Meet Tanya Meessmann, founder of FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames {ChangeMakeHer Career Stories}

November 26, 2017

Tanya’s story is the latest in our ChangeMakeHer Career Stories, where we interview incredible women creating powerful change in their respective fields about their stories and share their advice on how you can do the same. One of the biggest factors as to why girls tend to shy away from fields such as STEM, tech, entrepreneurship and leadership roles is quite simply that there is often not enough representation. After all, it’s a lot harder to become something you can’t see. So, here at ChangeMakeHer, one of the ways we’re working to change that is by interviewing amazing women out there and showing you that you’re just as capable of doing amazing things like them!

 

This week’s interview is with Tanya Meessmann, founder of FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames, one of ChangeMakeHer’s fantastic sponsors and a speaker from the inaugural ChangeMakeHer Conference this year. So without further ado, let us introduce you to Tanya Meessmann!

 

Tanya’s Story

 

Tanya grew up in Yeppoon, Queensland, with a mother from Zimbabwe and a father from South Africa. Her parents instilled into her a work ethic of trying as hard she could, putting in as much effort as possible, but getting back on her feet to try again if things didn’t go according to plan. This resilient outlook on life was something she found valuable when she eventually went out into the workforce and into life.

 

Even while at school, Tanya had an appetite for trying new things and took every opportunity by the reins. She participated in sports, coaching, drama, debating and many more activities. “I just wanted to keep going,” she says.

 

Growing up in a small town, going to a small highschool, it was easy for her to doubt herself and felt it wasn’t possible to go into fields that interested her, such as advertising, filmmaking and IT.  The lack of exposure to women in these roles just amplified the challenge – “We got very little access or exposure to women who were doing amazing things.” But with the encouragement of teachers and professors, she went on to study at Bond University before landing a job at DDB, one of the Australia’s biggest advertising agencies.

 

Tanya eventually did move to London to work in Advertising, while exploring her passion for filmmaking on the side. After meeting a producer from Belfast, she moved there and very quickly found her passion managing Feature Films in the UK, before coming back to Australia.  When she found herself juggling seventy hours of work a week as Head of Production at a film company, as well as looking after her young son, Jesse, she decided a better life-balance was needed and so took a break from filmmaking and relocated back to Queensland after landing a job heading up the new Brand Team at Queensland Academies. It was then that the first sparks of FUEL began to appear.

 

How FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames Started

 

Tanya says she’s always found herself naturally drawn to helping and mentoring girls younger than herself. In January of 2017, an idea started to circulate in her mind – a four-day camp, where fifty or sixty girls went somewhere remote and scenic to hear amazing women speak and to participate in intensive sessions for skill development and self-discovery. While the idea appealed to her, she decided that the most feasible option in her current circumstances would be instead to connect the women and girls through two-hour workshops for girls after school.

 

She approached a number of incredible women like herself, asking them to speak at events where she would interview them and allow the audience to ask their own questions. The idea of this was to allow the audience to participate more and feel like they were really connecting with the speakers. According to Tanya, “the two pillars of FUEL are that everything we offer the girls is experiential and  intimate.”

 

Her Career Advice

 

For those about to graduate or go out into the workforce, Tanya’s best advice is to talk to trusted individuals and bounce ideas off them. This, she says, is a terrific way to hear different opinions and find out what may or may not interest you.

 

In her own life, she has found talking to others extremely useful. When she was nineteen and about to graduate, her initial plan was to move to London, but after talking to an older, wiser professor, she decided that it would be better to stay in Australia and gain some experience. She followed his advice and found herself much better equipped when she eventually did move to work in London.

 

Tanya’s other tip for those going into university is to “research what the uni itself is like, as well as what the classes and teachers are like.” Her university experience was very hands-on, with a lot of group projects, which helped develop a lot of skills she wouldn’t have gained with purely theoretical learning.

 

Another excellent piece of advice she received from her high school physics teacher was that “you have to be in it to win it.” Repeatedly throughout her life, Tanya has found that it’s by stepping out of her comfort zone, trying new things and having confidence in herself that she’s been truly successful. “It’s not about deserving or not deserving it, because if you’re passionate about something and you really want it, you deserve it as much as anyone else, especially if you’re working hard for something,” she says.

 

Her final piece of advice is that your initial choice of career is not necessarily the direction you’ll be stuck in forever. Tanya herself is currently in her third career, having worked in marketing and advertising, film producing and now entrepreneurship. However, she also says there’s a fine line between having multiple careers and just trying out anything and everything. “In any industry, you have to do the hard yards, you have to do the time and you have to work your way up from the bottom,” she says. “On any career path, know that you’re not stuck but at the same time don’t flip around and change jobs every year, because you’re not going to evolve in a deeper manner.”

 

How You Can Get Involved With FUEL

 

FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames is open to all girls in highschool (Years 7-12).  All year round they put on events such as intimate Q&A sessions, workshops, roundtables, mentoring and are looking to launch the first Camp in 2018. “We’re trying to build a community of girls who are passionate about developing their skills and about meeting and interacting with role models from a whole range of careers and pathways.”

 

If you’re interested, here are some ways you can get in touch:

 

www.girlshapedflames.com (Sign up to the mailing list so you don’t miss new events and Extraordinary Women!)

Email Tanya: Tanya@girlshapedflames.com

Get some inspo on Instagram: @girlshapedflames

Follow FUEL on Facebook: Girl Shaped Flames

FUEL: Girl Shaped Flames is open to all girls in highschool (Years 7-12).  All year round they put on events such as intimate Q&A sessions, workshops, roundtables, mentoring and are looking to launch the first Camp in 2018. “We’re trying to build a community of girls who are passionate about developing their skills and about meeting and interacting with role models from a whole range of careers and pathways.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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