Ellie Pittorino, the 240th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, is living proof of how a relationship you make today can change your life tomorrow.

After leaving school, Ellie became a legal secretary for several law firms. Later, with her husband, she bought a patisserie and then an espresso bar. In 2017, Ellie decided to return to the corporate world. So she contacted a favourite ex-boss from her legal days to ask for a reference. Instead, he offered her a job with his team.

That man was Brad Hazzard, the New South Wales health minister.

Working for a government minister is very fast-paced and demanding, according to Ellie. The boss has an endless round of meetings, functions and interviews, which means his team is constantly organising, researching and briefing. That’s as exhausting as it sounds.

At the same time, Ellie loves the job, because she finds it exciting to meet the people running the state and to watch from up close as they make crucial decisions.

As you’d expect, the toughest period Ellie has experienced since joining the health minister’s office came in the early days of the pandemic. The workload and pressure were immense, but they also created bonds among the team that Ellie expects to last a lifetime.

Ellie is fun, friendly and very easy to get on with. My guess is that when the pressure is on, she brings a calming presence to the office.