Cherie Curtis started working at Revelian (then called Onetest) back in 2001 as an intern, while completing her Organisational Psychology degree. Since then, she’s led the psychology team – and later the rest of the business – from one innovation to the next.

As Revelian’s CEO, Cherie leads the company in providing unique psychometric tests and games for organisations of all sizes, to help them identify and develop their most precious asset: their people.

In a well-earned testament to her commitment and exceptional ability, she has been named a finalist in the 2015 Telstra Women’s Business Awards, with winners to be announced on Tuesday 29 September.

We asked Cherie to tell us a little more about her amazing journey, from starting as an intern in 2001 to becoming CEO in 2015.

Tell us about your journey with Revelian (Onetest)

While I was completing my Organisational Psychology degree in 2001, I heard about this new start-up that was doing something incredible. In those days, pre-employment testing meant long and arduous paper and pencil tests, which usually took candidates around three hours to complete. The company then had to send the tests away to be marked, or mark them one by one.

Onetest, as we were then known, wanted to change all of that with Australia’s first online pre-employment test, which would assess a person’s cognitive ability and only take 20 minutes to complete. Candidates could do it whenever and wherever suited them, and clients would get the results straight away.

I just knew I had to be part of this, so I got myself hired as an intern and had the privilege of working on developing the company’s (and Australia’s) very first online assessment – the Revelian Cognitive Ability Test.

Several years later, when the one of the co-founders was leaving the business, I jumped at the opportunity to become Head of Psychology.  Alongside this role, I’ve also served as Head of Client Relations and Head of Marketing, often managing multiple departments simultaneously.

What’s one of your greatest achievements?

There’s two significant achievements that I’m most proud of.

Firstly, two years ago Revelian recognised the need to improve traditional psychometric tests. We chose to leapfrog our competition – who were all focusing on scenario-based testing – to explore how we could use games to enhance the testing experience for candidates and the kinds of data available to clients. We came up with Theme Park Hero, Australia’s first game-based assessment, which has surpassed all our expectations.

As a business, we are now well on the path to develop and deliver more games to the market to meet demand.

Secondly, in terms of personal achievement, 12 months ago I completed the Oxfam 100km walk, which covers 10 mountains and has a 40% completion rate. Five kilometres in, I started experiencing excruciating pain in both knees. With my husband’s encouragement and my constant mantra of ‘The body will do what the mind tells it,’ I finally completed.

I later discovered that I had acute ITB (Iliotibial friction syndrome) in both knees which was, according to my doctor – who also works with the Wallabies and other sporting teams – the worst he had ever seen.

I’m incredibly proud of my achievement and have learned that we can push through perceived boundaries with sheer will power, and probably a large dose of stubbornness too.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I believe a good leader is able to hold attention to detail and flip to strategic thinking quickly and effectively, while being able to charter the unknown with confidence. They don’t have to have all the answers but need to provide confidence that together we can figure it out.

What advice would you give to leaders in general?

I believe there are several basic tenets all leaders should live by.  Here’s three of my favourites:

1.     Treat people like people

Soon after I became CEO, I asked everyone across the business to send me a picture of their favourite place in the world. These pictures now cover my office walls and not only act as a reminder of the world outside Revelian, but are there to help me stay focused on the right priorities and remind me of how important the team is as a whole.

It’s important to be authentic, warm and approachable; to understand the individual needs of the people we work with and adapt accordingly.

2.     Be a good role model

We set the tone of our relationship with others and should always act as we expect others to act, without exception. It’s essential that we hold each other accountable and call out inappropriate behaviour quickly.

3.     Be collaborative yet accountable

As a senior leader, I take ultimate accountability for solutions to problems and facilitate the engagement of the right stakeholders to workshop the outcome. I don’t pretend to have all the answers: I have a responsibility to define the challenge, state the objectives and encourage collaboration to face the unknown.

As an example, the development of our game-based recruitment assessment, Theme Park Hero was something we’d never done before. We were unclear on the best approach and had an extremely tight deadline.

We articulated the objectives clearly and established a multi-disciplinary team to workshop, brainstorm and problem-solve an approach. At each stage of the project we gained more insight, and ensured all team members were contributing and we were able to experiment and solve all the unknowns. We not only met the deadline but delivered a quality product to market that is producing substantial revenue.