When Tom Hardwick started his career as a corporate lawyer, he couldn’'t imagine the twists and turns his life would take. Now CEO and co-founder of Guardian Early Learning Group, it’'s a long way from his initial job after graduating from the University of Melbourne with degrees in law and commerce in the early 1990s. “"I started life as a corporate lawyer and specialised in workplace restructuring and industrial relations,”' Tom says, describing his career progression. “"Then I won a Fulbright scholarship and went to the US and worked over there for a year in management consulting, and came back and did that here in Australia for a few years. Then I moved to Sydney in 2001 and got into investment banking before moving into property funds management in 2006."”

It was during this period, after moving to Sydney in the early 2000s, that Tom was given the opportunity to get involved in the childcare sector. He and his wife had previously started a childcare centre when they returned from the US, so he had some experience in the industry already. “"When my wife and I started dating in our very early years, she went into childcare and worked in the sector, and when we were in the US in 1997 we went and visited a lot of childcare centres and came home and started our own centre. But a few years later, we had a couple of children and it was just getting too hard to manage the business and the children, so we sold the business and got out of the sector for a while. Then when I came to Sydney, we had a couple of friends who were starting up a childcare business and they said I should get involved because I knew something about the sector, so that’'s how we started Guardian as a childcare management company back in 2004.”"