A GOAL OF MINE THIS YEAR HAS BEEN TO INTERVIEW ALL THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS FOR THE HUNTER YOUNG PROFESSIONALS (HYP). SO THIS MONTH I SAT DOWN WITH ALEX HARDY, CURRENT TREASURER, TO FIND OUT THE STORY ABOUT THE MAN THAT MAKES ALL OUR FINANCES MAKE SENSE.
It was a pretty chilly evening when I sat down at The Basement on Market Street for a bit of a chat about all things HYP and Alex’s list of 100 things to do before you die…
Alex: ‘If you were at a house party how would you describe yourself’? Is that a go-to question?
That’s actually pretty much what I was about to ask you.
A: I’ll tell you the most random thing. The last sort of ‘house party’ that I went to that wasn’t held by a friend, or a friend of a friend was this thing in Surry Hills. Ugh! It was sort of advertised on Facebook! [Laughs]
That’s a good start!
A: I was seeing this girl at the time and her friends had found it. We ended up going and they put on a keg, just for like anyone that showed up. It was in this tiny, super old 1940’s or ‘50s townhouse. Some really dilapidated old shit-hole that all these students were living in. And they tried to put up some decorations for the house party. It was a bit of a Halloween theme. So, I’ve rocked in, corporate during the day, Batman at night type of thing. I did not fit in with all of these Surry Hill hipsters.
Were you wearing something similar?
A: No, I wasn’t in a suit thank god, I was just in jeans and a polo or whatever. And there was all these like, super hipster people, all around the place. Even the girl I was seeing at the time; her friends were dressed a little bit differently to what they were. We were completely caught off guard.
So, we get to this house party, I’m happy to drink this kegged beer they’re serving in teacups by this point because they’d run out of any sort of cup.
Very much a large part of life is in the suit and tie; going to clients, meetings, all those sorts of things. But, outside of that, I’m a bit of an avid traveller.
A: So I’m always trying to get that into the conversation. I’ve just booked a trip to Africa for this October actually, and it will be my last continent. So, it’ll be all seven in October when I get to Africa!
A long time ago now, maybe when I was about 22-23, I wrote a list of 100 things, life ambitions, that I want to get done. And it’s funny, there’s a guy called Sebastian Terry who started this thing called ‘100 Things’ ages ago and now he gets paid to speak all around the world, and he’s done 60 or 70 things. I think if he finished all 100 things he will be out of a job. So, he’s sort of stretching the last 20 or 30 out! [LAUGHS]
So, this guy, I guess he’s a little inspiring. You think, if I don’t actually write these things down so they’re real, I might never do them, so you just write them down. I’ve been ticking them off. I’ve probably done about 30 of the 100. Stuff in there includes things like skydiving and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef. What else? Oh, climb Mt Kilimanjaro is on there, so that’s why I’m doing that in October.
I feel like you’ve really avoided the party questions.
A: Yeah. It’s funny, you tell someone you’re a chartered accountant and they immediately think tax. For 95% of the population, the only time they speak to an accountant is when they bump into them at a random house party! This figurative house party or when they have to do their tax return. Truth be told, if all accountants had to rely on a couple of hundred bucks to do tax return, everyone would be out of a job.
What attracted you to HYP? What as motivated you to get on, like, what is it that you value now?
A: Good question. I’ve always seen my longer-term career being in the government space on boards. I get to present to boards regularly in my job but being younger, I very rarely get to sit on boards. Hopefully it’s changing a bit out there. Usually you have to have grey hair before you get on a board. [LAUGHS]
Or at least be a male. I feel like there’s still a lot of males on boards.
A: Yeah. There’s definitely far greater challenges for people that aren’t male. You look at some statistics about female board positions in the ASX and the difference has been publicised for a long time. Percentages haven’t really moved that much, it’s quite shocking actually.
Is that how you see your role in shifting the focus of HYP this year?
A: Yeah, I think the work that the guys have done over the past couple of years has been fantastic. Taking the organisation from a glorified ‘party planner’ through to an organisation which, let’s be honest, that is getting so many interesting, young, enthusiastic people from a whole bunch of different industries and walks of life. I noticed that last year when I was going to some events and thought, ‘Wow, this is the go. I’d love to be a part of this’. And then the opportunity came up to do that.
When I came to HYP there was a few things that I wasn’t getting at the start. Just from a risk perspective. What does the back of house look like when it comes to the government stuff? Not that it’s bad or terrible or anything, but there’s certainly some room for improvement. A lot of the things that James, with his marketing background, has been able to achieve through culture and through affective marketing practices has been great. I’ve got that government and constitution/finance background to get the back of house looking good. Culture is one thing, but if law says something else or the constitution says something else then I know what wins.
This is possibly a more awkward question than the first. If you could teach Novocastrians one thing, what would it be?
A: This might be controversial… but ugh, LEAVE!
A: And the reason I say that is because you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone; I guess that’s part of my love of travel as well. This is such a great place and people forget it all the time. Day-to-day you forget that you’re living in one of the most incredible, beautiful, beachside, harbour-side cities in the entire world. Clean air, beautiful beaches, and what is becoming a thriving, cosmopolitan city center; it really frustrates me when people start bitching about it.
It seems like a hobby these days!
A: Yeah and it really frustrates me; guys, do you realise how good it is here? And like people, other people discover it and want to bring things here and then people complain about that as well. I’m just like, come on man, just enjoy it!
I really like that one. Controversial, but then they’ll suddenly go, ‘yeah that makes sense’. Leave, great answer.
A: Don’t say Alex Hardy says ‘leave’! I hope they read the rest.
Being that you travel around quite a lot, when you’re in Newcastle, where are your favourite places to hang out?
A: Good question; really good question! I’ve always been much bigger into the city than say like Darby Street or Beaumont Street. Um, actually, we are sitting at one right now [The Basement]. This has only been around for a year or two, but I really love it here. On a Friday night the girls love it because they do cool cocktails and that kind of thing.
Is this where you usually end up after the office?
A: Yeah, if I’m around on a Friday afternoon then here for sure. Back in the day it used to be The Brewery when it was called The Brewery, but now it’s probably changed 3 or 4 times. Where else? I’m a bit of a One Penny guy as well for coffee, that’s good. And at Blackbutt there’s a place called Euro Patisserie.
A: It’s got the best meat pies in the world! Highly recommended!
If someone comes to visit, where would you take them to to show off Newcastle?
A: The one I seem to do, and I’ve done a tonne of times with people from overseas, is the 4WD ATV thing at the Stockton Sand Dunes. And I’ve been lucky twice now, that when I’ve been doing it the Fighter Jet from William Town have been going over. I’ll tell you what, you feel like a bit of a bad ass when you’re in this ATV going down this dune and there’s a fighter jet flying over your head at the time. Have I just stepped into a video game here? What is going on? So, I guess that’s the thing I do a lot of the time.
Also BlackButt Reserve for the koalas, especially if the guests are from overseas. And then chuck in a Euro pie in as well, that kills two birds with one stone.
Alex Hardy is the Treasurer for Hunter Young Professionals and a really interesting character. If you want to meet him, start attending HYP events and make a beeline to introductions. You can start with “I read about you in Newcastle Mirage”.