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Lessons for a lifetime:

Why a GM at an investment firm managing
$100 billion still uses the lessons from her
first job at a hair salon

Lessons for a lifetime:

Why a GM at an investment firm managing $100 billion still uses the lessons from her first job at a hair salon


Katrina King oversees some impressive projects as the General Manager of the Capital Solutions Team at Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC) – an organisation managing over $100 billion in assets for the Queensland Government and third-party institutional investors.

Katrina King
Katrina King

Yet, in the role, King still leans on lessons from humble beginnings.

"My current job is really dynamic, and I have an amazing team of professionals," King said. 

“The Capital Solutions Team is responsible for collaborating with QIC’s investment teams and clients to innovate, develop and deliver solutions to bring asset management skills to our client base,” King said.

“We’re also responsible for researching the market and understanding where capital flows have been occurring and where they’re changing – helping our investment and distribution teams position for future capital raises."

The UQ Master of Business Administration (MBA) graduate has already had an impressive career in finance. When King worked at global financial services monolith J.P. Morgan, she traversed the globe in some of the world’s most bustling cities, including New York, Tokyo and London, before returning to Australian shores and securing a role with QIC.

However, one job stuck with Katrina for the valuable career and life lessons she still carries fondly to this day – her first job as a hairdresser’s assistant at age 15 while undertaking Year 10 in high school.

Katrina King spoke at a Business Chicks event. Left to right: Associate Professor Nicole Hartley, Claire Davis, Katrina King.

“My first paid job was as an assistant at the local hairdresser that my mum went to, and I think she talked them into giving me a job,” King reminisced.

“She could tell they were struggling on a Thursday night and Saturday morning.

“I did a lot of sweeping, made tea and coffee, washed hair before cuts and rinsed out colour, and folded a lot of towels.

“I loved the job. I cherished the independence it gave me – not only with the money but also with going to the salon on a busy Thursday night and being part of the rhythm of the place.

“A favourite part as a young teenager was hanging out in the back room while washing towels with the ‘older’ hairdressers in their early twenties and hearing about their lives. It was liberating!”

King believes that not only was her first job a memorable experience, but it also helped pave the way for some important career lessons she still bears in mind today.

“Clearly, the two worlds are very different, but I think my first job built some important tenets,” King said.

Katrina shared the top 4 lessons from her first job that she has carried throughout her career and current role at QIC.

Katrina's top 4 lessons from her first job

icon of a person surrounded by stars1. Customer service is key

As a hairdresser's assistant, I had to greet clients, shampoo their hair, offer them refreshments and make them feel comfortable. I learned how to listen to their needs, anticipate their preferences and handle their complaints. These skills are essential in any business, especially in finance, where we work with our clients to understand their needs and regulatory constraints to create and deliver funds that meet their requirements.

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icon of puzzle pieces fitting together2. Teamwork makes the dream work

My first job required working closely with the stylists, receptionists and other assistants. By collaborating with a diverse team, I learned how to communicate effectively, coordinate tasks and support others. I remember a day when one of the stylists arrived at work, stressed about their car or finances, and a co-worker thoughtfully bought them flowers and a card to help cheer them up.

The care and friendship for fellow colleagues struck me – it was more than just a place to come and earn money. All of these skills are vital in any organisation, especially in QIC, where I have to lead a team of people who are responsible for different aspects of our product build and investor information requirements.

icon of a brain3. Learning never stops

Working in hairdressing, I kept an eye on the latest trends, techniques and products. I learned how to be curious, adaptable and open-minded. These skills are crucial in any profession, particularly in finance, where we have to stay on top of market dynamics, regulatory changes, and innovation opportunities.

Sometimes, more formal learning is also needed, which is why completing my UQ MBA was so important, along with all the informal learning I had done. The program really helped scaffold me quickly with the additional skills I needed to tackle my role.

icon of a cog in a lightbulb4. Creativity and resourcefulness

Being an all-rounder, I had to improvise and create solutions when things went wrong, such as a power outage, a broken tool or a missing product. I learned how to apply alternative methods, make the best of what I had and think outside the box. These skills are critical across industries, especially in Capital Solutions, where we design customised and innovative solutions for complex and diverse challenges.

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Why are first jobs so important?

Whether it’s making coffee, flipping burgers or stacking shelves, many Australians start their working lives with a job a little different to their dream career path, often while still in high school. In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 55.7% of teenagers in Australia are already juggling part-time work. It’s often a memory that stays with us for a lifetime, shaping foundations as we move up the career ladder.

So, what is it about the first paid gig that makes the lessons we learn from it so memorable? According to leadership expert and UQ MBA Professor Victor Callan, our first jobs teach us several valuable lessons.

Victor Callan in the UQ Great Court
Professor Victor Callan

“Studies show that, often without knowing it, our first jobs offer key opportunities for developing and testing new skills, such as being part of a team, managing clients’ expectations and gaining valuable work experience,” Professor Callan said.

“For those short in self-belief, the first job can build self-confidence, while those who are more confident can use the opportunity from this first job to build networks that allow them to explore other job possibilities.

“Often, the people you meet in this first job prove to be more important than that first pay.”

Elevate your career and networks with a UQ Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Find out more

Professor Victor Callan headshotProfessor Victor Callan

Professor Victor Callan AM is a Professor of Management and Leadership with The University of Queensland Business School and the UQ MBA program. Professor Callan has been elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He’s also part of UQ Business School's Future of Health and Service Innovation Alliance research hubs.

Contact Professor Callan