When Andrew Cullen hung up his suit and called time on a 30-year corporate career, he had a gnawing sense of unfulfillment.
“I reached a stage in my life where I thought, ‘I’m a bit over this corporate world’, and I wanted to do something that had a higher purpose,” he says.
Cue Andrew’s new role as Independent Resident Activity and Lifestyle Coordinator at Ryman’s Nellie Melba Retirement Village.
While the role running activities and events, including bingo and Happy Hour, is a world away from his previous roles as a managing director of major companies, he is just as busy.
“I’ve always travelled quite extensively for work, and in my last role as managing director of Bostik Australia (adhesives specialist) I’d go to Europe almost monthly,” he says.
“Whilst it sounds glamorous, I’d do emails before breakfast, meetings all day and then there would be another 100 emails at the end of the day, so I’d be up until 1 or 2am doing those.
“In my new role I walk into the building in the morning and my days are full of interaction, and before I know it, I’m walking out - the day just flies by.”
Andrew says the diversity of his new role, which can involve anything from providing IT support to residents, to running an exercise class, requires a level of organisation honed after years in the business world.
“I’ve had large amounts of staff working for me so I was managing and supporting them, helping them prioritise their workload. Now I do a lot of that for myself but I think having had that experience has certainly helped me here because you’ve got to juggle many projects as an activities coordinator.”
It was while visiting his late father at a retirement village that Andrew first saw the fulfilment staff offering care got from their roles.
“I remember thinking that the staff really seemed to be enjoying what they were doing, and benefiting from their interactions with residents and I wanted that feeling,” he says.
The leap of faith required to change careers after more than 30 years of working was spurred by the same drive that made his previous working life so successful.
“Earlier in my career my family and I lived in Shanghai and Singapore for nine years.
“We thought we would go for two years and before we knew it, it had been much longer.
“One thing I have always believed is the world is your oyster. If you want to do something you can make things possible and that’s how I’ve ended up here.”