Naked Ambition: Getting Comfortable with Being Successful

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Fiona Triaca, Megan Liston and Erica Davis are three women on a mission to redefine success. With more than 35 years corporate experience between them their startup, Naked Ambition, endeavours to encourage women to see ambition as a positive attribute. The Naked Ambition team share their dreams on what success looks like for them and other women.

Your workshops are based on sharing what you wish you’d learnt 5 years ago. What are the top five things you wish you’d known back then?

  • Speak up! We bang this drum a lot but we all found as soon we had the confidence to bring our real selves to work our careers shifted into overdrive. This means having the courage to be heard in meetings. Too often we stay quiet because we fear being wrong. Then sure enough someone braver chimes in with the very thing we were thinking and we want to kick ourselves

  • Talk about solutions not just problems with your friends. Don’t suffer in silence, chances are many women feel the same way. Most women love to chat but sometimes we don’t tell each other what our real problems are. At Naked Ambition we are passionate about bringing honest, raw advice and solutions

  • To support other women. This means changing the way we work with each other. Instead of sticking stilettos into other women in order to get a leg up, work together, there is room for all of us

  • Men are not the enemy! They just see the game differently. This does not mean it’s always wrong, just that the game was built by them, for them, so they know how to play it. Changing the game is what we are about

  • Take care of yourself. If you are going to go the distance you need to be in good health mentally and physically, setting up good habits (non-negotiable me time) means your wellness is the first priority and will this sustain you.

Where were each of you before starting Naked Ambition? And what prompted you to start this venture together?

Between the three of us we have 35 years of corporate experience. Erica has worked in banking for seven years in Toronto, London and Melbourne. Megan is a management consultant with a strong background in the finance industry, both in Melbourne and London. Fiona is now working on Naked Ambition full time, after six years of investment banking in London. Megan is also Fiona’s sister and Erica is dating their brother…. So guess you could say we are keeping it in the family!

Over the years we’ve had very different experiences in our career, which means our knowledge is diverse but we have also seen some common themes which have formed the basis for our course material. As with everyone, things have not always gone to plan, but all of these challenges and experiences have also given us endless inspiration. 

We truly believe that Australia will be much better off when both genders are fully engaged. For this to happen women need to stay in the game. There is a lot of rhetoric about diversity at the moment – which is great – but we believe there needs to be more focus on women in the early stages of their career. Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In helped frame this dialogue and one of the factors that resonates deeply with us is that young women start planning for an exit (for a variety reasons) much earlier than you would think. We want to help change by improving the corporate experience.

And finally – we were also motivated to start this venture when we realised that we are that friend who over one too many pinot noirs, our friends come to for advice, a shoulder to cry on and inspiration – we already had the passion we just didn’t realise it was under our nose until recently.

You have a really interesting bio on your site. A part of it reads that together you “missed 87.5 opportunities” because you believed you were not: “completely ready/experienced enough/the smartest person in the room.” How often do you believe this is the case for women in business? And how do you think women can best move forward from this belief?

Too often we second guess ourselves and our capabilities and it becomes habit.  It’s probably a bit of a  generalisation but the Sheryl Sandberg’s assertion that ‘women apply for positions only when they have 100% of the required skills, while men apply with only 60%’ highlights this.  Women can be too good at talking themselves down, both at work and in the personal circles.  If a friend compliment us our favourite shirt we find ourselves replying with a “God it’s so old and cost like 5 bucks”, rather than just saying thanks! While this can seem like harmless modesty it can really hurt your career.

You recently did a blog about the importance of being your true self at work. What do you believe each of the three of bring to the table at Naked Ambition?

When working together we all bring our own style. As we are all very good friends we feel pretty free to be ourselves – but obviously that doesn’t guarantee you will work well together! We are all big on self-awareness as we believe it’s the best way to capitalise on your unique strengths and understand how other people work. We did a personality test recently through wealth dynamics which was very accurate and maybe just a little confronting.  Megs is a ‘Creative’ type, so she drives the big picture. Erica and Fiona are both ‘Supporters’ which means they are superior to Megan (but don’t tell her). They take the big picture vision and put that plan in action. 

We have all also taken a lot of risks, moving overseas and back again (and overseas again) to expand our professional experience and it has meant we tend to keep a very open mind about things. 

What does the idea of ‘naked ambition’ mean to you? And what do you believe this philosophy has to offer women in business today?

Our slogan ‘because real is ambition is nothing to be ashamed of’ came from a realisation that ambition is a word that some women are uncomfortable with. We were playing on the idea that ambition can be perceived as a dirty word, in the same way that many women today aren’t comfortable calling themselves feminists because they don’t want to be associated with the judgment it may bring. We want to change both of these perceptions.

How would you describe your business workshops? And what are you learning yourselves from sharing experiences with other women via this platform?

From the very first discussions on the business we were eager to avoid anything that resembled a PowerPoint leadership course with a folder full of information that ends up as a makeshift footstool under your desk. We share knowledge, stories and experience but also we want people to think big, think differently and participate so that they can make real change in their lives and the world. We are constantly inspired and amazed by the incredible talent of women we meet and their desire to be successful. They are hungry for knowledge but also already have so much ability, which we simply help them unlock. We would say that it’s not just about business, it’s about the whole package that makes you, you. Through the process we have also learned that so much of your success and happiness comes down to your overall sense of wellbeing. So we have become slightly obsessed with the idea of redefining success to incorporate this.

What drives you?

We want Ambition to be a word that every woman is comfortable being associated with, in whatever form that takes. Our vision is to empower women at the critical early stage of their careers to help them create a work life that they can love for years to come. We also want this for our husbands, brothers, fathers and other men in our lives and that is only going to happen when both sides are fully engaged. 

What is your big business dream for Naked Ambition?

We want to create a movement for women across Australia. Where every woman has access to the support they need, to the people they want to connect with and to the opportunities they dream about.

To find out more about attending a Naked Ambition workshop see here...


Only know Mrs Triaca - but am sure you all make one hell of a team!

This really resonates with me and I'll be sure to keep updated with how you get on - congratulations on taking that first step.

As is so often the way, we wait for things to be just perfect before jumping only get one life, no dress rehearsal, you gotta do what feels right.

Know who said that? My husband =)

Thanks Fiona, Megan and Erica for letting us know about your new startup Naked Ambition. I love the concept and think your workshops sound great.

Thanks for your comments Kristina, Sitara and Anita! Good luck with everything and please don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you need anything.  Fiona @ Naked Ambition x