An interview with James Callender, By Kian West / by Kian West

I’M A BIG BELIEVER IN TRYING TO LISTEN TO THE UNIVERSE FOR OPPORTUNITIES AND TAKING ON CHALLENGES WHEN THEY PRESENT THEMSELVES. AT THE END OF LAST YEAR, A MEMBER OF THE HUNTER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS (HYP) BOARD REACHED OUT TO ME TO BECOME A DIRECTOR, AND I SAW THIS AS A MESSAGE THAT THE FOLLOWING YEAR WOULD INCLUDE THIS NEW CHALLENGE. IT’S ALSO AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN FROM OTHERS, SO I ASKED THE CURRENT PRESIDENT OF HYP, JAMES CALLENDER, TO HAVE A CHAT WITH ME.

It’s a weekday afternoon when we sit down out the front of The Happy Wombat for a couple of beers and a conversation about what James does at HYP (pronounce it like HYPE), what it is that motivates him, and a commentary on what is shaping the city we both seem to love…

You’re at a house party – how do you explain that classic question of ‘So what do you, James?’

James: I tell them now that I work in operations, so by that I mean I help manage stakeholders to help NIB achieve operational outcomes when it comes to non-health insurance products (that’s life insurance, travel insurance and expat). But generally, I jump out of that conversation really quickly and start to talk a bit more about what I do in the community. That seems to be the more exciting part of me. Prior to working at NIB I worked in accounting and finance for, like, seven or eight years, and that was always really dry. And so as soon as you drop the accountant bomb, everyone would be like, ‘Ergh, I’m going to go over here and speak to the engineer’, or the chef or whoever else is at the party. So then I’d ramble on about what I do in the community and why I do it. That’s things like HYP; I’m also fairly involved with the university and my surf club, and I seem to get a lot of kicks out of that by activating opportunities for the people who are in all these various organisations. I’m quite an invested community member. Then I generally get asked, ‘But why do you do it?’, and I can’t really answer that – I just get a lot of intrinsic motivation.

What’s your local surf club?
Newcastle Surf Club.

How long have you been involved?
I’ve been there for 18 years now. 

That’s a fair chunk of time.
Yeah, and that was my first board position as well. I assumed a position at 17.

Did that just happen naturally?
I guess there were some people in the surf club who were looking out for me and the skills I had, and they sort of promoted me towards that.

Can you explain what HYP is to people who don’t know about it?
HYP is a community. HYP’s intention is to make people feel like they belong to something in this community. I suppose the way we make people feel like they belong is by giving them a sense of identity; we do that by either inviting them to events or by promoting them in the local community, so that when people think of an individual they think of HYP, and when they think of HYP they think of the individuals they know who are already in that particular community.

 Who is it for?
Its target audience is people aged between 18 and 40 years of age primarily. It’s for people who are passionate about their cause. That’s how I define a professional – not necessarily by your tertiary qualifications or your professional accreditation; it’s if you’re passionate about what you do. It’s also for organisations who wish to connect with people in that target demographic.

Do you think that’s an issue for HYP to overcome? You define the audience very well, but do you think the community defines it very differently?
HYP is in a different stage at the moment where it’s starting to establish itself as a well-known brand in the community. Previously we were the Hunter Junior Chamber of Commerce, and that name itself has various connotations – you get a sense of identity from that, and that sense of identity was previously restricted to those who would typically be a member of the chamber, business and law professionals. So I think we’re going through the motions now of establishing our own identity and communicating that to the community, which I think is so important. I guess [we want to] publicise what we do, but also feature what our members are doing in the community – so it’s not necessarily ‘HYP is doing this’ and ‘HYP is doing that’, but also ‘Kian is doing this and he’s a member of the community’. That’s how I think we’re going to generate a lot of traction, by promoting that. You can see that in our recent partnership with Hunter Headline, through the Hunter Young Guns. [It was like], we’ve got all these people and they’re high achievers; let’s promote that through your network, and by that we’re going to get the organic traction.

When did you join HYP?
I joined HYP in 2013. Prior to that I was at the University of Newcastle and I started an undergrad association for students of business and commerce, doing pretty much what HYP does. I was working full-time at that time and I identified the importance of making connections within the community as early as possible. I always said it was easy to make friends at school and it’s always easy to make colleagues at uni, before they turn into your competitors essentially.

Have you got any tips for people who are really new to networking?
I’m not super good at it myself!

How do you approach it then?
I generally start with the people who are alone, because I figure they’re more like myself. Generally at networking events, you’ll find the people in large groups generally already work together or they’ve already got an existing clique. So what I would do is target the people who are already alone and introduce myself, then as potentially someone walks past who is also alone, or a group may come across us, I would then make it my goal to introduce the person I’ve just met to the other people of the group. And so that’s a challenge I set myself each time, because by me introducing a particular individual I learn more about them, and it also helps me learn about others because I’m that facilitator – that connector in the middle.

If you could teach Novocastrians one thing, what would it be?
Pride of place. Advocating for what we have here. It’s an old Novocastrian wives’ tale about not telling people how good we’ve got it because then they’ll come, so I think pride of place and advocating.

When you’re not doing all of this, where do you like to hang out in Newcastle?
I like good food. I like beer and whiskey, so in terms of my favourite eat – I’m a sucker for good service, absolutely love good service – I always love going back to Paymasters. The food is good, the service is sensational, the view’s not bad. In terms of beverages, I like visiting the boys at Coal & Cedar. I also don’t mind kicking back at a surf club. I work a few shifts at the bar – if I was a backpacker and I could kick back on the beach, that’s just unreal.

If being a member of HYP sounds like something you (or someone you know) should be a part of, check out their website (hunteryoungprofessionals.com.au) for more info and to join. There was so much more to this interview we couldn’t fit in, so check out the podcast this month to listen in. You might also like to connect with James on LinkedIn and have a chat with him – inspiring guy.

PS. Click this image to go to the Launch Event Details - March 16

PS. Click this image to go to the Launch Event Details - March 16