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Natalie Burke: From executive assistant to human centred design professional

Natalie Burke has carved out her own unique career at Macquarie, going from executive assistant to become a lead service designer in the Digital Transformation and Data division. She credits her success to her adaptability and the support she’s had to reskill in a field she discovered a passion for: human centred design.


Natalie’s professional career began straight out of high school in London.

“I left school at 16,” Natalie explains. “I felt a drive to get out, meet people, and earn money in the real world.”

Joining a retail bank in London as a cashier, Natalie was immediately hooked on the financial services industry.

“By 2008, I’d taken on an executive assistant role for a large US bank in London for treasury and payments, and I really loved it,” she says. "I was excited to see the variety and huge range of career opportunities the financial services sector could offer."

Looking for warm weather and fresh challenges, she arrived in Australia in 2013, working in several executive assistant and office manager roles in Sydney before being attracted to Macquarie’s reputation for being a driven and fast-paced environment.

She joined Macquarie as an admin assistant, and soon after became executive assistant to the global head of finance, a role she held for three years.


Moving into tech

In 2017, Natalie took on a new role as a project coordinator in Technology and although it was something completely new to her, she embraced the opportunity.

“Being an executive assistant is a great job, it’s diverse and high profile,” Natalie says. “Taking a tech project coordinator role was a sidestep but I could see the potential for career progression.”

Natalie says that she thought not having a tech background would be a challenge but coming into the role she felt fully supported to learn on the job. She also believed the skillset she had as an executive assistant transferred well to the new role.

“Building networks was very important, as was an adaptable and resilient mindset so I could learn as I went,” Natalie says. “I’d research terms I didn’t know and probe people for information.”

Natalie soon became a project manager and then, as the tech teams moved towards an Agile environment, she undertook a course to become a scrum master for a new strategy and automation services team.

“I’ve always put my hand up for new opportunities and that’s helped my career.”

One of the great things about Macquarie is the people. Everyone is so smart and driven and you want to mirror that."

A passion for human centred design

While working as a scrum master, Natalie did a secondment on a transformation project.

“During this project I gained a better sense of human centred design,” Natalie says. “I fell into, and in love with it.”

Natalie says she discovered that human centred design was a powerful tool for problem solving that can spark out of the box ideas. She also realised her personality was a natural fit for the way of working and this precipitated yet another iteration in her career journey.

“As an extrovert I love talking to people, and the first stage of human centred design is empathy – you go out and speak to people, to really understand their pain points, their motivations and compensating behaviours. What are the real underlying issues and are we even solving the right problem to begin with?”

“It’s about collaboration, working together with your team, building on each other’s ideas, creating a prototype, seeking rapid feedback, and avoiding siloed thinking,” she says.

She has been running human centred design training for Macquarie’s employees for several years.

“Being able to travel to places like New York, Houston and Philadelphia to train people in human centred design is a luxury of my role,” Natalie says. “I’m truly passionate about it.”

“I find it incredibly satisfying when people have that ‘aha’ moment in training, and you can see it’s changed their thinking. I get a lot of joy in seeing people have fun in the sessions.”


Lead Service Designer for Digital Transformation and Data

After spending a year as a business manager for change and strategy, Natalie applied for a lead service designer role in the Digital Transformation and Data division, where she now provides service and product design expertise and human centred design capability.

Today, Natalie splits her time between teaching and practising human centred design. She also recently upskilled with a service design course and within her team she has instigated a monthly exploration session, where they research, synthesise and share back on various topics.

I might not have enjoyed or excelled in learning in the school environment, but learning new things is now one of the things I really enjoy about my role and has helped me get to where I am today in my career."

“Experience and potential is key and it’s something I look for when I’m hiring now,” she explains. “It can be just as important as a degree.”


Trust and opportunity

Natalie credits Macquarie and her managers for the support and opportunities they’ve offered her over the years.

“I started as an executive assistant and I’m now a lead service designer with a team which is about to grow to five and will continue to grow alongside our demand,” she says. “It shows that at Macquarie you’re not only presented with opportunities, you’re also trusted to do a good job.”

“At Macquarie I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone,” Natalie concludes. “I’ve had great managers, who have seen the potential in me that even I may not have realised was there.”

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