Julie Drago, CEO of Hero Properties on relationship based leadership
Leading Women · 25 minutes ·

Julie Drago, CEO of Hero Properties on relationship based leadership

This episode, Shadé Zahrai interviews Julie Drago, CEO of Hero Properties, Non-Executive Director of Mendolia Seafoods and Director of Fairbridge Investments. Julie is a Member of the WA Divisional Council and Chair of WA Land and Infrastructure Committee of the Property Council of Australia. She is also a Committee Member of the City of Kalamunda.


Valuable Discussion Points

(01:25) What is the story of Julie’s leadership journey?


Julie’s parents immigrated from Italy in the 60s. Her father established a large fabrication business. From a very young age she was very fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to work in the facility. This is where she developed her passion for fabrication and workshops in that industry. She built the business up and tackled huge projects all around WA. In the early 2000s, the family decided to concentrate more on developing industrial property, close and lease out the fabrication business. Over the next 20 years, Julie built large workshops and leased them out to mining, oil, and gas multinational companies. In 2019, she was appointed the CEO.


(03:08) What were the barriers that Julie faced and practical ways she navigated her way through male-dominated industry and environments?


Growing up in a male-dominated industry, Julie did not really work with a lot of women, apart from the administration roles. The biggest thing she learnt was that she needed to step up and back herself. Going into these environments, she would often be the only woman in the room. She had to learn to believe in what she was doing and what she was saying, so she could make her own voice that people would listen to.


(04:09) Why does Julie feel that it is so important for women to embrace and amplify their natural skills?


Julie thinks that women are naturally more empathetic. When women look at problems, they look at the problem from both sides of the argument and sometimes people can get caught up on trying to win an argument but being more open and understanding about where the other person is coming from enables women to be really good negotiators and that's how Julie tackle things all the time.


(18:20) How does Julie use networking as a strategy for building relationships?


The biggest thing is do your research before you go to an event like apart from get involved, go to events and find out where you can have some input. Use LinkedIn, get to know them and figure out who they are and then actively go up to them and say, look, I'm really interested in what you've done here and here and have that conversation. Don't try to be so random about it.


Key Learnings

  • Julie learned that she had to stop questioning herself. She struggled to put herself out there and really speak up. Women need to ask themselves, what can go wrong? Once women get over that hurdle, they will realise that they have got a voice, that they can use it and that it is very powerful.
  • Some people can be so focused on the short-term gain, instead Julie shares that people need to think about a longer-term gain because relationships, trust, and rapport take years to build. When COVID first came and her tenants went to her for rent relief, she did not need the government to mandate it because they were already doing it.
  • Anna added involvement to your respective industry body to the Leadership Toolbox. Start going to their events, participants and try to get onto some of their committees. Being part of that body enables you to lobby the government and figure out ways to try and make your business easier.


Quotable Quotes

“I've got a voice and I can use this and it's very powerful.” – Julie Drago


“You can't literally win every deal. You know, they're going to win one. You'll win one that's it and that's life. You know, and if you think like that, you'll have a lot better relationship with your competitors.”– Julie Drago


“There's no point complaining about something, get involved and be active about changing it.”– Julie Drago


Important Resources and Links

If you would like to learn more about how CommBank is ensuring women are advancing their growth in business, visit https://www.commbank.com.au/women-in-focus.html.


Host of the Leading Women podcast, Shadé Zahrai helps women hack their careers to advance faster, overcome their limiting beliefs and confidently create the life they deserve. She is featured in Forbes, the New York Times, TED, Daily Mail and other media. If you’re interested in learning more about Shadé and the issues she’s currently discussing, visit https://www.shadezahrai.com


If you’re interested in connecting with Julie Drago or viewing her professional portfolios and achievements, visit her LinkedIn via https://www.linkedin.com/in/julie-drago-21324b66


The Leading Women podcast is produced by Nicole Hatherly, recorded at RadioHub Studios with post production by Cooper Silk and Iain Wilson.

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