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Stone Steps _ Moss
  • Writer's pictureJenna Robertson

A 40 Year Journey from Engineer to Singer to Coach

I never set out to be a regenerative leadership coach and creative facilitator.

If you'd told me two decades ago, when I graduated as a Chemical Engineer in Scotland, or one decade ago, when I was consumed in arts leadership and performance in Australian opera, I would not have believed you.

If you don't know me, here's my work story in one sentence:

Over two decades, I went from working as a Chemical Engineer in the resource sector working for multinationals delivering leading-edge innovation, large-scale project leadership and complex facilitation, to an award-winning singer, creative and trailblazing leader in music, opera, film and art/science experiences.

For many, including myself sometimes, it is hard to comprehend my journey from engineer to singer to coach.

And yet

Now I see

The path was as it was meant to be:

A forty year apprenticeship in the universe(ity)

To become truly me

And learn advanced capacities

To become a potent catalyst

For the evolution of others.

Leading a team in the field, working as an engineer for Shell in Sakhalin, Russia, 2009

An industry award-winning resource sector leader, Perth, Australia, 2013

In flight as an opera singer and arts leader, 2019, Image by Owen Davies

In full flight as an expanded creative; writer, director, composer, narrator, singer in my debut album, Unravelling the Voice, 2024.

Available on all streaming services.

I'm still making a music feature documentary called Spirit Orphan, but my focus has now moved beyond the arts. A few years ago, I began to observe a third career chapter emerging.

This article describes a little about my journey into Chapter 3; the Coach.

Evolutionary Creativity

As I was recently reminded by my friend, Bourby Webster, creativity is the number 1 skill cited by the World Economic Forum needed for the future of work.

Yes, creativity is essential.

But let me tell you, that truly connecting to creative expression and potent presence opens up a lot more within our human capacity.

True creative thinking, combined with deep presence and vulnerability is a portal to an evolutionary leap in human consciousness.

But more on that later.

Source: World Economic Forum

In 2019, I started to see, there was something in the way that I live and lead that was very different to others around me. This was a fairly painful realisation as I so wanted to belong and fit in.

Not too long after, my doctoral research provided a vehicle for the burning question in my consciousness: What was it that felt different about me, and the way I live and lead in comparison to the 'mainstream'?

In 2020, I founded my coaching business from demand from people who had seen my transformational life journey wanting support in their own. I did my coaching training and certification over the next few years.

I am grateful that publicly living my life of following my heart and sense of purpose seemed to draw in others who sought support to do the same. It is a joy of my life to support my clients.

A Worldview Expansion

Around the same time, deep personal development and slow, precious time with First Nations Elders in Australia had opened my eyes to an interconnected worldview and way of being that expanded my consciousness.

And shattered my previous understanding of the world and myself, opening a whirlwind of grief and shame about being a disconnected white settler living on colonised land and seeing how my art form was steeped in that energy. I privately worked through that and came out the other side of those emotions a completely different human.

What originally started as a desire to decolonise my arts practice became a five year process of decolonising my own mind and body; liberating my mind, moving beyond burnout culture and reconnecting to my Scottish-Celtic ancestral, pre-colonial ways of being. This paragraph does not capture the depth of revolution of consciousness and perspective. Words can't. And this is ongoing work.

In 2021, Worimi woman Lydia Fairhall introduced me to Frederik Laloux's book Reinventing Organisations through Creative Australia's Leadership program.

She shared this work in the context of a discussion of moving beyond burnout cultures. As I was in the lowest part of a third burnout at this time, this book was like medicine. It used language that described the kind of workplace I craved and also, much of how I was already leading my spaces - with evolutionary purpose, wholeness and self-managing teams.

An Evolutionary Portal

In early 2022, I asked my amazing mentor at the time, Emily Lane (Evolutionary Intelligence Academy) for a reference where (in my colloquial language), "my inner connection was academically legit" and she told me to read the book 'The Essentials of Theory U' by Otto Scharmer; an advanced leadership development framework for awareness-based systems change.

Bingo. Thank you, Emily.

Otto had described our current world in a way that felt complete and true to me; connecting the narrative between the ecological crisis, the social crisis and the spiritual crisis humanity is living through.

After the traumatic experience of living through bushfires in Australia, I had started a creative project that saw inner work as a solution to climate degradation, and those around me were not on the same page. But, Otto got it.

His language was written in a way that made it accessible to all walks of life and was a balm to the polycrisis. He had also written a book that described how I lead in so many ways, and I began to really understand what was different about me through the mirror of his words.

Through his book (Theory U), I felt so seen. Who knew that a transformation theory book could be so healing. Thank you Otto for seeing this engineer and creative for her deeper capacities.

The evolutionary portal called me in.

I was realising there was something in these advanced leadership development and transformative change practices, that I had not just understood intellectually, but had embodied and practiced and integrated during my time as a performer, creative and leader in the arts.

A Crumbling Arts Industry

Let me be real for a moment - the arts industry is just as degenerative, inequitable and broken as other industries. It is rife with burnout culture. Opera and the classical arts are crumbling more so, because they haven't adapted quickly enough. Because they are still holding on to ways of being and doing from the past, while the world has changed around them.

I've found in the leadership development sector that the arts can be looked to with rose-coloured glasses as a sector that is full of people who have embodied and practiced and integrated deep personal and leadership development practices.

This is absolutely not true.

Some have - there are pockets of amazing work - and some performers are deep practitioners of presence, but in general, most haven't. Not because they're incapable of it, but because the Australian arts 'industry' is steeped in colonised structures and minds, and they either haven't been shown the way, or they are too afraid to let go of power, ego and control.

But while we are heading towards the sixth mass extinction, and have exceeded six of the planetary boundaries for human existence on this planet, there is no more excuse for avoiding the radical personal and organisational transformation work needed to stop being human extinction allies.

Credit: Stockholm Resilience Centre

I was beginning to see the part that I could play in supporting others to embody, practice and integrate the ways of being that can not only contribute to healing the polycrisis, but to move beyond burnout, into thriving.


Then, a dear friend and colleague, Brad Peirce (Regenerative Change Lab) introduced me to the work of Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm in 2023 about 'Regenerative Leadership'.

'Regeneration' in a nutshell means healing, moving into harmony with the laws of nature and then into thriving.

'Regenerative Leadership' means leading self and systems through that process.

I loved the language deeply, which built on all that I had read and lived so far, and it also integrated the language of living systems (how nature works), which allowed my reverence for nature to meet my ways of being and leading in my mind. The laws of nature.

I felt an inner 'click' into place as memories of my past self integrated with my current self:

  • The teenager who was fascinated by human rights and learning about Amnesty International

  • The engineering student who was moved by her sustainability lectures (thanks Dr. Boron)

  • The naive, ambitious young engineer who wanted Kofi Annan's job leading the United Nations so she could solve climate change

  • The young engineer working for multinational resources company, Shell, who started a group within called the Shell Sustainability Forum in 2006 thinking she could make change from the inside

I felt my learning colliding with the sustainable development and regeneration movement.

And when I read what Laura and Giles called our 'super nature', with humility, I really saw the embodied state my forty year apprenticeship in the univers(ity) had opened within me. (There's always more, and I continue to deepen.)

Image from Regenerative Leadership by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm

I realised I had moved from technical, rational, mechanistic, hierarchical engineering environments to creating thriving, heart-opening, emotional, sensitive, intuitively-led innovative spaces. Now I know how to fluidly move between these ways of being - it's fun.

Sustainability is Fiction

Sustainability is an artificial concept, conceived within human consciousness. It's actually fiction, driven by the human fear of endings and death.

There. I've said it.

In nature, nothing sustains. Nothing stays the same. Life is ever-changing and responsive.

This made sense to me when I was kid, from Gollum's riddle in the J.R.R. Tolkein book 'The Hobbit':

This thing all things devours:

Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

Gnaws iron, bites steel;

Grinds hard stones to meal'

Slays king, ruins town,

And beats high mountain down.

The answer was Time.

Let's go cosmic for a moment.

We are not sustainable as a species. Or even as a planet with life. In a few billion years the sun will have expanded so much it will engulf Earth in an inferno where no life is possible for any species. Even the Milky Way Galaxy will slowly collide with Andromeda galaxy in some billion years and form a new galaxy that looks completely different. We will not sustain as we are.

Sustainability of humanity is impossible.

The Sun as a Red Giant. Credit

I began to consider this when I was asked by a Planetarium to make a show for World Space Week 2022 with the theme 'Space and Sustainability'.

Sure, this theme brought up images of the space junk and the polluted technosphere full of old and current satellites and rocket junk that humans haven't cleaned up.

Our technosphere has been treated like a rubbish bin for space equipment and the clean up effort is nowhere near where it needs to be. Yes, humans have even polluted space.

Space Junk. Credit: NASA

But the idea of 'sustainability' couldn't make sense to me in the context of the cosmos, which is never the same for two moments and actually changes and evolves by it's very design.

The best we can do to learn how to create conditions for humanity to continue as long as possible, is look to the longest existing thing on this planet which is the natural world. Earth. Gaia. And, as Laura Storm says, Gaia has 3.8 billion years of R&D on how to sustain life. So much inspiration and leadership, that we need now, is there.

How does nature do it? Because we are nature and we have been disconnected from it for too long.

Let me be clear - I'm not saying the answers are outside of us. The best ones come from within - our inner nature. But we can look to outer nature, and be in nature, and care for nature for inspiration in how we lead and live.

Because nature shows us how to thrive within an unsustainable world that isn't afraid of endings or death. Or to collapse that double negative; nature shows us how to thrive within a regenerative world that embraces letting go as part of thriving.

She doesn't waste energy not being who she truly is.

She lives in a cyclic way allowing for rest, reflection and renewal.

She sheds outer layers every year.

She is free - decolonised - liberated.

She has no hierarchy.

She senses and responds, not commands and controls.

She shares resources.

She is interconnected with all things.

She is diverse.

She flows, not stagnates.

I could go on.

But the truth is that we can do the work of embodying nature's ways within ourselves, within our families, within our organisations and within our societies.

If we do this, we become part of the regeneration of the Earth and of humanity. And our very lives and businesses can become forces for healing and regeneration, doing the urgent work to create a world that our younger generations can thrive in.

My niece Frankie and my sister, Steph, 2024.

My Current Work

I've now understood the answer to that question I so sought to understand; what is different about the way I live and lead?

I am a regenerative leader. I lead and live like nature leads (as much as I can!).

I now use my skills that I gained as a conscious creative as a midwife for regenerative human evolution.

As a Regenerative Leadership Coach and Creative Facilitator I support leaders and humans in their individual regeneration and of their organisations.

I create conditions favourable to growth, enabling my clients to understand and align with their true nature and move into harmony with the laws of nature.

My energy, voice and heart - bursting with love and empathy - create conditions for my clients to look within, to the edges of their selves, with more curiosity, compassion and courage, rather than judgement, cynicism and fear.

Sometimes the work of being a spaceholder, coach, guide, educator can feel esoteric in nature. I've come to understand through feedback that it is a visceral, biological experience to work with me; something to be felt to be understood.

I know that the quality of space holder that I am for transformation is directly related to the quality of inner work I have done on myself. So I continue working this year with Laura Storm in her 12 month Regenerators Academy and with Giles Hutchins as my 1:1 coach. I continue my own evolution and expansion.

Ever-changing and learning. Just like nature. Just like the universe.

And so it is; Chapter 3. I am working as a Regenerative Leadership Coach and Creative Facilitator.

I'm enjoying it here for now. Until the next evolution.

I have 1:1 coaching places available in my practice now, for those caring souls ready to embody their super nature and embark upon a regenerative leadership journey.

Reach out if you'd like to connect.

Love Jenna xx

Jenna Robertson is a Certified Regenerative Leadership Coach + Creative Facilitator working with executives, entrepreneurs, changemakers and creative professionals worldwide and across sectors.

She works one-on-one and with groups, facilitating courageous spaces and co-creating bespoke leadership development experiences that seek to re-align leadership and life into harmony with nature - the most urgent work of our time.

In her 21-year, multi-sector career, Jenna has embodied the intersection of creativity, leadership and science. Her path to leadership development travelled through engineering innovation and project leadership in the resources sector to internationally award-winning work as a leader, creative and performer in the arts.

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