Ariadne Magalhaes on bringing a personal perspective and business lens to NFPs


Tasmania-based economist and senior business strategist Ariadne Magalhaes loves learning languages  - in fact she can speak six, including her native Portuguese. Ari is on Red Nose Australia’s Community Advisory Committee and was recently appointed as a non-executive director on the board of Arthritis & Osteoporosis Tasmania, a role she applied for after seeing it advertised on WOB’s jobs board.

What made you decide to apply for board roles with Red Nose Australia and Arthritis & Osteoporosis Tasmania?

I lost two daughters - one in 2019 and another in 2020 - due to a recessive genetic condition. Both Red Nose and stillborn, miscarriage and newborn death support organisation SANDS - which merged with Red Nose in 2020 - provided myself and my family great support and helped us navigate these losses. I experienced firsthand how important their work is, and I saw joining the Community Advisory Committee as an opportunity to help other parents and families who have gone through similar experiences.

As for AOT, the main reason I joined is that I have arthritis myself. AOT's work is remarkable and I believe that joining their board will allow me to help the organisation achieve its purpose and expand the support and information to people that suffer from arthritis.

What other boards have you been on?

I was a committee member of the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) Tasmania, and UNAA Young Professionals (YP) in my capacity as UNAA YP Tasmania Lead. I was also a non-executive committee member and President of A Fairer World.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

I have been volunteering with NFPs for several years, but only in an ad hoc capacity. It was only when someone from one of the NFPs I worked with pointed out how my set of skills could add a lot of value to a board that I thought of pursuing board positions. That was around 5 years ago, and I have been progressing my board experience since then.

What areas of expertise do you feel you bring to your boards?

I have a robust background in strategy, finance and risk, given my 12+ years experience as a management consultant and business strategist. Particularly for NFPs, I am able to provide a business lens to their operations, and support the development and implementation of methodologies and tools used by large for-profits, always keeping in mind their societal purpose and seeking long-term sustainability. My credentials in economics and international management also enable me to give the board an understanding of the environmental factors and how they can impact the organisation.

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in your board journey?

The first was having the right connections - I made a conscious effort to attend more events and connect with people from various organisations to help expand my network. After joining a board, the main challenge was understanding the dynamics, not only the governance side of it, but also how each board members' background and personality influences how they operate. This helps better adjust my approach to add more value as part of that group. 

What do you most like about your board roles?

I really enjoy having the 'helicopter view' and looking at the different pieces of the puzzle that make up the organisation, and being able to easily drill down when necessary - with the help of the CEO, of course!

Have you had mentors and/or sponsors and have they helped you? If so, how?

Yes, I have had various formal and informal mentors who have helped me in various ways, especially around how to better understand my own skills and how to position myself as a strong board candidate. 

How has WOB helped you on your board journey?

I have been keeping up to date with general trends through the WOB newsletter, and I find it helpful to browse the board positions available to better understand what organisations are looking for. I have also used WOB's resources to refresh my Board CV, which is now much more fit for purpose.

What are the most useful skills you have gained which have helped in your board career?

Having worked as a consultant for over a decade across a large range of industries, from big pharma to small not-for-profits, has made it easier to identify certain patterns more easily, and recommend approaches that might not necessarily be regular practice in the sector the organisation operates in. I have also found that a robust approach to finance and risk, which I apply in my projects, is also very valuable on a board.

Do you have any advice for others starting out their board journey?

Identify your unique experiences and skills - they can help you become more confident about your abilities and stand out when applying for or joining a board. 

About Ariadne Magalhaes

Ariadne Magalhaes is an Economist and Senior Business Strategist who has delivered projects within both for-profit and not-for-profit organisations and held advisory roles to businesses throughout Europe, Oceania, and Latin America. She has sector knowledge of pharma, aviation, construction, energy, retail, government, aged care, and community services. Ari is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a Fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders ANZ, a Chartered Manager and a Prince2 Registered Practitioner. 
You can follow Ariadne on LinkedIn here