Meet the Interchangers: Chris Gabardi
As our talented Creative Director, Chris provides an undeniable inventive spark to the Interchange team.
After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in the early 90s, Chris made his mark in the acting world, starring in various Australian television and theatre productions such as All Saints and State Coroner.
His initiative and drive lead him down a different path, where he could merge and utilise his strategic and creative skillsets.
At Interchange, Chris is a driving force for the unique way in which we design our programs. He creates and develops out of the box methods to engage participants and increase knowledge retention.
We sat down with Chris to discuss how he became involved with Interchange, his passion for worm farming, and his best dinner party story.
Tell us a bit about your professional experience.
After I finished high school, I was doing a Science Degree at Monash with the intention of swapping to physiotherapy, but I never really connected with the people in the course nor the material. So naturally, I quit science to become an actor! After graduating NIDA, I worked mostly in theatre in Melbourne and Sydney, but then I got a role on the TV show All Saints.
Even though I had a really stable role there, I felt like I wasn’t using my brain enough, so I put my acting career on hold and moved into business. Over a few years, we built a really great online transaction solution for school canteens, uniform shops and excursions. After about 7 years, it was purchased by a larger Australian company. I ran it for the new owners for a few years, but at the end of the experience, I was exhausted, so I decided to take some time off, which eventually lead me to where I am now.
How did you end up working at Interchange?
I was introduced to Gabe (Founder and Managing Director) through Jack, who is one of our lead facilitators. He told me about the fantastic things that she was doing with Interchange, like VR for frontline training programs, and I was intrigued. Gabe and I met and kept in touch, but at the time, I just needed to have some time off. After about a year off – bushwalking and having a delightful life in the Blue Mountains – we met up again. She told me she was looking for someone to work in the business as a Creative Director – I felt the role was the perfect combination of creativity and business, so I joined the team.
Chris proudly displaying his prestigious title.
What do you think makes Interchange so unique?
I think the people are what makes this business so unique. Everyone brings unique skillsets that overlap in many areas. You might be qualified in a particular area, but you also have a set of skills which you can offer in another area. You are also trusted and encouraged to do the work that you do. I don’t think that I have ever met a group of people who are so willing to embrace creative ideas so well.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Bike riding. I used my first acting paycheck to buy myself a new bicycle as I’d always had cheap ones. I actually still have that bike! For the last 8 years we’ve been living in the Blue Mountains, and it is so hilly, I didn’t get much of a chance to ride. But now that we have moved back to Melbourne, I have reignited my love for bike riding and bought myself a new one! Let me tell you, there has been a vast improvement in bikes over the last 28 years. It is just a delight.
Chris’ new vehicle of choice.
What are you passionate about?
Worm farming! It’s like a lovely little ecosystem! When it’s balanced, it works beautifully. When we lived in the Blue Mountains, we got so into composting and growing our own vegetables. It was a joy to be able to pick our veggies straight from the ground and cook them up. I find it very comforting as a human being to be able to explore the way a natural environment works.
What is your best dinner party story?
Okay. So when I was at NIDA, I lived in a share house with Cate Blanchett (casual name drop!) and another mate. As we were signing the lease, the real estate agent tells us “oh, I just want to let you know… someone was murdered in this house last year… I’m telling you this because they’ve recently been filming ‘Australia’s Most Wanted’ here and it’s going to be on TV in the coming weeks.’
We thought this was kind of funny, and at parties, people would try to spot the bloodstains on the carpet and things like that. A couple of weeks later, we saw the ad for ‘Australia’s Most Wanted’ on TV and there was our house! We all sat down to watch it when the episode went to air. It was funny until we saw the re-enactment of someone being murdered in the room we were all sitting in…Then the reporter came on and said: “The main suspect is still ‘at large’ and all his possessions are still stored under the house!”
We were all terrified – was he coming back for them? – but naturally, we had to have a look. They were right, all of his things were still there under the house. Although slightly eerie, this actually served us quite well. We didn’t have a record player, so we used his from under the house. He also had a vast record collection that was pretty decent.
Chris ‘The Puzzle Master’ Gabardi
What is the most important thing on your bucket list?
Spend a year in Italy! I am absolutely determined to do it. My father is Italian who left Italy because it wasn’t a particularly good place after WWII. When he moved to Australia, he saw such opportunity and absolutely loved it here. He left Italy behind and we never learned the language or anything. I have visited quite a few times, but I still feel like I am missing something.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m designing a new 2-day safety leadership program for a government-owned corporation. We’ve been challenged by our client to ‘be bold’ so I’m designing and delivering the program in a way that we’ve never done before. We are setting up the training in a giant Tipi across multiple sites in the Victorian national park, there will be leadership activities for the participants set outdoors in the surrounding bush areas, and there will be no PowerPoint slides in sight. It’s been a brilliant challenge, ensuring that we design a program outside of the norm that also provides an excellent training experience.
Chris’ 1982 Most Improved Player trophy in its rightful place- on Interchange’s award shelf.