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It was a very pleasant surprise! That’s how Sarah Gandolfo described the moment she discovered she was a finalist in this years ARPA Victoria’s Excellence in Workplace Rehabilitation Awards.  Here she talks to us about her nomination and her journey into the industry. 

Tell us how you found out about your nomination?  

I was on leave the day the Awards were announced. We have a ‘no emails when on leave’ policy here. I had a bunch of Linkedin notifications pop up onto my phone. That never happens so I knew something was up! I did not expect the nomination at all, let alone to be a finalist, so it was a really pleasant surprise. 

How did you get into workplace rehab? Sarah

I’m an Occupational Therapist by training and during uni we didn’t really have a lot of exposure to the industry.  I did a final year placement with an Occupational Rehabilitation provider. I was lucky enough to get a role with them as a new graduate – amazing that while everyone was looking for work, I was already sorted! 

I stayed with that provider early on in my career and then went to work regionally in Shepperton, about two hours from Melbourne where I led a small team.  This was a great experience. I then took two years out of the industry, travelling and working in Canada. When I returned, I took a role as an Injury Manager at a building and supplies firm. People say it’s like ‘the dark side’, but it absolutely is not. It was just a completely different perspective and I learned so much, especially about early intervention. 

At the time, the company were having a lot of manual handling injuries. This role gave me the opportunity to intervene much earlier and get the injured worker on track from the very beginning. I could focus so much more on injury prevention work, like job dictionaries the manual handling training that the company was previously unable to do. 

I moved on from that role in December and started with KINNECT. I got good vibes about the culture and was particularly interested to see the great variety of services that consultants get to be involved in from projects to pre-employments, to training as well as having the opportunity to do different occ rehabilitation services (for instance we can do both original and new employer services at KINNECT). The multi-faceted nature gives us all a chance to develop our skills and also keeps things interesting. I really love travelling for work and for me, the opportunity to get out and do projects is exciting. I’ve recently been working on a big project for Bulla Dairy out in Colac and got to have my first ice cream off the line. No two days are ever quite the same! 

Tell us about working in the Melbourne team?

For everyone that has worked in Victoria and particularly in Melbourne, COVID has impacted our working lives. At my previous role, I started early on during the pandemic so quickly shifted from working in the office to a remote model and I didn’t really have a team. With this experience, I learned to be very flexible! Coming to KINNECT, it was that sense of being in a real team that I was looking for.  

When you can be working in isolation, it’s important to have team members that you can bounce ideas off and who you can call via Teams to chat as opposed to sending an email. Our team in Melbourne is good at coming together (both virtually and in-person) and helping each other.   

For me, as a more experienced consultant, I’ve had the opportunity to coach and mentor newer team members. As a new starter, this is an industry that can be really hard to get your head around and manage all the competing demands. Personally, I think it’s important to have that solid support early on. 

Find out more about our Victorian ARPA Awards Finalists and read more about the ARPA Vic Awards for Excellence on the ARPA Website.   

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