Kelly Van Nelson is a chef d’oeuvre. As a wife and mother, corporate leader, best-selling author and poet, and TEDx Presenter, her output is staggering. She has just released her seventh book, The Pinstripe Prisoner.
Born in Newcastle, England and raised by working-class parents, Van Nelson was lured by ambition to London where she met her husband of twenty-five years. The two travelled to and lived in Cape Town, South Africa during the fall of Apartheid as Nelson Mandela became President.
In 2009, Van Nelson landed in Australia with her loving family and they have called Australia home ever since.
“From a young age I developed an inner self-resilience. To not be a product of my environment, or circumstances or be a victim. From a really young age I set big goals – like really big goals,” says Van Nelson. “I had this creative side that was reading and writing, and I had this side that aspired to work hard, earn an income and be independent in some kind of corporate world. And the two things co-existed”.
Van Nelson is a celebrated leader in the Corporate Sector and has all the accolades to prove it: 2020 CEO Magazine Managing Director of the Year finalist, 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Award NSW Finalist (Medium and Large Enterprise). AusMumpreneur Gold Award ‘Big Idea – Changing the World’ winner.
Her success is in her intuitive understanding of how to compartmentalise her strengths and focuses, and when to bring them together to meet at the interface of her work, family, and creative life. Van Nelson’s son is an emerging film-maker. She works closely with him to develop short films of the stories and poems that she has published. Her TEDx Talk breaks away from the usual delivery to be executed in Spoken-Word Poetry parlance.
For her latest book, The Pinstripe Prisoner, Van Nelson drew on the experiences of family and friends who had been victims of violence and gun attacks in South Africa. The book takes readers on a dark journey through violent crime in the Rainbow Nation.
Success had not come easy for Van Nelson. She admits that not having a University Degree is something that has consistently challenged her own perceptions of belonging in a cut-throat world; a world in which, ironically and poetically, she is now a leader.
“I have definitely experienced an unconscious (or conscious) bias for not having a degree, and not having a really robust higher education – especially in the senior ranks,” says Van Nelson.
“Especially as a woman. I have often felt a need to over-compensate by working harder, and constantly up-skilling and constantly trying to achieve at everything I commit to”.
It’s through sheer determination and resourcefulness that Van Nelson manages to constantly achieve high results.
“If I don’t have the skills I’ll either acquire them by up-skilling myself, or I will bring in the right people in and around the team to create a ‘high-performing A-Team’ that can deliver to the expectation”.
Van Nelson feels strongly about using the written word to effect social change. She is passionate about creating an ongoing dialogue around domestic violence, bullying, mental health and suicide.