Serving for 13 years, primarily as a Corporal and Dental Technician, Lisa Conway transitioned out of the Army in 2002.
“Both my husband and I were serving, and we had two small children to care for, so for us, we felt the right decision was for myself to discharge,” explains Lisa. “My husband still serves in the Army and my son Nick served in the Navy for seven years.”
While Lisa was fortunate to find employment straight out of service, securing a role as a contractor with the Canberra Area Dental Centre in Defence, she was still anxious about the unknown.
“All I had known was the ADF after joining at the young age of 17 from Westbury in Tasmania, so to actually get out was daunting. I questioned whether I had the skills to be able to navigate the civilian sector in dentistry. But with strong family support and really great mentors I took a leap of faith and haven’t looked back.”
Over the following years Lisa worked as a TAFE teacher for Cert 3 in Dental Assisting and held management roles in three different dental service organisations. Today, she is the General Manager of Primary Dental at Healius, leading the operations of 62 dental centres across Australia with a team of over 300 staff and 180 dentists.
“I think everything's been a stepping stone to my current role,” says Lisa. “The opportunity that Defence gave me, really cemented my foundation. Those core values of courage, resilience, risk mitigation, determination and being able to get the job done, underpin every business decision that I make. Defence taught me that.”
Lisa’s success culminated in her being named a finalist in the 2020 Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Awards. She has also been instrumental in Healius signing the Veterans’ Employment Commitment (VEC) and the implementation of Primary Dental’s Thank You campaign, offering 25% off to first responders, veterans and their families.
Having left the Army 18 years ago, Lisa is now experiencing the transition process for a second time, with her son discharging from the Navy after seven years.
“The advice I give him is do your homework and have the confidence that you have the skills to make you unique and great for your next big adventure. Put your hand up for every opportunity you get in Defence. The skills that you are learning now or have learnt are going to set you up for the future because they are transferable and hard to find.”
When it comes to finding employment post-service Lisa recommends researching the organisations who have signed the VEC, finding a mentor and most importantly, being courageous.
“Don’t be afraid to put your hat in the ring even if it seems a little different to what you’re used to, you never know where it could take you. You can always have a safety net like we did with our son. We encouraged him to take leave without pay for two years, so he has the flexibility to manage his career. You have a lot of options!”
Now as a parent supporting her child’s transition, Lisa is reminded of how important it is to have the right support and a sounding board.
“I consider my family, friends and team at Healius part of my core support network. Never underestimate the importance of a strong support network. They offer many different and valuable perspectives, so be brave and make a new network of friends and keep calling on your old ones.”