It is 11:30am on a Tuesday and I am standing in a corridor at Qantas’ Mascot headquarters with Olivia Wirth. We are mid-photoshoot. The photographer is tweaking the lighting and Wirth is not fixing her makeup. She is not checking for a crease in her dress. She is instead selling me the Qantas Wellbeing app which awards Qantas Points to users who refrain from checking emails at 2am. The ‘Sleep Health Challenge’ is not only important because it’s the first initiative launched by Qantas Loyalty in 2019, a year marking her first 12 months as CEO. It’s important because Wirth is a reformed workaholic with a tendency to check her emails at 2am. And it also portrays the force with which Olivia Wirth catapults herself into a job.
There are a lot of descriptors used to classify Wirth, who has been labelled a “smiling assassin”, “titanium tough” and an enigma in the Australian business world. There is a level of fascination she carries with her, partly because she prefers to shape the story than be it. But, today, Olivia Wirth has agreed to make the story all about her as she hits a trifecta of milestones; 12 months running a P&L for the first time, in her fifth job at a company she has spent a decade with. A company which, next year, will celebrate its very own milestone of 100 years in operation.
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