It all started at ANU

Shawn Callahan (BA (Hons) '88)
21 Oct 2022

In 1987, I was doing my honours degree in Geography. I'd just taught myself to type up my writing on the VAX minicomputer and get 132-character-wide printouts. I was sitting in the John Dedman Building common room scribbling over a printout when one of my lecturers, Brian Lees (now professor), walked past and said, "Hey, Shawn, you know something about computers - right?"

I told him that I only knew how to type up essays but that didn't deter him. He told me that a researcher at the ANU Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies (CRES) was looking for a research assistant and asked whether I was interested. Absolutely, I was interested, and I got the job.

My time at CRES was a watershed moment for me. I learned how to program computers and was introduced to a new database system called Oracle. Then, one day, I noticed that ANU had a careers festival, and I thought I would check it out. Oracle was hiring, and I got the job!

For the next decade, I worked in IT for Oracle, Sybase and then IBM. During my stint at IBM, I learned about the power of storytelling and ran IBM's Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity in Australia and New Zealand, where I shifted my career path to becoming a corporate anthropologist. Given my degree at ANU was in Geography and Archaeology so it was a natural fit by extension and a niche I could explore.

This led to me starting Anecdote in 2004 to help leaders and sellers become better oral storytellers. It's very common for people in business to have a habit of sharing viewpoints and making assertions as their primary way of communicating. Only rarely do you hear someone share an authentic story. So we work with leaders and sellers to develop this as an oral communication skill - our expertise is in how people talk. It's a job that takes me all around the world, working with amazing people.

And it all started with one curious lecturer, and my research assistant job at ANU.

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Page Owner: Alumni