really pushed the envelope. They literally shelved this innovation down our throat.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you describe that? What do you think is the essence of what they did? 

Michelle Melbourne: Confidence, design excellence, truly breaking the status quo. Against all odds, it's not, that's not normal.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:26:36] I mean, have you read Isaac's job biography, because the big one is, like he comes across as possibly not the nicest human in the world. I'm glad we've got people like you and Phil who are doing this, but still being very human. 

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, with that. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, but he's, yeah, I read that and I just kind of thought, you were right. There's also a Malcolm Gladwell stuff about outliers too, sometimes it's just the moment, isn't it? It's just the moment in history when there's a confluence of factors. That comes back to what you're saying, is that, sure, you might not be able to control the ice on the rock or the weather, but you can control your position there, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Your persistence and determination, so to be there to get the luck, right and so for us, that example I gave you of kind of winning a tender and then being told, "Well, we actually can't contract with you." It's so, that was just shattering right, but what do you learn from that? You pick yourself up and you adapt, and you come back next time in a different way, different time.

Jonathan Doyle: Let me ask you on that, are you the kind of, let's talk resilience from a business leader perspective, for all those people who are struggling listening to this, when you get, because this is a big psychological dissonance here. You get told that you've won something, you've been working really hard on, so you're neuro chemically, you know. 

Jonathan Doyle: Everything moves into this celebratory mode and then you find out that you don’t. Are a five bottles of chardonnay person, kick the cat? Do you cry on with Phil?

Michelle Melbourne: No. 

Jonathan Doyle: What do you play? What, do you play hockey?

Michelle Melbourne: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: You do all these stuff, but what do you do, how do you deal with disappointment?

Michelle Melbourne: Wow! Well I like to think I'm pretty resilient and I think that the way to absorb that is having these great team of people around you. It's like an airbag, that we share the highs and then we share the lows together. I think that's what makes it matter, right? Like if it wasn't a struggle it wouldn't matter. 

Michelle Melbourne: One of my favorite sayings is, and maybe one day I'll write a book and what then it might be called, 'It's the struggle that matters'. It really is and that's what keeps you going, the contest.

Jonathan Doyle: Are you competitive?

Michelle Melbourne: Very.

Jonathan Doyle: Are you?

Michelle Melbourne: Extremely.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, I don’t like lose.

Jonathan Doyle: Always have been that way?

Michelle Melbourne: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup, yup very, very particular.

Jonathan Doyle: How did, but just quickly, how did that happen because you've got an older brother who you adore?

Michelle Melbourne: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: I grew up with four boys, so I kind of get and I understand why I might be competitive. Where did you become competitive?

Michelle Melbourne: Don’t, I can't ...

Jonathan Doyle: Don’t know?

Michelle Melbourne: You probably need to give me a bit of time to think about that.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah you think about it. Is this who you are?

Michelle Melbourne: It's who I am. I like to think that you know it's not an aggressive competitiveness, but I meant, it probably goes with my perfectionism.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure.

Michelle Melbourne: I'm very obsessed with detail. I like detail and that comes back to the original question you asked me is, why do you need to know these things? Where did that come from? It’s like I need to know how things work, because I like to ...

Jonathan Doyle: The obvious question I, well I have to ask you on that, you are a nurturer, you care deeply about your people, but you are also a perfectionist and competitive.

Michelle Melbourne: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you avoid micro managing your people?

Michelle Melbourne: Well I hire smart people.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, self directed, self directed.

Michelle Melbourne: I don't need to be. Yeah, and we’ve always had a very, very flat hierarchy in our organization.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure.

Michelle Melbourne: It’s really interesting. I was just talking to the CEO, fabulous CEO, Ray Kyle, who runs our business now, because it's too big for Phil and I to run. We don't have the skills to do it, so Ray runs our business and he's actually just doing a maturity org chart for us right now, right. I said to him, "We need to reinvent the org chart, because hierarchy just does not work for us." 

Michelle Melbourne: We've got a whole bunch of air engineers who, some of them are in charge of the future, some of them are in charge of today and some of them are in charge of tomorrow. They're all peers and you kind of say to yourself, "Well someone has to report to someone." I'm like nah, not these guys. We need a circle for the org chat.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah that’s interesting.

Michelle Melbourne: We’ve kind of pioneered our own staff, and if I can take you back to the blue footed boobies, I often refer to our company as the Galapagos Islands. We have evolved under our own steam. We have had to make things up as we go, because what we're doing has never been done before. We take inspiration from other companies and other people who can help us and advise us, but none of them have ever done what we're doing. 

Michelle Melbourne: It's all new, it's all pioneering. We've had to make things up as we go, and from a scientific point of view, we’re operating in a gene pool that we've created. The outliers and the blue footed boobies are everywhere in our organization. We could never afford to hire any experts.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure.

Michelle Melbourne: In the competitive Canberra market, we couldn't afford to hire kind of people that knew what they were doing [crosstalk 00:31:37].

Jonathan Doyle: There comes where you talk about the severe, where you talk about, when you were starting. Like you were 20 when you got pushed into this thing in Sydney, and so you’ve had a, quite an openness to young people coming into a system.

Michelle Melbourne: Yes.

Jonathan Doyle: Also you talk about challenging the status quo, systems, all that stuff. Some risky though, isn’t it? It’s a core hands, not hands off, because these are professionals that you have. Yeah, I mean other people want to control everything and it’s a very, apart from synergy, they’ve got 200 plus staff now, the similar flat structure.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup, we’ve always believed in, I would rather hire for potential than hire for experience.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, really.

Michelle Melbourne: It's a very simple philosophy and it is a survival mechanism for our business, we could not afford to hire the folks with 10 or 20 years of experience. I just, we were just not in the market, we did not have the money. We had to hire for potential and it turned out to be an exceptionally good strategy for us.

Jonathan Doyle: Good choice and teach-ability?

Michelle Melbourne: Well that’s right, because that potential isn't stuck on what they think is the paradigm of today. The blank slate, a clean slate and that's the opportunity that I got with my first boss in this startup company in 1990. He expected me to act as if I had 10 or 15 years of consulting experience, when I was 20. 

Michelle Melbourne: He sent me into some of the most intensely corporate situations and I had to figure it out. Like you said, I just had to, it was deeply technical and I had to and it was intense. I do remember feeling quite ill some days when I was going to work, but really stretching, really stretching yourself and really coming back the next going, “Well, I survived yesterday, how hard could today be?”

Jonathan Doyle: Just one more day.

Michelle Melbourne: Another day, it was always good when it got to Friday, but I got five years of experience in one year.

Jonathan Doyle: That’s right.

Michelle Melbourne: Great, you just have a new level of normal for how you ... 

Jonathan Doyle: From the trumpet days in front of 1200 girls to being pushed into these corporate situations, why didn’t you run away? Why did you keep showing up? What was it?

Michelle Melbourne: You know what, I do remember my gorgeous mother saying to me, "Shelly, why don't you go and get a real job?" I was like ...

Jonathan Doyle: Thanks Ma.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, "Thanks mom. It'll be all right." I think I always wanted to be in charge of my own destiny and I know for Phil, he definitely needs to be in charge of his own destiny. We could never work for anyone.

Jonathan Doyle: I want to ask the most important question. I adore my wife, we’ve been married 18 years and she's a brilliant woman, phenomenal project manager, incredibly empathetic. The likely hood of marital breakdown for us working together is extremely high. I've never really figured it out, because we’ve worked together, but we’ve figured it out. We just can't work together in the same room. It's interesting, how do you guys make that part work?

Michelle Melbourne: Well we, last year we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. 

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, awesome.

Michelle Melbourne: I don't even know what year is it? We got married in 1992.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, that’s about right, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: We met in 1989. We're coming up to knowing each other for 30 years, like I said.

Jonathan Doyle: Okay.

Michelle Melbourne: We've just figured that out, we’ve just figured out that deep respect and trust in each other's cycles and rhythms and operating kind of rhythms is really critical. We're extremely complementary and I think that the best answer you’d get is probably to ask the people that have worked with us for a long time. Probably the short answer is, we're probably too tired to argue with each other.

Jonathan Doyle: Yes, it's like you win, no you win, no you win.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, it's okay, but seriously it's like anything in life, you figure out how to make it work.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure.

Michelle Melbourne: It matters that, that works, and we don’t compete with each other. We’re both very competitive, but we don't compete with each other. You just direct it differently.

Jonathan Doyle: You talk about him being a visionary. What, apart from that, what do you most admire about him?

Michelle Melbourne: He's an up and go kind of guy. Do you know Modern Family? Do you now Phil in Modern Family? I love Modern Family, right. He stands at the door and goes, "Let's go, let's go, let's go," right?

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Well that’s Phil, so he's a rare male in our family, we have three daughters, a female dog.

Jonathan Doyle: Female dog, is she?

Michelle Melbourne: Sister, mother-in-law, niece. There's just girls everywhere in our family, it's quite funny. There was one situation, there was myself, my three daughters his niece, his sister, my mother all sitting on the couch. Sitting around and he's up in the kitchen cooking dinner.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Michelle Melbourne: He’s going, "Something's wrong." He’s kind of legendary in the family, but he's a great guy. He's an up and go, he's an initiator and if you think about what I said to you before I dot the Is and cross the Ts. It's all on the detail. In our company, he’s the visionary, he can see the future and I help to articulate that into what that means for us as a team. We've got 80 staff now and that company is growing, mostly engineering, technical kind of tribe, super smart kind of people. 

Michelle Melbourne: They can see the vision, get it and understand it. For me it’s about articulating that into, how do we interpret that and put it in the market.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I want to ask you, I asked this to Pat [inaudible 00:37:19]. Pat’s got 200 plus staff there and I'm always interested, tell us a little about your allocation of time on a daily basis. I mean one of the great trips for people leading something really growing and alive and so much potential opportunity. How do you allocate time? How do you choose? How do you walk in that place each day and go, "The highest leverage thing I can do is," how do you do that part?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well it is exactly that. It's the, what's the highest leverage piece and I can stay up and be lofty. I’m on the board of our company, but I also roll my sleeves up and get into some very specific detail as well. I think now, today it's a lot easier than it was let's say five years ago. Today we have a professional CEO running the company. That's, that been a fabulous ..

Jonathan Doyle: You’re sort of smiling as you say that, everybody got this look on her face like yes.

Michelle Melbourne: Yes, it's like joy, joyous, relief, because a big decision for Phil and I to do that. I'm taking notes as the days and months and quarters go past, because that's going to be how a Harvard Business Review article I think, about how founders-

Jonathan Doyle: Let go.

Michelle Melbourne: ... of a long-term organic growth company hands the reigns over to a CEO. We now have a triangle of three people who are in a triangle of respect and trust. I call it the small council, I don’t know if that’s a Game of Thrones reference, there it's a small council, where there's dragons and there’s Kings and there's a lot of trust. We have a lot of fun in our world, in our work day.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you manage your time of, I’ve asked this to people too, like so that’s how you allocate time in the professional sense. How do you run yourself personally? Are you a five AM person, run 10K, eat your smashed avocado and kales smoothie?

Michelle Melbourne: No. 

Jonathan Doyle: How do you operate personally?

Michelle Melbourne: Well these days early morning calls to the US kind of feature. 

Jonathan Doyle: Really? Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: That's fun, we really love that, that there's, we've got about 20 people in the US now. West Coast, East Coast, so there's all kinds of times zones. On a daily basis, I’m all, I have a great app that’s a global meeting planner app for time zones. That’s what I’m usually looking at first. Look, the intensity of my work is changing. I think I'm becoming more and more strategic and doing a lot of thought leadership work. I've actually been kind of released from a lot of the operational in day to day, in the business to very strategic.

Jonathan Doyle: Did that cause stress you at any point?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, there were some times where I needed to take a moment, because I do have this need to kind of dot the Is and cross the Ts right.

Jonathan Doyle: Well as a perfectionist, as I’m asking you, it’s like did you find yourself going, "What are they doing? I wonder what they’re doing. What are they doing?"

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, why haven't they asked me, why haven't they asked me that, because I know the answer.

Jonathan Doyle: I can't play golf. 

Michelle Melbourne: No, look, I think that goes back to us being extremely fortunate with the selection of our CEO and we have a lot of long-term folks on our bus.

Jonathan Doyle: How do you explain that part?

Michelle Melbourne: Loyalty.

Jonathan Doyle: Why do they be loyal? What are they loyal to? Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Vision and probably about 15, 12 or 15 years ago, Phil and I decided that 10% of the company would be owned by the staff.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, so we have an employee share option plan and some of those folks that have been there for 15 years plus are co-owners of the company.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so that’s incentivized, it’s they want to sail the winds.

Michelle Melbourne: Well skin in the game and the belief, the belief for the vision. Look, we just won a major, major financial services company in North America. I can't name them in public, but they, let's just say they’re the Tiffany's of Wall Street.

Jonathan Doyle: That’s so good.

Michelle Melbourne: We are helping them on their digital transformation journey, we were selected from a global tender process and the little company from Canberra prevailed, because do you know why?

Jonathan Doyle: Best debris there.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup, but the people in the procurement team were sick and tired of the big guys, always winning the tenders.

Jonathan Doyle: Really?

Michelle Melbourne: Our persistence and our determination and our excellence, and we kept showing up and kept showing up. We overcame the pain of coming second a lot in these deals and for this one we prevailed. It's a company making deal for us and now we've got to deliver, right, so yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, so there is a moment of halation, like yes.

Michelle Melbourne: The rope came across the icy rope and now we're there on the other side. Now we've got to climb up, you know we've got to keep going, because we’re across.

Jonathan Doyle: Last few steps.

Michelle Melbourne: Crossing the chasm I think is one of those things that's quite famous in our world.

Jonathan Doyle: Well I want to, there's a couple more things I want to ask you to finish, but when you just talked about it, I asked about loyalty and people staying, and you said loyalty and the vision. It’s relatively rare these days, I mean churn rates can be pretty high, especially for millennials, young people coming through. What is it about the culture, the people, the Intelledox journey that makes people want to stay with you?

Michelle Melbourne: Well I think it is that we care about our culture. Culture comes first, culture comes first and then those people who've engaged with our culture, help us define the strategy. It doesn't, it's not the other way around.

Jonathan Doyle: You don't, the small council doesn't sit there and go, "We have a new strategy, you will all be sitting and receiving."

Michelle Melbourne: No.

Jonathan Doyle: You have the vision and you're feeling, and you have the vision and these people believe in you guys. Then they execute strategy and you trust them to do that?

Michelle Melbourne: That’s right.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup, and it's not binary, right, it's not black and white. It's never, it's always this evolutionary approach to how we're going to do things, because no matter what strategy we could set or vision we could paint one January or one July, by 9:30 in the morning it's changed.

Jonathan Doyle: I was going to say, it's tech, isn’t it?

Michelle Melbourne: It's tech, it really is, and something comes at you and you've got to go, you either got to duck or you got to jump up and grab it right? How could have you defined that? That's what we all love about it and everybody just loves coming to work, because we're doing something that's hard. We're doing something that’s never been done before, and we’re doing it with a great gang of people.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you think it is about humans, bringing it back to the start, Darwinian stuff here. What is it about humans that like that? I can picture what you're saying. I can picture coming into a place going, "Hey, we're part of something here, we’re doing something that hasn’t been done. We’re building something." What is it about humans? Is it novelty? Is it, what is it?

Michelle Melbourne: I don’t know, but it’s not for everybody, I can tell you that. In the hiring and firing process that I've curetted for 25 years in our company, so I've literally picked our tribe. I don’t know, it’s kind of instinctive. You can tell there's people who like to be comfortable, people who like BAU and people who want that. They’re not the people that would survive in our company. They would not make it to morning tea.

Jonathan Doyle: What’s it like in there? Have you walked in there? What's the vibe?

Michelle Melbourne: There's a vibe.

Jonathan Doyle: What is it?

Michelle Melbourne: I don’t know, you’d have to come. It’s chaos.

Jonathan Doyle: Is it?

Michelle Melbourne: One word.

Jonathan Doyle: Organized chaos or it's just stuff happening everywhere?

Michelle Melbourne: Yup. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Chaos.

Jonathan Doyle: There's not a lot of boredom?

Michelle Melbourne: None. No time for that, yup, so there's, well I suppose like everybody their to do list isn’t getting any shorter. For us, more important things are being stacked into the list. At the moment, the way we kind of control that chaos is, I call it landing airplanes. We kind of have regular stand ups saying, "All right guys, there's a 747, 400 going around."

Jonathan Doyle: How do we bring that down?

Michelle Melbourne: It's got a bit of fuel left, so let's just leave it there, but we’ve got this one symposium coming in hot.

Jonathan Doyle: Because the other one.

Michelle Melbourne: With no fuel left and we’ve got one runway, how are we going to land that airplane? That’s literally the language that we use, and so for us to divest yourself of the stuff that you did yesterday, to make room for what you're going to do tomorrow, there's a contest on that, every single day and that's what we call evolution.

Jonathan Doyle: Last couple things. Have you ever felt imposter syndrome?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: What have you, talk us through that.

Michelle Melbourne: Well it’s really interesting, because I only figured it out when I read someone else's experience.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, so if you think about my early journey, my first job where my boss sent me into this room of executives on the 35th floor in 121 George Street in Sydney, I'm like holy heck Batman. You kind of did have to pretend you knew what you were doing, but there was a point in time, probably when I was about 25 or 26 working on a big technology project in the mid 90s, where actually, in that room I went, yup, I actually know what I'm doing.

Jonathan Doyle: I've got this.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, I've got this. I'm looking at the seven other people in this meeting going, they’ve not got this, I got this.

Jonathan Doyle: There is no arrogance in this.

Michelle Melbourne: No. 

Jonathan Doyle: What did you feel at that moment?

Michelle Melbourne: Well I suppose it was, everything leading up to that, I had been uncertain. I had felt uncertain and I had felt physical nausea of fear, of showing up to work each day thinking that I'd be found out, that I didn't know what I was doing. In technology right, it's literally like I literally three minutes ago read that page in the manual. Like it’s a, I know how to do this now. It’s like I haven't done it very often, but I did it three minutes ago for the first time right.

Jonathan Doyle: I've got history with this.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah Unix, yeah, easy, no problem, you know let’s talk about Unix. I wrote the manual, I wrote the first corporate training manual for Microsoft Windows when it was released. Phil did the worldwide launch for Microsoft Project on stage in Hong Kong.

Jonathan Doyle: Oh yeah, that’s awesome.

Michelle Melbourne: Literally it's not quite faking it till you make it, it's like, it's actually didn't get much time to research this and it's on tomorrow.

Jonathan Doyle: Where's the coffee?

Michelle Melbourne: Do your best, right? Courage, confidence, presentation, but you build layers and layers of confidence on top of it.

Jonathan Doyle: Takes time though.

Michelle Melbourne: It does, but if you do that with persistent, deliberate approach and add a dose of humility to it, it'll always go well for you.

Jonathan Doyle: I wanted to ask you, you do talk about this lovely metaphor, smooth waters don’t make good sailors and you talk about the struggle. Talk us through that as we wrap up. Like this breaks other people, it leads other people to depression, cynicism, burn out, quitting. I want to do a synthesis here, because I think, I'm wondering if your competitive streak isn't so much you’re definitely not trying to be better than someone else. You might want your business to be, to excel, but is your competitive streak simply about pushing yourself to become, and letting the circumstances and the difficulties and these smooth waters not making good sailors struggle. Is it for you that all of this stuff just makes you alive, makes you better? What is struggle? Talk to us about.

Michelle Melbourne: I feel like I’m being of psychoanalyzed here, [crosstalk 00:48:33].

Jonathan Doyle: No, it's just interesting, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well nobody has ever asked me that honestly. I don’t know, I just, I suppose for you know being on this journey for so long, it's like what else would you do? A lot of people say that, well you’re going to kind of wind back a bit.

Jonathan Doyle: Buy a yacht, that’s what I said to Lewis yesterday, oh go buy a yacht.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well sailing is a wonderful thing for adventurous people.

Jonathan Doyle: It is. 

Michelle Melbourne: Phil and I are certainly that. Champaign sailing is boring, right yeah, that lovely let's do it once or twice but seriously? It is that analogy and it's not my own. I’m sure it’s a famous quote, is smooth waters don’t make good sailors. I say that to my guys that I call them, the guys and girls in my team, when they are under and this is often, intense pressure, deadlines, impossible wicked tasks, promises that have been made and that they’ve got to then go and invent the software to do it.

Jonathan Doyle: Land the plane.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, build the plane on the way, you know right, all that kind of stuff. It’s like, "Guys, guys, guys, guys, guys we like the hard homework, yeah. Nobody in our tribe comes to work to sit in the corner and not contribute."

Jonathan Doyle: Why?

Michelle Melbourne: Well if you think about the analogy of sailing, you want to get out into those big waves. You want to use the equipment on your boat. You want to do your job, so if you're on the trapeze or you're on the grinders or whatever it is, you want to be the best you can be in that intense situation. Do you know what? I think that one of the most important things is you want your best person on each of those elements of the team.

Michelle Melbourne: You need to be really careful that you don't put somebody in that situation, who isn't good at that. One of my greatest philosophies is, it's all well and good to play to your strengths and know your people. It's actually knowing your weaknesses that protect your team. Not hiding them and we can’t all be good at everything. When it really matters, you deploy your team for their best, absolute best purpose and we do that every day under intense pressure. 

Michelle Melbourne: It does become a new normal. These guys like I said, could build a rocket and fly it to the moon and back. Smooth waters don’t make good sailors. I tell them that every day.

Jonathan Doyle: Well, I just think there's something, we were talking off here before about this classical great concept of purpose and stuff. I wonder if these difficult circumstances, they make us alive.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah.

Jonathan Doyle: We sometimes say we wouldn't, we don't like them or we would think sometimes we’re different, but you know you're alive, you know.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup, I think there's a competitive streak in the whole business as well.

Jonathan Doyle: In the industry or your ...?

Michelle Melbourne: No, in our culture.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah. 

Michelle Melbourne: It's interesting. You’re kind of making me think here. We heard the great news just yesterday, that we won a deal, probably against all odds, against some of the biggest technology companies in the world. We've been working on that project for two years, two years.

Jonathan Doyle: Wow, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: It was our idea, we had to kind of seed the market for the idea. It had never been done before, and we won. The team at the moment is, very, very happy, very pleased with themselves. The particular individual that won this deal said, "Right, that’s it, now I'm on to the next one." You certainly don't rest on your laurels and the winds don't come easy, they don't come easy, because we're punching above our weight, so that's what makes it all the sweeter.

Jonathan Doyle: You got to celebrate right?

Michelle Melbourne: Yes, oh absolutely. 

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah. 

Jonathan Doyle: What are you most proud of so far?

Michelle Melbourne: Well I like the giant beating element of it.

Jonathan Doyle: You do?

Michelle Melbourne: I think I've mentioned that once or twice in this last hour, it’s a giant beating. 

Jonathan Doyle: You do?

Michelle Melbourne: We literally beat some of the best technology companies in the world in their own game.

Jonathan Doyle: Do you think its an Australian thing? Is it a Canberra, what is it? It’s just you're proud of coming from a relatively small town and taking in on the world, is that it?

Michelle Melbourne: I don’t know, yeah, I think it's definitely a Canberra thing. I mean, I see that in a lot of the companies in Canberra, a lot of the kind of the systems, even the sporting teams in Canberra. We talked about the rugby's earlier. That, you know the underdogs that often are out of good funding loops or like I say our little company we could never afford to hire experts into the company.

Michelle Melbourne: This town in Canberra has a fabulous ecosystem of super sonic, smart global thinkers who, that they’re different. They’re different to big city folks. Say they choose this beautiful city, it's a lifestyle choice that people like care about their health and their fitness and their well being and their families. They choose not to be in the grind of the big city. 

Michelle Melbourne: Being really deliberate about choosing Canberra or staying in Canberra or coming back to Canberra as a place to live, I think sets us apart. We're under intense pressure to move our business to Singapore or Palo Alto or somewhere like that. It's just not an option. We're not going to do it, because we choose Canberra.

Jonathan Doyle: What do you love about this place?

Michelle Melbourne: Oh look out the window.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, it's for sure, isn’t it?

Michelle Melbourne: It's very beautiful, passionate.

Jonathan Doyle: You do, like talking about there and talking to you here and the reason I started this podcast is, I think people look at us and say oh it’s a government town. I guess it is, but meeting people like you and the people I've met so far, it's like hang on. There's all these people out there hustling, making stuff happen, no one is telling their story. What do you love about this place?

Michelle Melbourne: This place is in my blood. I'm born and bred, like I said my dad was sent here as a government surveyor in the late 50s. Literally this city, the engineering of this city is in my blood.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, really.

Michelle Melbourne: Deep connection, maybe it's inexplicable, but I travel the world. I probably spent three months outside of this city every year, not all at once, but kind of two weeks and three weeks and four weeks here and there. The greatest joy is literally flying back into Canberra airport. When there’s, it's five o'clock, there's a beautiful sunset and you fly over this gorgeous city and you go, I’m home.

Jonathan Doyle: 100%

Michelle Melbourne: I’m home, this is home.

Jonathan Doyle: We did a massive global odyssey last year as a family. We did Isle land and Europe and stuff and I mean Isle Land's amazing. Where we live in Canberra, we’re up on the top of the hill and it's beautiful, you know the [inaudible 00:54:52] and summer, you just get the most ridiculous sunsets. We just, yeah and it gets in your blood.

Michelle Melbourne: Yup.

Jonathan Doyle: I've traveled so much last year and every time I come home and come up the stairs from the airport and you just see the mountains again.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, it’s a very special, very special.

Jonathan Doyle: Two things very quickly finish just on, taking you back to almost where we started. Your father sounds like a really special man who really just by who he was and then gave you this fascination with the world. What would, looking at your journey and where you are, what do you think he would be most proud of that you've, in who you’ve become and what you've achieved so far?

Michelle Melbourne: Well firstly that I still always know where North is.

Jonathan Doyle: Without using a phone.

Michelle Melbourne: Yes, and my children do now as well, it's a bit of a family legend and I know my brother's children as well.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah, they all know where North is?

Michelle Melbourne: They all know where North is, it’s a family legend.

Jonathan Doyle: Yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Look, he's passed away now, but he’d be deeply, deeply proud of his well technology savvy daughter.

Jonathan Doyle: Sure, yeah.

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, and he did say to me, when I was 17 and in school deciding what to study at university and here's the lovely thing, of course I did a science degree because that's what my big brother did. He said, "Oh Shelly, you should choose a couple of computing subjects, because that might come in handy one day."

Jonathan Doyle: Wow!

Michelle Melbourne: That was 1987.

Jonathan Doyle: Last thing, I asked Lewis this too. Imagine that you’re speaking at an event with a whole bunch of up and coming young business people, men and women. There are stars in their eyes, what three things would you tell them, three things?

Michelle Melbourne: Yeah, well embrace the struggle, because it's the struggle that matters. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Smooth waters don’t make good sailors, so embrace that challenge. Embrace it, because why else would you want to just do something normal? I think that next piece is the outliers are really important. The blue footed boobies that don't exist anywhere else.

Jonathan Doyle: Find them?

Michelle Melbourne: Go find them and because that will stand you apart, that's what will make you different. Enjoy it, to enjoy. That the word struggle is probably a loaded word, but turn that word struggle into a really positive endeavor.

Jonathan Doyle: We're going to wrap there. I want everybody to check all the show notes, we're going to have a huge number of links to everything that Intelledox is doing. Make sure you check out the website and just see the applicability of what they're offering. There's the infinity offering to anything that you're doing in private or public sector. It's a fantastic product. 

Jonathan Doyle: Shelly, thank you so much for making time for us. I’ve had a ball. I can't believe I get to meet such cool people and I think you and Phil should be incredibly proud of what you're building. It's on the upswing and I want to see you guys win big time. Thank you for your courage, for building a great culture, for loving this town and for all you've contributed and is yet to contribute. Thank you so much for making time for us today.

Michelle Melbourne: Thanks Jonathan, it's been a joy.