Alumni in Focus: McKeely Denholm

McKeely Denholm (B Health Sc 2014) is our Alumni in Focus this month.

When she graduated, McKeely took a job in property management. When the opportunity arose to work as a Project Officer at Kidsafe SA, she took it and has since worked her way up to Operations Manager of the organisation. Her story is one of determination and persistence.


Your career path in two sentences or less…
I left uni during a difficult public health climate, so I took a job in property management. Then when the opportunity to work as a Project Officer at Kidsafe SA arose I took it and have since spent time in the Acting CEO role (to fulfil a maternity contract) before settling into the Operations Manager role. 

What are your hobbies?
I love running, walking, hiking and just generally being active. I also enjoy food; cooking and eating particularly with friends and family. 

Favourite place to eat in Adelaide?
Bar Torino – their croquettes are delicious! 

If I could go back to my University days I would…
Sleep in! 

Most prized possession?
Tough question! In trying to answer this I realised that perhaps I am a lot less emotionally attached to my belongings than I thought. I do collect Christmas ornaments which would be the hardest thing to replace if we were to lose everything. 

Something that makes you smile?
Driving into my hometown. I grew up in the tiny little town of Mundulla and I still think it’s the best place in the world so I can’t help but smile when I arrive. 

Something you are grateful for?
True crime podcasts. I drive for around 3 hours each day to commute to and from work, so podcasts help me stay awake and alert. 

If I could pursue a different career I would…
I’d love to own a little coffee shop in a country town where I could chat away to people and feel connected to the community. 

The most valuable lesson I have learned is…
Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. We give ourselves so many reasons to stay quiet – I’m new, too young, female or inexperienced - but this doesn’t mean your voice or perspective isn’t valid. Now that I’m a manager I do my best to remember this with my team too. Sometimes a fresh way of looking at things makes all the difference.

I cannot get through the day without…
Being sarcastic! Sounds terrible but sarcasm helps lighten the mood in our office and have a laugh. 

Three words your closest friends would use to describe you?
I actually asked my friends this because I thought for sure they would say ‘doesn’t stop talking’ but what I got back was much more heart-warming, along the lines of – loving, dependable and committed. Only highlighting to me again that I am blessed with such beautiful friends. 

Your definition of success?
Achieving what you set out to do and when it doesn’t go to plan, problem solving and getting it done anyway. 

Best thing my parents taught me was…
Take every opportunity; that sounds very cliché, but they meant it and supported me to do so many things growing up. 
Biggest career highlight?
During my time as the Acting CEO, I was able to establish a car seat hire service for premature babies direct from the Women’s & Children’s Hospital. This was a highlight as I am really passionate about road safety, particularly transporting our most vulnerable and cutest passengers. 

2020 is the year I will…
Run a marathon if all goes to plan. 

How do you relax?
Running, I always come back with a clearer mind and in a better mood. 

When I get home the first thing I do is…
Dump all of my things on the old church pew we have in our entry way. I take out my lunch container and put it on the sink so it gets washed that night – how boring and sensible is that? Then I let our dopey border collie in and give him a pat while he tries to follow me to the bathroom. 

The biggest risk you have taken?
As a kid I loved playing at the local playground. One day my sister and I took our skateboard along with us and decided to ride the skateboard down the giant metal slide – we’re talking about 15 metres long. It was fast and absolutely terrifying, and I thankfully landed on my feet at the end. The ironic part is that I’m now a qualified playground inspector.

Tagged in alumni, alumni in focus, young alumni network