The ‘master’ stroke that led an elite athlete to pivot to a corporate career with Shopify
The transition from elite athlete and gymnastics coach to a corporate career with e-commerce platform Shopify was not such a big stretch for Zoe Baker.
“Coming from a career in gymnastics, I have always focused on continuous improvement and reaching my highest potential,” Baker says.
“Now, in my current role at Shopify I am working with some of the most intelligent and creative people I have ever met.”
As HR Business Partner APAC, Baker supports Shopify’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region with teams in Singapore, India and Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
“The role is similar to being a coach,” she says. “You are bringing together a varied group of skillsets, but the challenge now is how to make this a great place to work.”
Baker credits a decision to complete a Master of Business at QUT in 2018 for her career pivot which came at a challenging time in her life during maternity leave.
Armed with a Bachelor of Psychology, she planned to forge a corporate career in human resources (HR) management while juggling the demands of two children under the age of two.
“My goal was to finish my master’s degree in 12 months and get back into the workplace in a role that wouldn’t set me back,” Baker says.
“My undergraduate was in psychology, so I have a deep passion for understanding human behaviour in business. Having the opportunity to specialise in human resources management was an advantage.”
Baker stepped up to a Master of Business post-graduate course to deepen her skillset and expand her opportunities after taking time out of the workforce.
“The perception around taking maternity leave is that you have to start again and that you can’t think about having a career, so I guess I wanted to challenge that,” she says.
“QUT was great in terms of support and empowerment because once you get to the classes you realise that you are not alone. There are lots of other people returning at different ages in life wanting to do the same thing.
“At the time I was looking at the flexible class options that QUT offered and that is what led me to undertake my Master of Business in Human Resource Management.”
Baker is no stranger to goal setting, leaning on the discipline she used to train and compete in gymnastics at an international level.
“I was in gymnastics from the age of six and started travelling from the age of eight domestically to compete in nationals and eventually globally in international competitions,” she says.
With a desire to remain in the sport, Baker turned to gymnastics coaching and even spent some time as an international gymnastics judge for Australia. After gaining her degree in psychology, she considered pairing that with post-graduate study in human resources management.
“I wanted to expand the opportunities for my career and the opportunity to network with multiple different industry leaders,” she says.
After graduating with her master’s in 2018, Baker landed a HR role in veterinary medicine before joining Shopify. The move to Shopify aligned with her desire to transition into the technology sector.
Baker enthusiastically embraced the role and over the past few years her career at Shopify has accelerated, culminating in her appointment as HR Business Partner.
“Shopify has been the most incredible place to work,” Baker says.
“From bringing teams together with varying skillsets during my sporting career, I am doing that in a virtual environment now.
“And while I used to travel the world with sport, I now travel the world to connect with my team, working strategically with that shared goal and all of the principles that have guided me throughout my career.”
Baker credits the Master of Business from QUT for opening the door to career opportunities and equipping her with the skills to enter the workforce at a senior level in HR.
“It gave me the confidence and conviction I needed to return to the workforce.”