Young Old Girl Feature: Abby Green (Class of 2017) - work smarter, not harder

Abby Green graduated as Dux of Somerville House in 2017, and was offered a full academic scholarship to study a Bachelor of Engineering/Master of Engineering program at UQ, majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering.  Fast forward to 2021 and she is Managing Director of Study Monkey; a tutoring business that operates across Australia. Abbi recently shared her pathway since finishing school - and the unexpected twists and turns it has brought - with the graduating Class of 2021 at the OGA School Leavers Panel. 

I have always been interested in the corporate world and always knew that one day I’d want to run my own company, but thought it would be more in the capacity of doing a degree to become an engineer/doctor etc and then running my own firm or practice.  

However, this was probably more based on the fact I was so academically focussed at school and did all maths and science based subjects rather than anything business related, so it seemed to make more logical sense at the time that I should pursue a traditional professional career.  

When the opportunity came up to start a tutoring business during university, it was a bit of a leap of faith; heaps of people thought I was crazy dropping my degree! But it was 100% worth it, after I had fallen in love with the education industry and realised that school subjects do not necessarily correlate directly to the career you should choose. 

Abby's tips for students:

'Work smarter not harder' is definitely something I’ve figured out since I graduated, and I really should have heeded that advice when I was in year 12!  

External exams are quickly approaching at the moment and we’re seeing a lot of students spending their time trying to go back over every single topic they covered for the whole year in a ‘cover the textbook from back to front’ kind of approach.  There’s no point spending heaps of times revising topics you know you’re already ok at.  Focus heavily on your weakest areas and then more quickly gloss over those you are already confident with rather than dedicating equal amounts of effort to each topic and wasting energy unnecessarily.  

Also, in terms of general study techniques, I cannot stress enough the importance of active recall.  Study techniques can be grouped into two main groups:

- passive techniques: think highlighting notes, re-reading the textbook, re-writing notes more neatly

- active techniques: quizzing yourself, teaching someone else, creating mind maps where the purpose is to condense and distill key info as much as possible vs simply re-writing notes word for word

The first group of techniques are much easier as they require far less brain power; however, in doing something like simply re-writing or reading your notes, you can put yourself into a false sense of security as the notes make sense as you are reading along.  Quiz yourself however and you’ll quickly realise that there’s a few definitions for example that are at the tip of your tongue but you can’t remember what they are without referring to your notes.  This will exposure your knowledge gaps so much quicker and is a much more effective way to study.  

In year 12, I used to have a whiteboard and I’d pretend I had to teach someone else a topic and see if I could explain everything without looking at my notes.  I think my mum thought I was slightly crazy sometimes when she’d walk in and see me talking to myself but it was a game changer in learning to retain content quickly!

Work/life balance is so essential - life is short!  Working hard aspiring to be successful is fantastic and extremely rewarding, but only if you have other people to share it with.  Accomplishments both personally and in your career quickly become meaningless without people around you to celebrate it with or if you are working all the time and never get a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labour so to speak.  

Unfortunately in business in particular, but all other areas too, I think over-working yourself has become a bit of a badge of honour for many people (e.g. ‘I did great this week because I worked 100 hours at the office’), but this is unsustainable long-term and pressures people into thinking they are ‘lazy’ or not as ambitious as the next person if they choose to work less and enjoy life more.

Connect with Abby on LinkedIn here. 

 

Three things I'd tell my year 12 self now:

1. Don’t work hard for the sake of working hard - always reflect and be mindful that what you are doing is productive and the best use of your time.  

2. If you’re stuck and feeling overwhelmed, just start somewhere and try to keep everything as simple as possible as the simplest solution is often the best one.  Even if you just start and you make a mistake or go in the wrong direction, you’ll be further ahead than if you’d done nothing at all

3. When thinking about what you want to do after school, remember to include goals that are not simply related to your career or personal achievements (these are important too though)!  It’s ok and important to think about the type of life you want in terms of lifestyle, family, romantic relationships etc. and not let your career 100% run your life.

 

 

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