Sadhana Smiles moved from Fiji to Australia at the age of 16 and it was a huge culture shock for her – the food, weather, clothes, communal living and discrimination were just some of the issues she had to overcome. “I was very homesick at first, however I knew that I needed to be strong and confident about my new life here and find a way to make it work,” a courageous Smiles says. It didn’t take her long to assimilate into the Australia culture, make new friends and start that journey to where she is today.
Smiles has a very impressive track record as a woman in business. She has held prominent positions as P&P (People/Performance) Manager with Hocking Stuart, Melbourne’s most prestigious name in the real estate industry; General Manager, real estate services, of REIV (Real Estate Institute of Victoria); and General Manager for McGrath Lower North Shore Sydney. She was recognized as ‘Woman of the Year’ in 2007 by Price Waterhouse Cooper, and more recently bestowed with the 2013 Telstra Victorian Woman of the Year award.
Smiles is currently the CEO of Harcourts Victoria, the state division of one of Australia’s leading and well respected real estate brands. As CEO, she focuses on the growth and productivity of Harcourts’ franchisees and their sales consultants. Since beginning her work with Harcourts, Smiles has helped the company achieve 26 per cent increase in settled sales.
“Throughout my career, I’ve held several senior management positions with some of the real estate industry’s most significant organizations in both Melbourne and Sydney. To date, I have worked with teams of up to 250 sales agents and 100 property managers and have successfully implemented innovative training programs, performance management and business systems, database and client relationship systems and implemented pioneering technology concepts – all of which were designed to achieve sustainable growth and brand development.”
In spite of achieving such impressive accolades, Smiles humbly believes that her real contribution to society is through ‘Links Fiji,’ a non-profitable organization she created to improve the overall health of men, women and children in Fiji. The organization provides “education, preventative health care and world-class medical assistance,” with the vision to engage people through their everyday institutions like places of worship, schools and village elders to bring about “real change across communities.”
Being a woman of inspiration and great courage, Smiles offers this piece of advice to aspiring South Asian youth: “Shoot for the stars, never put limitations on your self, build your network of people who will help you move through your career and life. Write your goals, there is much power in writing it down (I have mine on my shower wall), remember you can have it all, just not all at the same time. Most importantly never forget your heritage, respect it and let it guide you through life.”
What were your biggest obstacles?
The biggest obstacles were the limitations I placed on myself. To start with, you feel constantly on the back foot, you lack confidence to put yourself forward, you assume that people will judge you based on your colour or accent, some may, however the majority will accept you for who or what you are. The culture shock can potentially be an obstacle for many..
Fondest memories of childhood?
As a child in Fiji, my best memories are of the carefree life we lived, how close we were to everything, getting on a sailing boat and going out to Beachcomber Island with my friends.
Advice for future immigrants?
Find a way to balance the best of who you are as a migrant from which ever country with the best Australia [or any other country] has to offer. You do not need to give up your heritage to be successful in this country. Use your difference to your advantage.
Indians around the world have made significant contributions to their immigrated countries, what do you think of this accomplishment?
I believe it is something we should be very proud of, to be successful means that we have successfully integrated into communities, we work in or own businesses that contribute to the economy, our families and kids have become part of the fabric of the Australian [or immigrated country’s] culture and importantly we maintain our heritage and celebrate events like we did at home.
Photo: Sadhna Smiles