Caroline Ferris

Caroline is an experienced executive with nearly 20 years in Banking at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. She has had diverse roles across the CBA Group; working in areas such as transformation projects, divestment projects, development and launch of new products and services, customer experience initiatives, marketing and payments development. In addition to her work Caroline devotes time and energy to mentoring the leaders of tomorrow. She has recently joined a team that will play a major role in the CBA’s simplification strategy by leading the separation of divested businesses. Caroline started her career in Health Sciences, gaining a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) at the University of Sydney. She worked across a wide range of clinical settings including the United Kingdom before making the transition to Banking.

Outside of work Caroline has 3 school aged children and shows her commitment to volunteering by being highly involved in their schools and sporting organisations. She has a passion for keeping fit and has recently taken up regular kayaking. She has recently joined the Board of WASH House, a not for profit servicing disadvantaged women in the Local Government Area of Blacktown. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for Results International (Australia), which is an organisation of committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.

Caroline also loves learning and in addition to her Science Degree she has an MBA from University of Technology Sydney and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

committees do you currently sit on?

I sit on the Board of WASH House which works to reduce the impact of poverty, social disadvantage and violence on the lives of women and girls in the Blacktown Local Government Area. I also sit on the Advisory Board of Results International (Australia), which is an organisation of committed everyday people who use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

A couple of years ago someone suggested it to me as the next natural move. Once I looked into it I realised it was a great goal for me to pursue and open up my horizons beyond my immediate workplace and networks. I was also looking for a way to give back to the community. 

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing board roles and/or serving on boards? 

First there was the course. The AICD course is excellent but you have to commit and spend the time to get the value out of it. Secondly I needed to work out where I would start, what kinds of boards would best meet that goal and of course find time to look amongst work, children and a few volunteering roles in the community. I knew I needed to be passionate about the organisation and its purpose and also feel supported in my first step into a different role. I am only at the beginning of my first role and know I still have much to learn. 

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

I am a huge fan of asking for help and I am lucky enough to have a few wise folks with very different skills and experience who will have a coffee with me and give me tips and feedback. They were encouraging and also gave me practical tips to help me work towards my goal. I have found over the years that people are receptive when you ask for help and often volunteer to take on actions themselves. As someone new to this world it was invaluable for me. 

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?

WOB have been great. I have completed a few of the courses and found their advocacy and communications inspiring. The courses are interesting and relevant and I enjoy meeting like-minded and interesting women at the meet-ups. I would never have completed my Board CV without their help. 

Any tips for women starting out their journey to the boardroom?

There is lots of help available! Tell a range of people what you want so they know how they may help you and create yourself a plan. I set myself a goal of achieving at least one task every fortnight in my plan, like having a coffee, looking at the vacancies list, listening to a podcast, booking my next course, attending a board meeting, etc. That kept me on track and step by step I felt I was making progress. Lastly take your time. Its a big transition and you need to be sure you are ready and well informed before you commit. This will ensure you can add maximum value to the board(s) you join.