Rhod Ellis-Jones, Principal of Ellis Jones.
Miyagi to our collective Daniel San, Yoda to our Skywalker, Punch to our Judy. I could go on, but thankfully I won’t. Rhod Ellis-Jones has lent his name to our collective endeavour (no small leap of faith), but more than that, he is the ball of energy and creativity at its heart. Rhod is the first to open the bubbles in moments of triumph, and the last to linger on the ones that got away. He is the expert wielder of the question every consultant and client loves and hates most: “but why?”.
He has also been gracious enough to answer the below barrage candidly, even though this interviewer went a little off-piste.
Q: Sum yourself up in three words.
A: Serious, silly and restless.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: Most things. Honestly. I clean; make coffee; ask people what they are thinking and what they want; come back with (hopefully) clever ideas; rouse other people to help me make that idea a useful reality; laugh, cry, sweat and loose sleep over the iterations and confrontations; pop a cork at choice moments to remind us all that we’ve made some progress; admire the finished product; and dance the night away. Every week.
Can’t help it. It has always been that way.
Q: Have you ever been fired?
A: Once I left a nightclub at 4am to start a 5am shift cleaning the underground carpark at the Victorian Arts Centre. My job was to inhale the toxic fumes of a petrol-driven dust suction machine while madly chasing it around the subterranean bitumen. By 6am it got the better of me. Pale and cowering before the shift boss, I realised I was the sucker. No more job.
Q: What was the strangest job you’ve ever done?
A: Most people don’t know that I was a mine geologist. At age 23, I worked in an underground mine where the ore was rich but narrow, and it had to be drilled out by an airleg: half jackhammer, half drill held up on a metal ‘leg’ by a miner. Sometimes, I’d go down in the dark at 6am, check and mark out the stopes where ore had been cut and moved, and return at 6pm, again in the dark. The air was thick a few hundred meters down. I remember the almost tangible garlic haze of Mario the Italian’s stope. And the fear of visiting Stanko, the six-fingered, mad-eyed Pole. There was one old miner who drove the 600m from the dongas (portable units) to the minesite in a Rolls Royce silver ghost.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Be nice.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve given someone else?
A: If you drink wine regularly, buy something decent. Skimping on regular pleasures is idiocy. Life’s too short.
Q: What was the last insightful thing you read?
A: Mrs Dalloway. I read so much business, social change, ‘I’m a leader, watch me shine’ literature on digital these days, it was breathtaking to carefully walk through Virginia Wolf’s precise text, where sentences are rich in layered meaning. To read her and about her is to receive a reality check. 1925. A woman. Writing about mental health, culture and society.
Q: What brings a smile to your face when you look at the work of Ellis Jones?
A: 1) Our people 2) The change we achieve after all the hard work 3) The potential ahead
Q: What keeps you awake at night?
A: Self-doubt. An endless wrestle with a contention that this is a grand folly, my ego’s expression. Then I get to sleep and wake up fine.