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What Kearney Group’s Jane Vanden Boom and the world’s largest organism have in common.

11 October 2021 Read time: 5 min


Some thirteen thousand kilometres away lies the world’s largest living organism. Tucked away in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, a single Honey Mushroom covers 2,385 acres of dense forest.

Testing of over 100 samples shows that the organism is genetically identical across the kilometres. That’s all to say, it’s one, single life form. And, it’s at least 2,400 years old (though it could be upwards of 8,650 years).

Known for its showy, glowing mushrooms (caused by bioluminescent bacteria), the Honey Mushroom’s lesser-known superpower is that the bulk of it lives unassumingly, a metre underground in the form of root-like mycelia.

From one end of this organism to the other, this intricate network connects every mushroom, every tree. It allows the Honey Mushroom to communicate across the kilometres, and coordinate itself (quite successfully) for a common purpose; its own survival and expansion.

But I hear you wonder: what on earth does a humongous fungus have to do with Jane Vanden Boom?

Well, I sat down with our CEO, Paul Kearney, to get his read on the much-admired JVB.


Jane’s secret superpower.

“When you first meet Jane, her superpower is not immediately obvious,” Paul says.

“She’s bright, thoughtful and empathetic, and always has your back. But most of all, Jane is a born connector; of people, processes and ideas.”

He’s quick to point out that even Jane’s chosen word of the year – “Myco” – is a tip of her (mushroom) cap to her mycelium tendencies.

And like that great Honey Mushroom, Paul tells me that Jane quietly, steadily and without any fuss, has actively grown and shaped the ecosystem at Kearney Group.

If you’re looking for her, Jane’s likely designing and cultivating the firm’s “Commons” – ensuring our intranet, resources and the practice’s shared knowledge base is accessible, governed and cared for by the collective. She’s the glue in our operations; the tetherer-together-er of support functions behind our advice services. And, whether she’s wrangling data or people, Jane is a proven, constant connector.

“She instinctively understands that below the surface of every great organism – and every great organisation and community – is connective tissue. And Jane has figured out that being that connective tissue allows her to have massive impact,” Paul emphatically concludes.

But don’t just take his word for it…

Introducing the connector of the people and process: Jane ‘Myco’ Vanden Boom.

Spotlight on: Jane Vanden Boom

Annie: So Jane, what do you do at Kearney Group?


Jane: I love my role because of its diversity. In a single day I can support, organise, plan, design, influence, resolve, ignite, create and deliver – to and for, both clients and colleagues.

Whilst my position loosely started out as ‘CEO Office Assistant’, I now work across the business and lead different support/organisational functions. I’m now the Manager of Business Networks & Commons; a role that’s been carved out to fit my specific skills.

On a day-to-day level, I can be immersed in the detail one minute and contributing to strategy the next. It’s fast moving and always different. I also act as an integral link between client experience and service delivery.

Working across the business and connecting with people builds a culture of togetherness. Ultimately, that contributes to and represents Kearney Group’s core client offer – access to a truly integrated advice experience.

I love what I do. And I really enjoy building networks, supporting others and creating shared information sources that allow our team and clients to thrive.

Kearney Group Jane Vanden Boom

In a single day I can support, organise, plan, design, influence, resolve, ignite, create and deliver – to and for, both clients and colleagues.

Jane Vanden Boom

A: How did you come to be in your current role?


J: I studied Social Science / Information Management at the University of Melbourne. For many years, I only took roles directly related to my areas of study; and I also defined myself by the titles that came with them.

Later, I realised it was my strengths and abilities I brought to each role that would define me; not the role itself.

My responsibilities ranged from systems analysis and digital design, to project management, implementation and change management. I’ve also worked on website content, strategic communications and even event coordination. I’ve been in government, corporate, education, health and small business environments. So, why Finance? Well, why not?

At Kearney Group, I get to share and develop my skills in an environment/culture that aligns well with my own values.


A: So what’s it like to work for Kearney Group?


J: Kearney Group is a place of growth. And I mean whole person growth; not just professional.

I am encouraged to think, question, try and learn. I have lots of opportunities to influence, contribute and grow.

The culture is considered. It’s caring and backed by purpose. Despite being a profession I had yet to venture into, I joined Kearney Group because of this environment.

In many ways, the people I work with and support have become my extended family. And moreover, my eyes have been opened to the bigger picture; to the interconnectedness of finance, households, business, people, wellbeing, environment and community.


A: What’s unexpected about your background?


J: I’m proud to say, I am one of 4 girls. If my father* had a dollar for every sympathetic “sad, no footy player” nod he got when mentioning his girls, our money pot would have been overflowing.

Having sisters taught me very early that your gender doesn’t define your worth. Nor does it dictate your future success, intelligence, compassion or sporting excellence. It taught me the importance of combining individuality with togetherness; embracing differences whilst also maintaining strong connection through shared experiences.

Growing up in a big family of women, I learned the value of contribution, commitment, resilience and loyalty. I’m passionate about equality, diversity and supporting people who are positive in their outlook.

(* That is, Jane’s dad was Hawthorn Football Club great, Des Meagher)


A: What are you known for? What drives you?


J: I am a loyal person and driven by a sense of belonging, community and connection. At Kearney Group I’m able to combine my love of information and process, with people and connected engagement.

So my word for 2021 is Myco (as in, mycelium or fungi). It’s a powerful reminder of the importance of interconnectivity and supporting networks; while often hidden from view, they’re vital to life and the success of ecosystems.

I know in a lot of organisations, people look down on these roles. But at Kearney Group, I’m able to elevate the work of our support networks and infrastructure, whilst also making my mark on the lives of clients. I get to be a central part of Kearney Group’s integrated service delivery, even though I won’t ever deliver a single piece of financial advice. There’s great privilege, power and purpose that comes from digging into roles that are traditionally seen as ‘only support’ positions.


A: Tell me about a time where you failed and it helped you transform?


J: Well, my first major role was with Victoria Police. I got to coordinate and implement some really important state-wide and national programs. For example, I worked on the gun buy-back scheme and reforms after the Port Arthur Massacre. That was really interesting and valuable work.

Later, I applied to become a police officer. But it wasn’t to be. I passed all the fitness tests and the technical application. The Chief Superintendent even gave me a reference. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it beyond the final interview. It still stings when I think about it. I was definitely an achiever – involved in my community and in leadership positions – and this was my first big career disappointment.

But, it was also a major learning moment. It taught me that my abilities would be recognised at the right organisation. I realised I could blend my skills in technology, process and projects, with my passion for working with people and my community in other workplaces. So while one role didn’t go ahead, it opened up a world of possibilities I’m still exploring today.


A: Where do you encounter new ideas or new ways of working?


J: Kearney Group’s leadership team (and Paul, specifically) regularly share new books, ideas and fascinating podcasts.

My recent fascination in fungi and mycelium has led me to look more closely into learnings from the natural environment.

Currently on my shelf is Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures. After that on my list is Richard Power’s The Overstory.


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