Allira Hudson-Gofers is a Senior Associate at Spruson & Ferguson and Team Leader of the Engineering and ICT team. She is also an elite athlete who has represented Australia in the sports of handball and beach handball, competing in the Handball World Championships in 2007, 2009 and 2011, and in the Beach Handball World Championships in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Allira is currently training for the 2019 Beach World Games to be held in San Diego, California, USA from 9-14 October 2019. Allira has also contributed to the sport by coordinating New South Wales beach handball activities, managing the administration of the emerging Australian junior beach handball program, and assisting with junior training camps.
As an Australian representative in handball and beach handball, you would know all about this year’s World IP Day theme Reaching for Gold. As a Patent Attorney how do you think innovation has played a part in sport over the years?
There are many examples of innovation in sport, beach handball being a perfect one. This sport was developed to be a “spectacular” version of team handball. With a number of changes, including the playing surface, court size, number of players, and the ball, the most innovative aspect to beach handball is the introduction of two spectacular shots, the spin and the alley. Subsequently, alley shots have become regular features of the original team handball game.
Living in Australia, we are somewhat sport obsessed and, as a result, we see a number of sporting innovations come to life in Australia. Over the years, a wide range of sporting innovations have developed in Australia, including dash-mounted cameras in motor racing, stump mounted cameras in cricket, Ben Lexcen’s winged keel design for yacht racing, Speedo® swimwear, and the game of Australian football.
You have been involved and supported Girl’s Invent through Spruson & Ferguson’s pro bono program. Can you tell us a bit about how you have been involved, and in particular with the filing of an Australian and US patent application for a group of students at Camberwell Girls Grammar School for their Score Buddy invention?
Girl’s Invent currently offer programs in 150 Australian schools. Through these programs, CEO Mark Glazebrook, runs specifically designed workshops to guide girls through the process of developing new products. These workshops range in topic from idea generation through to commercialisation and market entry.
Spruson & Ferguson support Girl’s Invent through our pro bono program and I have been able to speak with several the school groups about intellectual property and commercialisation, often specifically relating to a product that they are developing.
The Score Buddy was developed by three year 8 students at Camberwell Girls Grammar School: Alice Wilson, Susannah Lutze and Mikayla Lee. This device straps to the throat of a tennis racquet and has the potential to solve a problem on the social tennis court: keeping track of the score!
Spruson & Ferguson looked after the preparation and lodgement of a provisional application for the young inventors over 12 months ago. We have now progressed to having pending patent protection in both Australia and the United States.
It is very rewarding to assist the Score Boddy team and all of the girls in the Girl’s Invent program as they explore the innovation process. I can’t wait to see what fantastic products are developed in the next program!
Not only are you an Australian handball player, you have three Masters degrees including Master of Biomedical Engineering, Master of Industrial Property and an MBA. Can you attribute your role as an elite athlete to your success in business?
There is research which supports the parallels between elite level sporting competition and success in the business realm.
Some of the more obvious parallels are the discipline of time management, performing under pressure, working with team mates, and the setting and pursuit of goals.
In particular, I have found that developing my ability to work under pressure and time management through elite sport has been instrumental in allowing me to complete the above degrees, while working and competing. Importantly, I think that in developing these skills I have become more adept at managing pressure and am able to comfortably take on a greater scope and variety of tasks.
What is, maybe less obvious, is that elite sport provides an environment where failure is commonplace. Games are lost, and perfection of skills can lie many hours away or even out of reach. Success is often defined by the ability to bounce back and try again, and to receive feedback (on both positive and negative performances) and develop from it. I have found that training and competing at elite level provides many opportunities to practice such skills. Transferring these to the business environment allows the confidence to try something new without fear of failure, then going on to seek feedback and assess performance, and try again. Personally, I have found the greatest enjoyment in putting my hand up for a broad variety of projects in the workplace, giving the opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge and to work with many different people.
Do you believe playing sport can help women develop motivational skills and team building skills — does it equip women with the competitive spirit that’s essential for success both on the playing field and in the workplace?
Yes, I think sport can help women, and men, to develop motivation and team-building skills. In addition, I believe that sport and sporting achievement at whatever level, supports the development of confidence which is transferable to other areas.
In a team sport environment, the blend of communication and coordination is key. Success on the field requires athletes to understand the team goals and how to navigate their individual place. With experience, athletes develop the ability to understand their team member’s roles, and to assess their own and others’ strengths and weaknesses.
On the sporting field, time is often limited, and communication needs to be succinct and to the point. The recipient also needs to process instructions quickly and effectively and, if they disagree, resolve the point before the game has moved on. The workplace may not have the time pressure dictated by a game clock nor have the distraction of trying to communicate in the midst of a fast-moving game, however it does have other performance pressures. The sporting field is a low risk arena for practicing team work and communication skills that can then be used in the workplace.
Finally, what was the greatest lesson you learned from sports that has helped you succeed in your professional career?
I think the greatest lesson I have learned from sports relates to continuous development.
For me, this includes placing an appropriate perspective on performance, the willingness and ability to assess performance, and to put in the time and effort to improve and develop new skills. Over my career, this has seen me take on new areas of study, such as the Masters of Business Administration, and get involved in a variety of projects ranging from process improvements to the fit-out of our new office space.
I believe that my proactive approach to personal and professional development and my willingness to get involved in new and different projects encourages further interesting opportunities to be made available to me and is a major contribution to my professional success.