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Deb Holst

Since starting in the role earlier this year Deb has hit the ground running, but we pulled her aside recently to chat and learn more about her life before Sullair.

Tell us a bit about your background

I grew up in New Zealand and lived there during my childhood and early adulthood. I came to Australia in my 20’s and since being here I’ve had a number of roles in marketing, retail and accounting. For the last 20 years I’ve worked in Human Resources in a multitude of roles covering all aspects of HR.

What have been the key features of your career in HR?

I have been in a lot of roles that have been generalist in nature, including all sorts of functions across HR – from recruitment, employee relations, and employee development, to health and safety, and organisational development.

Why did you choose to work in HR?

I was always interested in the people side of business. I studied psychology as part of my degree and completed a Graduate Diploma in Psychological Studies. I’ve also received a diploma in counselling and have always been fascinated by people and the way they interact with each other. I’ve been interested in business for a long time, so I wanted to do something on the people side of business and HR seemed the obvious place to do that.

Have you worked in the compressed air industry or similar before?

No, I haven’t – I worked at Heidelberg Australia – they sold and serviced printing presses, associated equipment, and consumables. It had quite a similar setup to Sullair where they had a lot of service technicians who were out in the field fixing equipment, and they also had the sales team and different branches across Australia. They also had branches across New Zealand. So, there are quite a lot of similarities across the roles.

What was it about the role at Sullair Australia that appealed to you?

One of the things that appealed the most to me was the culture. When I interviewed with both Fred and the Senior Leadership Team, I liked the way they talked about people and the organisation. I felt that this was a low politics organisation and that they genuinely cared about the people and the values the organisation has, and they stood behind those values. Safety including mental health was also seen as really important and I liked that. I’ve worked in a number of organisations where culture hasn’t necessarily been a priority and that makes it really hard to run a good HR function, so this was one of the key things I was looking for and that’s what I saw in this role.

How have you found your time at Sullair Australia so far?

That initial impression has been born out in my experience to date too – I’ve met some fantastic people! I’ve never worked in an organisation where people have been more supportive. There’s been a steep learning curve, and a lot to cover, but I’ve had an incredible amount of help from people in the organisation during that time. I’ve come in at a very busy time so that’s kept me on my toes but as I said, the people, the values, and the culture have been great.

What excites you about this new opportunity and the company?

I’m feeling a bit repetitious, but what excites me is that there’s a genuine care within the organisation for people and therefore a strong desire to do things for people that supports them in their roles. I like that behaviour is driven by the values of the organisation, that these are aligned with the strategy and where the organisation wants to go. From a business perspective there’s a lot of opportunity and a desire to undertake some exciting projects. I also think there’s a genuine care for people and wanting to support them along the way – it’s not just about using people. I’ve worked in organisations where it’s felt like people are just a commodity and it doesn’t matter if they burn out or it doesn’t work, and I certainly don’t get that feeling here.

What are you hoping to achieve in the next few months of your new role?

I’m really looking to get my feet under the desk in the next few months. It’s been crazy busy, and I’ve had some fantastic help from Steph and Effie, but I’ve lost Steph to marketing now – which is their gain of course – so trying to pick up that mantel is a big challenge. Once I’ve learnt more of the basics and the learning curve flattens, I look forward to providing more strategic input from an HR perspective to build on an already positive culture.

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