The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Wendy Simpson

Episode 07

Wendy Simpson OAM: Episode Summary

On this episode of ‘The Inspiration Project’, Brendan Corr talks to Wendy Simpson OAM about feminism, business and walking with God through the seasons of life.

Among other things Wendy shares:

  • how the feminist movement influenced Wendy’s call into business.
  • ️how two scholarships kick-started her business career.
  • what led to a revival at her public high school.
  • starting Australia’s first homeless youth program.
  • setting up the Telstra Business Awards.
  • ️the challenge of forsaking friends to pursue her calling.
  • her new venture of “restorative property development”.
  • ️about juggling work, university study and caring for foster kids.

Wendy Simpson OAM: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development, and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Good morning, everybody. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project podcast. Delighted to welcome Wendy Simpson as our special guest this morning. Wendy has a glowing career in terms of business that spans a number of industries, most of them not necessarily well-associated with traditional female stereotypical roles. Wendy has taken senior roles and occupied leadership positions in freight, in telecommunications, in engineering, in property development. She was one of the first women to run TNT International, the International Global Freight Company, moved into Alcatel, one of the giant telecommunication organisations. She’s been an advisor to Government, serving as Victoria’s Trade Commissioner to North Asia for a period time, moved into property development with her family and is a person of strong, personal Christian faith, being involved in the organising of Sydney Prayer Breakfast, the annual gathering of business and community leaders to pray. Received the Order of Australia Medal in 2013, has been nominated to the Australian Businesswoman’s Hall of Fame, and has been listed as 100 women of influence by the Australian Financial Review. Wendy, that is quite a resume that we’ve been able to run through, and it’s only just touching some of the highlights. Thank you for giving us your time today. Can I start by asking, when did you realise that the world of business was something that was calling you?

Wendy Simpson
Yes, well look, it’s a very deliberate decision actually, a very thoughtful one. I grew up in a Christian family, and my parents went to Billy Graham’s Crusade, and they were church-goers that really became more passionate about their faith as a result of Billy Graham Crusade. I’ve always been a Christian, I’ve always known that God has a plan for my life but I also grew up in the era when there was the feminist movement, and there was a lot of literature around and hang ready saying that I’m strong iron woman. I used to read my bible side by side to Germaine Greer’s book, The Female Eunuch, and I started to ask the question, “Where are these discussions being held? Who are the people who are willing to discuss what the feminist movement is trying to do? And is there anything in the Bible that would suggest that God has a plan for women?” I started to really wrestle with that question when I was in Year 11, and 12. At that time, Christian women were either school teachers, or nurses, or secretaries. They were really the three roles that were considered to be honourable for Christian women, until they got married and had babies. I thought, “Well, what am I going to do about that?” So, I started to pray about it and I came from an extremely humble background. I needed a scholarship to go to university, if I was going to go to university. And the education department were offering scholarships, so I first of all applied for that and got a scholarship which meant that I was then bonded to become a teacher at the end of my University time. I had thought that there should be more choices for women but the reality was that the Christian environment that I was in at the time didn’t really showcase that. I did not know any business people of any kind. We were a very humble family. We only ever knew factory workers, and labourers. So, I didn’t know any business people.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. Where did your dream come from to not just…

Wendy Simpson
Yeah. There was just something inside me that said… I think it was probably quite like reading the Bible about God saying that he made us in his image, but also there was a lot of material out there, sadly more powerfully from the women’s movement then from the Christian community saying, “Women. This is your time. You’ve got to do something. You’ve got talent. You’ve got more than just a narrow span of talent. You’ve got a lot of talent, and you need to find it, you need to use it.” So, I was reading both lots of material.

Brendan Corr
Was that something that your parents were happy about, Wendy? Were they happy with you dipping into The Female Eunuch, and dancing with these dangerous ideas?

Wendy Simpson
Well, unfortunately at that stage my father was seriously ill and was in Hospital on a life support machine and my mother was pretty much focused on that. I was pretty much left to my own devices to read this material and see, see the youth group weren’t discussing it. But we were discussing it at school, in our Social Studies and English classes.

Brendan Corr
And it didn’t leave you to question your own faith? You didn’t see any incompatibility or say, “Well, if there is these attractive ideas and they don’t align with what I’m hearing through my sermons, or through my bible study group.” There wasn’t a temptation to forsake one, and follow the other?

Wendy Simpson
Well, I’ve got to tell you that one of the other interesting groups, because I grew up in Melbourne, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were very politically active around the time of the votes for women, and I had been reading their material. My grandmother had been in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, so she used to send me these booklets, and Frances Willard was an absolute pioneer, a champion. In fact, there’s a statue of her in Washington on Capitol Hill and she’s I think, the only woman that’s actually inside the dome there. I knew that Christian women had led the charge with the votes for women in Australia. I knew that Christian women had been politically active and done some quite crazy things, like having prayer meetings out the front of hotels to guests that people needed to look after their families and not just get drunk. So, I knew that it was possible for women to be politically active and social change agents, I knew that. But I just didn’t see it my own church but I didn’t want to give up on that dream that I could be someone who changed society.

Brendan Corr
You mentioned that your own parents shifted from being passive believers to having a vibrancy of their faith. That must have been true for you also, that there was some truth in your faith experience that you couldn’t deny even if it needed expressed in a way that was not typical of the Christian Church at the time.

Wendy Simpson
Yes. Well look, another thing that’s very interesting is… I wonder if any of your listeners have followed the life journey of John Smith of the God Squad.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Wendy Simpson
But when I was in Year 10, he was just starting to move away and there was the Sunbury Pop Festival, and there was all these festivals that were starting, and the hippie movement and so we invited him. I was leading our Christian Fellowship in our Government High School, it was a Government High School, 1200 kids and at that stage there was only 20 of us who were Christians in the school that were prepared to come and do a bible study. I’m sure there were other Christians but they just didn’t want to identify with… Christianity wasn’t very cool. But then when this Jesus movement happened, and John Smith started the God Squad, I grew up in a working class area where a lot of young people thought that joining a bikie gang would be pretty exciting. So, we had this evangelist who was talking about God, and he was reaching out to bikies, and so all of the cool cats in the school wanted to come and hear this God fellow. So, we started to have assembly and there was just little mini revival in our school, in my Year 11 that suddenly we had 200 kids coming to the bible study, and it was fresh and it was real, and we were wrestling with big issues. It wasn’t like Sunday school at school, we were wrestling with the topics that we were doing in school through a theological lens. We didn’t call it a theological lens because we were only in Year 11 and 12 but we were wrestling with big issues. And the whole of society was wrestling with issues, and so we were too. Scripture Union had movement, Theo’s Sun was being written, and then there was another magazine called On Being, so we were reading all this material and then liberation theology. So, all of that was forming me for quite a number of years and so that took me into social justice, and activism, and political thinking. Generally speaking, those Christians were quite… They saw business as sort of the dark side, they saw it as dirty money grabbing, commercial people. So, again, I still hadn’t met any business people because all of that milieu people, the social activists, the theologians, the radical Christians weren’t business people, none of them were business people at all and in fact despised business people often.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. I was going to ask you about that. We’ll come back in the conversation as to how you reconciled that radical beginning of your faith, and your journey into life in the community, and now many people would say part of the establishment rather than part of the radicalism but you got your scholarship, you’re telling about a scholarship to teaching?

Wendy Simpson
Yes. I got a scholarship to study at RMIT and I studied Business Information Systems which was the forerunner to the internet.

Brendan Corr
Right.

Wendy Simpson
And I was the only person at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology that was on a teaching scholarship. Everybody else was at the traditional universities. So, I was in this pioneering course and I thought, “Oh this would be interesting. I wonder if they’d let me do my teaching scholarship here rather than where everyone else is doing it.” And they said, “Oh yes, you can do that.” So, I did.

Brendan Corr
How intriguing. Because that’s not, as you say at the time, quite unusual for you not just to go down the regular path of doing your education. So, you’re dibbling into this Business Information Systems, and what was the next step for you after that, into the business world?

Wendy Simpson
Yes. My husband started to do an MBA, and we were living in a virtual Christian community. So, we had shared positions and we were part of Scripture Union, and the radical edge of that, and we had an outreach programme for homeless youth. We started the Youth Homelessness Programme, the first Government funded community based youth homelessness programme in Australia. So, we were doing all that, and I was 24.

Brendan Corr
Oh my gosh.

Wendy Simpson
And we were just really doing so many things, integrating our faith, reading a lot of liberation theology about Christ’s fall to the fore. And he decided to do an MBA because his work is… He’s in work in as an metallic metal Engineer making pet food cans in the local factory in Melbourne but they said, “Oh yeah, you should think about doing an MBA.” So he did. I would read some his textbooks, and I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t mind just understanding a bit more about the business world and again, we still didn’t know really any business people. The local newspaper had an advertisement for business and professional women. It was the first time that Rotary had ever sent a group of business and professional women on a business exchange, and I looked at it and I thought, “Oh, I think I should just try that. Why don’t I try?” At that stage I was a running a school for juvenile delinquents, so I had a red mohawk and I wrote a motorcycle, and I thought, “Oh, I could just try that anyway.” So, that was quite, quite different, so I was the outlying candidate. There was a Banker, there was a Town Planner, there was a Medical Practitioner, there was a TV Producer, and myself and a few other candidates. In the end, I was selected, and I went with the Medical Practitioner and the Town Planner, and the Investment Banker and we all went to Connecticut.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Wendy Simpson
And that was the first time I actually met business people because we were put into homes, and we were billeted and we were away for eight weeks. So, each week we would move to a new family. At that stage I was running the school for juvenile delinquents, and I was on a very low wage, it was $36,000 and I was staying with people who had million dollar houses and they were the CEOs of major corporations in America. We were in Connecticut, which at that stage was the highest per capita income in the US, so lavish homes, huge homes. A lot of the people we stayed with had older teenage children, and they would come in and make a fuss about the fact that the coffee maker hadn’t made their coffee, and this and that. And I said to them, “You know, you’ve really got to get some better perspective here. The world doesn’t fall apart if the coffee maker hasn’t made your coffee on time.” And I guess, people said to me, “There’s such a refreshing insight that you have. You’ve got people skills, you’ve got insights that are different to us.” I met these people and I worked out what they were doing, and what I was doing, and I thought to myself, “They could actually do a lot more if they had the spiritual insights and the drive that I have, they could do a lot more. They don’t realise how privileged they are.” And then I suppose after the eight weeks, I realised that I could probably do what they were doing. And I came from this trip to Connecticut, and I said to my husband, “If I really wanted to, I could become a Senior Executive in a Global Corporation.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you just try it?” I said, “Well, I suppose I could.”

Brendan Corr
That’s intriguing to me, Wendy. Right back at that stage, you were running this school for juvenile delinquents, and very modest lifestyle, and caught a little glimpse of the complete opposite of that, and believed in your heart that you had what it took to make that happen.

Wendy Simpson
Yes. Yes, oh absolutely. Yes.

Brendan Corr
Let me ask you, how did the Connecticut people welcome with you with your red mohawk and your alternate views? Was that uncomfortable at any stage?

Wendy Simpson
Well, I guess they were asked to select… This was radical for the Rotary Club because at that stage, in Australia, women weren’t allowed to be members of Rotary. In America, they were. So, yes, I think they did have a bit of trouble finding billets for us all. I don’t know whether I was more of a challenge than most but I think… They gave out our CV, and they could see that I was a person who was dedicated and sincere, and hardworking. So, I guess they didn’t think I was going to create any trouble. Except that when we went to New York, we did go into New York one day, and I said, “I need to go to the Bronx. I absolutely must go to the Bronx.” And they looked at me horrified and said, “We’ve never been to the Bronx. It’s very dangerous. You shouldn’t go.” And I go, “Oh no, I’m sure they’re wonderful people.” I could not go back to Australia without going to the Bronx. So, I did and I had a fabulous time. And I said to these people, “Look, see, they’re all right. Those people are safe. It’s okay.”

Brendan Corr
Yeah. You’re speaking there, you mentioned people skills, and clearly you had even at that stage, something that allowed you to understand or connect with the people in a way, regardless of whether they were from the upper echelons of society, or were finding life a little tougher. This was a pivotal moment for you, this trip for America. You came home and felt…

Wendy Simpson
It was absolutely pivotal, yes, yes. It took me way out of my comfort zone and I was really wrestling with the fact that generally speaking, my stream of Christianity thought that business people were really just money grabbing people that really didn’t have much faith. Actually, the people that I stayed with didn’t have faith but there’s just something about my time there that I thought that I could be different, I could do both, I could bring my deep spiritual passion and a business approach to things, I could do both I’m sure.

Brendan Corr
So, next step’s in Australia. You catch a glimpse of a possibility, how do you then turn that idea into a career?

Wendy Simpson
Yeah. So, obviously education, and so I enrolled in a journalism degree just to focus my thinking and being able to express myself, and I could see that journalism was also a very influencing ideas, and I knew that was important. I moved from the school for juvenile delinquents to The Mission of St James and St John, and worked in the public affairs area. From there then I was recruited into the Royal Melbourne Show to be the Marketing Manager which was just show business, and agriculture and government, very interesting mismash of people, quite some eccentric personalities to say the least. From there, I was recruited into being Advisor to Joan Kirner, and helped her set up the Department of Small Business. One of the things that happened at that stage, was Telstra was wanting to move it’s Australian, or Global Headquarters from Melbourne to Sydney, and they came to the Victorian Government and said, “We’d like to start some business awards.” At that stage there was The Bulletin magazine that had business awards for the large business but there was nothing for small businesses. They said, “We’d like to start these.” And a lot of people, a lot of Ministers, and Joan Kirner as Premier and others said, “Look, they’re just trying to buy us off because they’re moving the headquarters out of Melbourne.” And I said, “Look, that could be true. And the reality is, where we do these awards or whether we don’t they’re probably-”… They were semi-Government authority, and they could move if they wanted to. “So, why don’t we just have a look at it? Why don’t we just have a go, and see whether we could do it?” And so really, I was the person who was the brains behind the Telstra Business Awards.

Brendan Corr
Wow.

Wendy Simpson
Which have been going for more than 20 years now. And that was again, just saying, “Well, yes it could go wrong but it also could go right.” And giving comfort. I just felt the Lord saying that the business community needed encouragement and I was in a position to say yes or no. And I didn’t take the easy way out, which was to say, “Oh yes, that’s all too hard. No one’s done it before. How do we know it’s going to work?” I said, “Well, let’s give it a try.” So we did.

Brendan Corr
A lot of the stories you’ve been telling us Wendy, have spoken to a capacity that you’ve had to step into risk, to lay on the line, move out of your comfort zone as you say, try something that’s never been done before, try something that’s not expected. Is that something that is part of your personality? Has your faith assisted in taking those bold, adventurous moves in life?

Wendy Simpson
Yeah. Well look, I’d say my family are pretty risk-averse, I’m the most out there one in the family so it’s not something that I’m not the profile. If you speak to any of the leading business women in Australia, and their father was a High Court Judge, their father was a Paediatric Surgeon, their dad was a Corporation Executive. My dad’s job was to hook railway trains together, and my mum when he got sick, was really looking after him. I don’t have the profile of a normal career executive. So, I have to absolutely say that it was God, and Ephesians 3:20, that God is able to do far more than we ask or imagine. I really spend a lot of time in that verse. I open myself up to the possibilities that God’s looking for people. He wants to use people to do amazing things, and if we’re available, he’ll guide us.

Brendan Corr
“Here am I, send me.”

Wendy Simpson
Yes.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. What were your Christian friends, and Christian Church people thinking as you were making these big changes and becoming somebody that, on the surface at least, might be quite different from the red mohawked activist?

Wendy Simpson
Yes. Well, that’s right. Look, a lot of my friends in the Christian radical actions community thought that I was moving to the dark side, and they just couldn’t understand why I would do that. They were very disappointed in me, and said that I was really betraying what we all stood for. So, that was hard and I could have just said, “Well, yes. You’re right. I need to stay where I am.” But it was something inside me that said, “No. God needs passionate Christian business leaders.” So, I kept going. That meant that I really did feel alone because there were very few passionate business people that I knew. And if there were a few, they tend to be overseas, and they also tended to be men. So, I didn’t know any other passionate Christian businesswomen at all. I really had to actually just pray and I said that these women that were part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union were educated, were smart. Frances Willard helped to set up North Western University in Chicago. I just had to go back into history and read about women, of course people like Debra, and Lydia, they were my heroes because I just couldn’t find any other women around who were like me.

Brendan Corr
So, having endured some of that challenge, and pioneered a path that wasn’t there before you had marched it, you had this conviction that God was looking for Christian business people of influence, women particularly. What do you think is the influence that God brings to the world, or to the community through Christian business enterprise?

Wendy Simpson
Yeah. Look, I think that’s a really important question, and I’ve been wrestling with it. I’m now part of the global community of people that are part of something we called The Faith at Work Movement. I guess the first important thing to say is that, I think if you’ve grown up in the Christian community, you often think that those who are celebrated and honoured are those who are in full time Christian work, and we don’t often hear the stories of business people so I love this programme, I love the fact that we’re emphasising people who heard God’s call to stay in the industry that they’re in. Now, I’ve changed industries 16 times, so I see myself as called to business, not to a particular industry but whenever I’m in an industry, I do join the industry association, and I do seek to understand what are the things that that industry association, that industry consider important. Then I go back to my Bible and say, “What is it that God would say about that sector?” I think in the past, most people have thought the education sector has been quite Christian oriented, there are Christian schools that the value of education, the whole education movement that started from Christians, we would say now there’s some pretty fierce debates about where Christianity fits in with current education systems. And Hospitals have always traditionally been places that have welcomed Christian establishments and most of the hospitals in Australia were started by Christian people. But again, even that sector now is wrestling with issues like euthanasia, and abortion, and what’s the role of the medical profession in these very challenging, ethical questions. I don’t know any sector that can actually flourish without the Christians being there. You could say, “Well, we just need a whole lot of Pastors to go in there and talk to people, and provide insight and wisdom.” But the reality is that a lot of industries, a lot of corporations don’t want to invite Pastors in. So, there has to be people already there who are credible, who are part of that infrastructure that say, “Look, there’s another way that we could do this. We don’t have to just do it the same old way.” And they can bring prophetic insights. I am somebody who explores the prophetic role of Christian business leaders and that we can speak into our areas of influence. That means, things like your annual conferences, every industry has an annual conference but what are some of the topics? Wherever I am, whatever industry I’m in, I try to get involved in the annual conferences and try to suggest ways that, that sector can become more human, more willing to see things God’s way. Usually, you can’t evangelise in those sectors but you can bring in new insights, and people gradually will come around and ask you, “Why do you serve the way you do?” Back in 2010, I was asked to go to a meeting in Shanghai of women entrepreneurs and I really felt that God wanted me to have something to say to the women who feel very wired to be entrepreneurs, and how God would be wanting to work with them. I started something called Springboard Enterprises in Australia, which is the premiere programme for women entrepreneurs and I also started, back in the ‘90’s, the Australian Council of Business Women. I am someone who start industry group, and so I started off when I was younger, starting social outreach groups for pioneering work for street kids, and I continue to look for ways that I can influence the industries that I’m in. At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time with women entrepreneurs, mentoring them and also doing some work in restorative property development. One of our iconic developments was the site at the back of Alexandria, which had been owned by the Hell’s Angels, that was a scene of corruption, and drugs, and prostitution and all sorts of crazy things were happening there. We acquired the site, and we’ve transformed it into a creative centre, childcare centre. So, taken what had been planned for evil, and turned it into good, so it’s one of the iconic sites in Alexandria. A lot of people know that the cool cat café called The Ground, so we’re right behind that.

Brendan Corr
Yes, right.

Wendy Simpson
It’s in that place where it’s a fun place to be, it’s a wholesome place to be, a place where people have wanted to take their families.

Brendan Corr
That’s a fantastic story, Wendy, the idea of business being redemptive is a beautiful thing. That was along the lines of the next question, what I want to ask of you. You spoke very passionately about the Christian origins of the education sector, and the healthcare sector, and the current debates, or the divergence from those Christian roots that they’re now wrestling with, the threat to that Christian ideal. I wanted to ask you, is that something that is true of all business? That there are the elements of general grace, of redemptive possibility in business itself but that every business wrestles with the antithesis of that, the ungodly aspirations, goals, practises? Is that something you’ve come up against in the 16 industries you’ve been part of?

Wendy Simpson
Look, I think some… The service industry, generally will affirm the value of human life, and the dignity, and serving people and giving them good quality service, like being attentive to people’s needs, and being gracious to people are all qualities that if anybody’s in a business where they’ve got service leaders that, that’s the kind of training they get, to listen well and to be responsive. Those qualities are easier, when I was in telecoms and manufacturing sector when my husband and I owned our own precision engineering company. There’s a book by Tim Keller called Every Good Endeavour, and that really has helped me a lot to really think about how do we bring our thinking about Christian principles into everything we do? And there are some things that just getting… Like he says, the famous story about the pilot. He was a pilot, and now over the intercom, when he welcomes everyone to the plane and say, “Look, I’m a Christian, and I just wanted you to know that I’ll be flying the plane. Happy to serve you that way.” He could stand at the door at the end and the Pilot often does, and he would say goodbye to everyone, give them a Bible track. But Tim Keller says one thing that’s really important is that you land the plane well.

Brendan Corr
Yes.

Wendy Simpson
So, just being excellent at what you do I think is a Christian principle because we do it to honour God. We don’t do it to become famous and get ourselves in the newspaper, or on front page news because we’re so clever but keeping our employees focused and keeping them productive and enjoying their work, and keeping our customers satisfied. All the business people that I know, that’s something that really gives them serious pleasure. In that film, Chariots of Fire, when the runner says, “When I run fast,” Eric Liddell said. “I feel God’s pleasure.” I think that the business people I know, that when they’re doing their job well, when they’re really in their zone, they feel so much pleasure and they see that God is pleased with their work as well. So, yes, I think there is a role for every businessperson to ask God, “How should I do my work? And to what standard should I do it? And how should I treat my employees, and how should I treat my customers?”

Brendan Corr
Wendy, you’ve been a person that has broken stereotypes. You spoke about the beginnings of your interest in business as a field of endeavour as being not expected, the fact that you’re a woman that’s pioneered the way, and led success and opportunity for other women. There is a stereotype of successful business people that they are all consumed with the business, that it’s a thing that occupies their mind, their life, to the detriment of other parts of living a full life. How have you wrestled with that stereotype, or expectation of a successful businessperson?

Wendy Simpson
Yeah. So, look, it is an interesting question, and I think there is a season. So, I did my MBA part-time. Anyone who’s done an MBA knows that it is all consuming. My husband and I have also had 13 foster kids. So, I had to get up early, I did a lot of my study at 5am in the morning and when I was doing my journalism degree, we had the foster kids and that was when my husband was doing his MBA. I was doing my journalism studies and I went into Macquarie Radio, and got in there at 4am to do the morning news shift. I am privileged that God’s given me high energy levels but I never left the church, I’ve always been part of my local church, and we’ve always been volunteering in the church as well because I think that is important that we serve the church. I guess I’m just made it a principle. Stephen Covey’s book about the seven habits have highly affected in the big rock, just put the big rock thing first and just make sure that you’ve got room for them.

Brendan Corr
Another one of Covey’s principles is sharpen the saw, how do you go about doing that?

Wendy Simpson
Yes. So, as a Christian woman where in my younger years there weren’t many Christian women, I had to read a lot, read my Bible but also read a lot of the industry magazines. When you’re doing an MBA, of course you read all the textbooks. There are parts of the church that say you don’t need a very strong university degree, just walk by faith, but I am of the view that educations are important, and I live out of Proverbs 3, 5, and 6. So, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways and he’ll direct your path”. And I say to people, “It doesn’t say have no understanding.” It just says when you’ve got your understanding, which I take as being your academic qualifications, and your industry credentials, that you don’t lean on them and I think that’s the point you were eluding to that a lot of business people say, “Well, of course I’m the smartest person in the room. Of course I will work this out because I’ve got all these qualifications, so I’m expecting myself to be the one who solves everything because I’ve got these credentials.” And I would say, we don’t lean on them but we have them, you have insight, you’ve got to have the credibility. If you’re going to speak to your industry, or your corporation, you can’t be naïve, you’ve got to have the language, you’ve got to have the insights but you don’t lean on it. You don’t go in and say, “Look, I’m not going to prayer before I go into this meeting because I’ve got this sorted. I know exactly what to say. I’ve got it all prepared and I’ll just rely on myself.”

Brendan Corr
That’s good.

Wendy Simpson
Every meeting I go to I pray. Absolutely every meeting. Before I send an email, I pray and say, “Am I sending the right email? Have I got the right tone?” Before we had this interview, I prayed because we can do all of it on our side but most of us are communicating with other people and what we want to do, is influence them. We can only really prepare on our side that the Holy Spirit helps us to prepare so that what we’re doing for others, with others, really lands on the spot.

Brendan Corr
Yeah. That’s terrific. That’s terrific. You’ve reached the pinnacle of success in many people’s definitions. How do you define success?

Wendy Simpson
Well, God has a purpose for each one of us. We haven’t talked about my journey in 2011 which I was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, and spent a lot of 2011 in Hospital, the Royal Women’s Hospital in Randwick. Very rare cancer, the majority of people who have this cancer are 18 months of younger, so I’m actually the oldest person in the world ever to be diagnosed with this form of cancer. So, it was a test case, and that makes you really think about what your life’s about when you get faced potentially with death at the end of your treatment. But I was positive because God had sent a message to my husband, we went to a healing prayer and God said to him, “Your wife will have a long and fruitful life.” So, I knew that through that whole time in Hospital, and I did get very, very sick quite a few times but I knew that like the watching the movie but knowing how it ends because at the end, it can be scary in the middle of the movie but you know it’s going to work things okay. Success is living a life of great purpose that God has planned out for us, and checking in with Him, not getting ahead of God, not getting too far behind but keeping up with Him and just partnering with God in the things that He wants us to do.

Brendan Corr
Wendy, that’s a lovely compliment. You’ve shared very insightfully the way God has been with you in the high points of your life, and has led you to new opportunities and new successes that it’s such a lovely thing to hear also that in that deeply challenging time, the same God was just as close, more close, how would you have talked about that contrast of experience of the successes and the challenges of your treatment?

Wendy Simpson
I have to say that I had a lot of fun because… I was in the Government Hospital and you’re not allowed to have prayer there. The Chaplains are kept in their room, and they can only come out if somebody asks them to come, but they can’t stop the patients. So, because I was there the longest, I became the boss of the ward and I used to go around and pray for everybody. I checked out of the private area where I could have a private word to myself because I realised that because I had a rare cancer, I was in the rare cancer ward, and most of the women who were there were from regional Australia, where their local hospital didn’t have the facilities because we all had these rare cancers, so we needed to have special attention. All my friends and visitors that came to see me, I said, “Now, listen. We’re all on prayer team here. Now, you can pray with me for five minutes but really you need to go and see Mary because she really needs prayer.” We just had the best time. I’d welcome people into the ward and I’d say, “Now, this is the healing zone, this is the faith zone. Now, I know you’ve come in here and you think you’re sick but actually, you’re going to have the best time and we are going to have so much fun together.” And we did.

Brendan Corr
That’s amazing, Wendy. It’s really amazing. Wendy, we’ve just about run out of our allotted time. I have considered it a real privilege to get to know you through this conversation, and it’s extraordinary to hear… You’re obviously a doer. Your life is littered with these incidents where you will make something happen, make it happen for yourself, make it happen for people around you. And describing your beginnings as something of a Social Activist, what I’ve heard is that you are an agent. An agent of change, of God’s blessing, and the description you’re giving of how you’ve conducted yourself in that ward of that hospital, an agent of grace that was bringing the presence of God, and the power of God into whatever circumstance he happens to place you in. I think that’s a fantastic story, a fantastic part that you’ve been able to say, whether it’s in the boardroom, whether it’s an industry, whether it’s in your church, or whether it’s in the situation of facing ill health in a hospital, that God had His hand upon you and has worked through you.

Brendan Corr
Any final reflections that you might want to share with us?

Wendy Simpson
Well, I think I’ll just say to your listeners that God has got an amazing plan for each one of us, and that we are His handiwork, that he’s actually made us in His image and that’s pretty special. I know a lot of people wonder, they get this anxiety, people wonder what they should be doing with their life but God really does have a plan for our life and He is so good, and there is so much fun to be had when we partner with God. So, I just encourage your listeners to get with other people, and pray together and seeing what others are revealing about what they see in you, and make sure we keep encouraging each other to find the purpose that God has for us.

Brendan Corr
You’ve been a wonderful example of somebody who’s been up for the adventure of life that God unfolds, step by step. It’s been great to learn a little bit about that, and to learn a little bit about you. Wendy Simpson, thank you for your time and may God bless you.

Wendy Simpson
Thank you very much, Brendan. Thank you for your listeners and bless them for too. Cheerio.

About Wendy Simpson

Wendy is an experienced business leader and entrepreneur. She received a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2013 for service to the community through a range of women's and youth organisations. That same year, Wendy was inducted into the Australian Businesswomen’s Hall of Fame and named as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence. She has also held global leadership roles with QBE Insurance, Alcatel and TNT International. Wendy is on the organising committee of the annual Sydney Prayer Breakfast and the board of World Vision Australia.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).