Where are they now - Brendan Foran (SPC 1990-91)
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnects with Brendan Foran (SPC 1990-91) who is working in his greatest role so far as CEO of Greening Australia, a large environmental organization which aims to tackle the problems that the rest of the world has abandoned.
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
Life has been interesting since leaving school. I've worked in a variety of different roles, travelled around the world a few times and now live on the Murray with my family (partner Kylie and son aged 10 and daughter, 9) where the weather is much kinder than Ballarat!
What are your career aspirations?
Even now in my mid-40s, I've never really been able to work out “what I want to do when I grow up” and so I've always tended to focus on what I didn't or don’t want to do. I ran a small, but very successful, business when I lived in the UK but felt no personal connection or passion to the work. When I returned to Australia at the end of 1999 I decided that I would never take another job purely for the money and I would always create lots of choice for myself. An example of this is, I choose to keep low levels of debt so that I can choose to leave a job or change my circumstances if I want to or my family need me to. I started volunteering about the time I made these choices and since then all of my work opportunities have found me. I’m now the CEO of Greening Australia, a large environmental NGO with over 150 staff. It's a difficult sector in that we work on problems that the rest of the world has abandoned and we have high levels of uncertainty with regards to funding but our staff and our partners are amazing and it’s them who motivate me. It's a pleasure to represent them in this role which takes me to all parts of the country, overseas, Harvard Business School and has placed me in the company of multiple prime ministers, Prince Charles and Sir Richard Branson. In a nutshell, I guess my aspiration is to have purpose, give purpose and work with great people.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I only attended SPC for two years and while I wasn't the best student or perhaps even person at that period of my life, I believe there was no better place in the world for me to be at that time. Everything at St Patrick’s was impressive but it wasn't a place that was resting on its laurels or prestige and that made a great impression on me. School sport was fun and I remember laughing a lot. A few fellow students enjoyed getting me going and they usually chose to do this in the classes with the teachers that didn't quite see the joke!
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
Year 11 and 12 are very impressionable years of your life and over that time there wasn't one, but several, who had an influence/impact on me. What struck me the most is how devoted they were to their vocation and how genuine and insightful their personal advice could be. Still to this day I can remember pearls of wisdom that were offered, seemingly out of the blue but with great timing and effect - Mr Gutteridge got me with one about a month before exams in Year 12 that I think has shaped me ever after.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
Education has helped shape my respect for institutions. When I was younger, the important role institutions play in our society was probably a little lost on me but certainly not now. We can all look back and question whether we got the ‘most out of our education’, but I’ve realized throughout my professional life that your learning and development is so much more than what you learn in class and in the textbooks. Whether you are in school or at work, we are always learning and getting an education even if we don't realise it.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
My mum and dad devoted their whole life to providing access to high-quality education for my sisters, brother and I because it was something that wasn't available to them. I remember how proud they both were when they saw my brother and I in our SPC uniform and I know now that the choice they made for our schooling was part of a package involving leadership, family values, having a world perspective and a strong work ethic. I think this and my time at SPC - the school, teachers, fellow students - has had a profound influence on my personal values and family life and I actually feel quite obligated to ensure that I pay that forward.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
Be present, your life story is playing out right now but the book hasn't been published yet so you can still decide what goes in it. Also, genuinely try to understand what your learning style is - things become much clearer when you get to understand this. Finally, step up when it’s your turn and know how to apologise - this is where your character shows and what you’ll reflect on when you look back.