Director of Big W Julie Coates began her career as a mathematics teacher after completing university. Teaching at a high school in the western suburbs of Melbourne gave her the skills and experience to handle tough situations before entering the retail sector.

“It’s fair to say I learnt more there than I taught anyone. From maths teaching, I found my way into retail in another discount department store. Afterwards, I was recruited to help set up the Officeworks business, so I was employee number two at Officeworks.

“From there, I went to David Jones when a number of executives from Coles Myer were recruited at the same time. There were a few notables amongst those, such as Mark McInnes, Stephen Goddard, and Paul Zhara. I then came to Woolworths and have been with the company for over 10 years. My first role here was as human resources director and my second role was chief logistics officer, so I ran the logistics network for the food and liquor business. I’ve been in my current role as director of Big W for four years.”

Throughout Julie’s time, she has seen the dynamic changes that have swept through Australia’s retail sector. From the proliferation of online shopping to the strength of the Australian dollar, it has been a challenging industry to prosper within.