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Leah McNamara: living the dream
By Tammy May

It’s unfortunate that for lots of people work is drudgery. Another day another dollar, a means to an end. It can feel even more unfair that the rarified few who get to do their dream jobs have careers that look unattainable to the rest of us. (Think: movie stars, professional surfers, and married-into-royalty.)

But, inspiringly, there are exceptions and MyBudget’s Leah McNamara is one of them. In September 2011, Leah celebrated her seventh year of service with MyBudget and she freely confesses that she is living her dreams.

This is because MyBudget has changed Leah’s life twice: the first time when she became a client and the second time when she became an employee. “By the time I started working at MyBudget,” explains Leah, “I was already very passionate about the company. I had been a client for two years and it had changed my life.”

“I hadn’t been good at paying bills,” Leah continues. “I’d had my phone disconnected and I had some debts, but then it totally changed. Because I didn’t have easy access to my money, it made me think before I spent. Things were suddenly paid on time and my financial life improved amazingly.”

Today, Leah is married to Kerin (you may recognise them from some of our testimonial ads.) The couple lives with their two young kids in a fixer-upper in their dream location. Their home sits on a seven acre property in the midst of McLaren Vale, complete with a working vineyard. “It’s just amazing. We love it,” says Leah about her lifestyle in one of the world’s famous wine growing districts.

In 2004, Leah was hired into MyBudget in an account setup role when the company was staffed by only six people. She later did stints in personal budget consulting, office management, and numerous project positions, including a four-month overseas secondment helping a company that offers MyBudget-type services in the United States.

Today, Leah is MyBudget’s National Service Delivery Manager, which means she manages all of MyBudget’s customer service and new client support staff—at last count, 86 people. Leah says that the key to managing such a big group is having great people and a good support structure. “We’re always learning,” says Leah, “But we’re also getting better every day.”

Leah acknowledges the pace of change at MyBudget, but she focuses mostly on how she has seen MyBudget’s unique culture evolve. “We’ve always cared about our clients,” says Leah, “But our team has taken it to a new level.” She gives an example from the previous day where staff had raised $600 of their own money to help a cash-strapped client whose newborn baby had developed life-threatening medical problems.

Leah attributes these spontaneous acts of generosity to MyBudget’s core values which include caring and making a difference. “We live by our core values every day,” explains Leah. “Not only do we encourage caring in our staff, we try to hire people who want to make a difference in other people’s lives. I guess when you bring a lot of thoughtful people together, you end up with a very caring environment.”

Eddy May, MyBudget’s product manager, says that Leah embodies the values and attitude that make MyBudget special. He says, “Leah has been involved in nearly every aspect of MyBudget in the last 10 years, initially as a client and then as a staff member. And outside of work she’s a great mum, wife and a dearly loved friend. All of these aspects make Leah a very caring and very well-rounded leader of our service delivery team. On top of it all, she’s fun and a pleasure to work with.”

Leah’s friendship with Tammy May goes back to their school years, and it was Tammy who initially suggested that MyBudget could help improve Leah’s financial situation. Tammy explains that Leah has more than repaid the favour: “Leah has been integral in the evolution of MyBudget — such a key player in developing the company you see today. Her commitment to our clients has never wavered and her input is particularly special to me for being my 'right hand man' for so many years.”

Leah also acknowledges MyBudget’s Dave Bohn and Sue Newberry for mentoring her to become a more effective leader. Sue describes Leah as a leader who clearly has the respect of her colleagues: “Leah not only stands for the client by ensuring the company provides exceptional service, but she also stands and supports her staff.” Lauren Clarke, also a long-serving MyBudget employee and one of Leah’s direct reports, agrees with Sue: “Leah balances the needs of our clients, staff and the company. She has been inspirational to me during my employment.”

When Leah is asked what the future holds for her she answers, “My ambition is to be at MyBudget forever. I know that at the moment I’m about as high in the company as I can go, but I’m sure that as we continue growing new opportunities will open up. To be honest, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that I’m very happy doing what I’m doing.”

By guest writer, Kylie Hughes

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