Deputy Head, Industry Engagement / RMIT School of Fashion & Textiles
Her career trajectory and the brands that she has worked for are BIG and INFLUENTIAL, but for Kiri Delly, the ‘events’ path was one that found her, not the other way around.
After completing a PR degree in Canberra, and saving up as much money as she could from her job at The Pancake Parlour, Kiri cut her teeth in the fast paced industry in London. Her life was one of hard work and glitzy-glamour, working on film premieres, video launches and even a promotion that involved a train travelling throughout Europe promoting the Disney film – Hercules! After a long stint as an Events Manager, the surprising desire to return to her family in Australia peaked, and Kiri relocated to Melbourne volunteering at the then L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. From here, the rest is history!
These days Kiri is Victorian Royalty, a doyenne in the Fashion industry and a master at her craft. In her current role as the Deputy Head, Industry Engagement, RMIT School of Fashion & Textiles, Kiri finds herself back at school, but this time, working to support and assist the future industry talent.We dare you to meet a more gracious, eclectic and strikingly beautiful soul then Kiri. This is your exclusive backstage pass to the fashion and events industry, as seen through the eyes of a brave disrupter. A woman with foresight – who knew the power of volunteering as a means to get her foot in the door.
The door has been open ever since… Let’s Dive In.
Kiri, welcome to The Cool Career! To start can you tell us a bit about where you grew up and how your experience shaped the person you are, and the career that you are in today?
I was born just outside Canberra in a town called Queanbeyan. My father is Greek and my mother is from New Zealand. When I was three we moved to Auckland, NZ where we lived until returning to Canberra when I was 16. I’m the oldest of six children and have a brother and sister who are adopted and of Maori and Mauritian descent. I think moving countries, experiencing a range of cultures and having the role of the big sister – have all formed who I am today and what I have chosen to do with my life. I am an organiser with a ‘can-do’ attitude and like to be fully involved. I am passionate about creating experiences, linkages and opportunities and I think this is shown in my career journey: from event management to industry liaison and engagement. My family have always been supportive, believing I would achieve my goals; but without there ever feeling any pressure to follow a specific route.
Six children? Wow, now we understand where the “can-do” attitude comes from. Where did you go to High School and how was that experience for you?
I did primary and up to year 10 in New Zealand before heading to Canberra and going to Merici College for Years 11 and 12. I worked hard, settled in well and was fortunate to be voted Deputy School Captain in Year 12. My teachers throughout have on the whole been fantastic and I think the Class of 1989 (my graduating year) – was a particularly strong year of talented, ambitious girls who were keen to go far and achieve success. We felt anything was possible!
That’s fantastic, and congratulations on being voted Deputy School Captain! Did your high school play an important role in helping you choose your further education and future career?
I remember arriving in Australia in Year 11 unsure of what higher education courses were available. The range of courses in NZ was smaller due to the population, so when after explaining my interests, my School’s careers advisor suggested a BA in Communications Majoring in PR – I was really excited that such specific courses existed and that I could also do it in Canberra (having to moving interstate to study would have been difficult due to limited funds….)
What great career advice. During this time did you complete any internships or work experience placements? Tell us about that experience.
Not really, not in my areas of interest (entertainment, lifestyle), as these were quite limited in Canberra. But I did work on a number of events and activities while I was at school, organising concerts, performances, charity events and working on the school’s Year Book. I also had a couple of part time jobs that kept me busy and taught me a range of skills around administration and customer service.
Did you go to College, University, Tafe or another equivalent? Take us through the courses that you studied and why you chose them?
Yes, I studied at the University Of Canberra – doing a BA in Communications, Majoring in PR. I found the course a little ‘government’ focused – being based inb the Nation’s capital and hub for the public service, but I gained some valuable skills around writing, presenting and lobbying. One unit we did was around organising press events and conferences etc. and I particularly enjoyed that…. But ultimately, I was just keen on getting uni done and dusted, saving up my money and heading to London to start my career!
We have heard so many great things about the University of Canberra, it’s awesome to hear that you had such a great experience. Now into the nitty gritty, we want to know about your career journey so far. Who you have worked for?
On graduation and after 2 years as Assistant Restaurant Manager at the Pancake Parlour, I’d saved up the cash I needed and headed to London. After some temping, I got offered two positions – one with an IT PR Agency and another as Office Manager at an integrated marketing agency that specialised in the entertainment industry. The choice: do a role I had trained for, or a role in a sector I was interested in. I chose the second and after 18 months the agency sponsored my Work Permit and I joined their newly formed Events team. I never looked back. We worked on film premieres, video launches and even a promotion that involved a train travelling throughout Europe promoting the Disney film – Hercules! After six years with the agency I had been promoted to running the Events Department and had a great team working across a range of activities. In late 2002 it was time to come back home and try my luck in Australia. Melbourne seemed the logical place – the home of major events and also most of my family were now based there. I had to start all over again as had no contacts and decided to volunteer at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. Fortunately I must have done something right as when the Event Manager for the Festival at the time, left to have a baby, the team remembered me and I stepped into the role for the 2004 Festival event. I then spent the next seven years working my way up to Festival General Manager. It was really an honour to work on such an iconic event and with the most wonderful bunch of people. Come 2011 I was ready for a change. Events had been my passion but now I was really interested in the fashion industry, the role it played and the strategic process in developing businesses and building the sector further. I therefore took on the role of General Manager at the Council of Textile & Fashion Industries of Australia (TFIA), – the peak industry body tasked with support, promotion and advocacy for the sector; before being promoted to CEO in 2014. This was a huge learning curve, dealing with government, lobbying on behalf of businesses and looking at ways to link businesses together for mutual opportunity. Being a not for profit – money was always a challenge too but I was incredibly proud of the activity we were able to organise, including a special showcase in Hong Kong promoting 11x Australian fashion labels to buyers, the media and the general public.
What an epic #careerstory – we love that you started your career in London and were able to get company to sponsor your VISA. There are so many girls have have asked us about working overseas permits. So, how did you get into the job that you are in now?
Come end of 2015, I was looking for my next challenge and saw the Deputy Head, Industry Engagement position advertised at RMIT University. After applying and a round of interviews I was very pleased to get the role and 10 months later I’m loving it! It’s a completely new position and I’m thoroughly enjoying working across all areas of the School, on both strategic industry plans, as well as projects, events and activities all aimed at connecting students to industry for mutual benefit. I love being right there at the start of the journey – working to support and assist the future industry talent.
Kiri, what is the hardest part of your current job?
Managing all the opportunities that come through, and where best to put our efforts can be challenging. There are lots of groups and individuals who are keen to work with the School and our students, so we need to look at each of these, how they align with our objectives, which offer benefits for our students and also whether they work in with the requirements necessary as part of being an educational institution.
What does a day a typical business day look like for you in your current job?
There is no typical day. It could be meeting with industry representatives regarding potential or existing projects, working with Program teams on supporting their student initiatives, talking to government and other external groups about strategies, and dealing with general enquiries. There are indeed lots of emails, meetings and submissions to deal with. I also attend a range of events, representing the University – constantly looking at opportunities / activities that can add value, grow capability and capacity and further position RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles as a key contributor to the sector. I love the variety of the role and the range of people and organisations I get to connect with.
What a deliciously full and exciting work day. With so many opportunities and the chances to meet so many smart people, we would love to know who has been your hero, or greatest inspiration growing up and why?
Hmm, haven’t really ever had a specific person – rather I’ve admired qualities that I have aimed to achieve and live by. Work hard. Be professional. Listen. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Be sensitive and emotionally aware. Never ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be prepared to do yourself. Think ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. Have a sense of humour and smile!!
I’m not so good at the work/ life balance – but am trying to work on that one!
Finally, what advice would you give girls who are interested in your career?
Well fortunately, in the fields I have always worked in, women have been the majority. We just need to make sure more of us are in the senior management roles as well! I’d recommend volunteering and showing that you are open to taking on a range of jobs and helping out where you can. Events and fashion are not the ‘glamour’ areas people think they are – not the real roles anyway – but if you are prepared to put in the effort and make yourself indispensable then you will be rewarded. However, don’t ever give up on your values and what is important to you either. You can only truly achieve what you want if you are true to who you are.
List your most valuable resources that you turn to constantly for inspiration in your profession?
- Favourite Blogs or Websites: Business of Fashion, New York Times
- Name an Instagram Account or Snapchat that you can’t go a day without checking: The Design Files, Broadsheet
- Books: Anne Tyler, Colm Toibin and Kate Atkinson. Not really into ‘self-help’ books…
- People: All the hugely successful people I have worked to surround myself with across my career & personal life.