CEO of ETC, Jenny Barnett started as an employment consultant with the company 15 years ago.
CEO of ETC, Jenny Barnett started as an employment consultant with the company 15 years ago. TREVOR VEALE

From consultant to CEO of ETC

Jenny Barnett is not only ETC's CEO, she is the lifeblood of the company.

While it may not be unusual for a CEO to live and breathe the company they oversee, what is truly inspirational about Jenny is that her rise to the top has been as much about sheer hard work, passion and commitment as it has been about facing her fears head on.

"I started with ETC 15 years ago as an Employment Consultant in Kempsey," Mrs Barnett said. "It really excited me getting to know people, helping them build their skills, finding a job and reaching their potential.

Jenny's passion and high performance in helping turn peoples' lives around soon led to her being appointed into management roles.

"I remember running job searching workshops in Nambucca where we had hundreds of clients and everyone was an individual and we really customised everything we did for each of them. Subsequently, we went from a 2-2.5 star site to a 5 star site in a couple of years," she said.

"Something else that I am really proud of is that under my stewardship as Government Contracts Manager, ETC made it to the number 2 best employment services provider in Australia in 2015 (out of 81)."

This performance paved the way for ETC winning the jobactive employment services contract in 2015, which led to ETC tripling in size from 100 to 300 staff and opening an additional 26 offices.

"Around this time I remember being invited onto the panel to interview for a new CEO but it just didn't feel right. None of the applicants were passionate enough about our company, our staff and the people we serve," Jenny said.

"It turns out the Chair of our Board, Rod McKelvey felt the same way and he ended up convincing me to apply for the role."

ETC Chairman Rod McKelvey recalls the exchange vividly and claims it's one of his proudest moments.

"Jenny had been doing a great job at ETC at the level she was. She hadn't ever considered being CEO. She didn't think she had the skills. Look at Jenny now. She is one of the best CEOs I have ever worked with and I've worked with many," Mr McKelvey said.

Jenny claims she was the world's most "reluctant CEO" in the early days.

"I would have such anxiety even thinking about being in that role, but with the support of my husband Dean and our Board of Directors, particularly Rod McKelvey and Lorraine Penn, I am now very comfortable in the role.

"I like to think I am a consultative leader and listen to people. I'm not the oracle. I don't know everything but I know how to get the best out of people and ensure that we are all working together respectfully towards a common goal."