Professional independent non-executive director (NED), with current portfolio encompassing ASX-listed (CLV and HNG) , public unlisted Chartered Accountants Aust/NZ, as well as Women on Boards and AIFST which are membership and industry bodies as well as various prior NFP's. Experience on Finance, Audit and Risk Committee as well as Remuneration & Nominations Committee.
International and Australian Corporate and Director experience; focused on “all things customer”; top-line revenue growth, branding, digital and traditional media, innovation, and working to carve out a competitive edge for business growth. Significant expertise as a mentor and the ability to act as strategic marketing counsel. Experience in business planning and strategy development across diverse industries. Competency with digital technology and e-tailing.
Fellow of the AICD. (FAICD).
A background in Australian and Global Consumer and Retail Corporations, and experience in franchise and multi-stakeholder organisations.
International and Australian packaged goods and retail experience with a particular emphasis on innovation and growth strategies.
What boards do you sit on?
Currently, I sit on the board of Clover Corp and HGL Ltd, both ASX listed Boards, and I Chair the Nominations committee for both. I also serve as a NED on Chartered Accountants Aust/NZ, a public unlisted membership organisation. In addition, I am a Board member for Women on Boards, and AIFST (Aust Institute of Food, Science and Technology)as well as Deputy Chair of Peer Support Australia. I am the Chair of Luk Beautifood , and also serve of the advisory Board of Entropolis, an edu-tech start up.
When and why did you decide to become a director?
I left the corporate world in 2004 to begin a consultancy in strategic marketing as well as to investigate a Board career pathway, recognising it takes a long time to develop of significant portfolio of Boards.
Ultimately, I wanted to work at a high level for growth minded organisations. I wanted to utilise my strong and deep business strategy and commercial acumen as well as functional career expertise in brand, marketing communications, digital and innovation to add value at a strategic level across many varied organisations. The challenge of working with high level colleagues with varied skills and approaches to thinking, to add to my corporate experiences, motivated me to take the Board path. I enjoy the balance of applying my governance and corporate capabilities with helping to guide the strategic direction of diverse companies in interesting and divergent industries. The somewhat flexible application of time is an additional benefit of being on Boards.
What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?
I am actively searching for another medium to larger public listed, or public unlisted company, with a focus on strong customer engagement and a well defined strategic intent to grow, with an eye to the acknowledgment of technology enabled opportunities.
outline your career background.
Post a university degree, I had a lengthy marketing career in blue chip, multinational organisations, Unilever (Aust, NZ and as an ex-pat for 3 years in the UK), as well as Yum Restaurants and finally at George Weston Foods. I worked my way up from graduate level, culminating in many years as Marketing Director in the latter two organisations. Expertise in FMCG and consumer facing, retail businesses, as well as a strong understanding of franchise systems and multi stakeholder relationships.
outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?
It is less easy gaining a Board position when you come from a marketing background, as companies, lots of Directors, and a number of recruiters don’t understand how much financial capability you actually have. Marketing was seen as a “soft” skill, much like HR or Sales, when I began my journey. Acknowledgment of the marketer’s task to produce a Return on Investment wasn't widely understood or embraced.
Had I had the experience of my next role, MD or CEO then I believe that my journey would have been faster and easier. In the end, a network of strong leaders who understood the breadth of my experience, on top of the marketing capability, were a source of support. An ability to demonstrate a results-driven focus and commercial accountability at a highly strategic business level assisted my Board career development.
I told everyone I knew that I intended to become a Non-Executive Director, I undertook courses to shore up my capabilities and project stronger expertise in areas less recognised naturally through my corporate career.
I joined a NFP initially to more practically learn the ropes, and learn from an experienced, multi skilled and impressive group of fellow Board members.
Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?
Ilana Atlas. Ilana is an incredibly impressive woman, who has had a significant career, yet who is humble, and open to help others. She doesn’t self-promote; she seeks to make a difference and deliver the best results for every company she is involved with. Ilana has ultimately contributed constantly to provide strong results and robust culture to the Boards and the organisations that are fortunate to have her. Ilana also has a significant interest in supporting the community.
Cheryl Bart is also an incredible role model. Again, a recognised business leader and Director, Cheryl is highly intelligent as well as challenging, and she gives back an enormous amount to the community, helping others globally as well as locally. Cheryl manages this as well as balancing an incredible, and inspiring array of out-of-work personal challenges.
Both Ilana and Cheryl represent the type of Director and person worth aspiring to be, intelligent, balanced, giving and constantly challenging themselves. Both have been available to advise me whenever I have reached out.
Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?
I’ve had informal mentors more than formal. On reflection I recognise my first marketing boss was a very strong mentor and sponsor of my career in Unilever. Career development such as a 9 month secondment to J Walter Thompson advertising and the 3 year posting to the UK came from him and my direct boss back then, a female marketing manager. Additionally, my CEO at George Weston Foods provided enormous opportunity for me to grow and to deepen my expertise through roles and responsibilities for the total organisation outside of my functional expertise. There are many leaders now, whom I have worked with, or for, and who I remain in contact with, who are always willing to give me their time.
I have continued to seek advice, guidance and deeper friendships from colleagues and others who are interested in me and my career and continue to provide these things to me in informal settings. I find it easy to develop relationships and I naturally enjoy keeping in touch with people.
I also give back a lot to others through mentoring and help, as I am grateful for the value others have added to my career and personal journey, and wish to help others accordingly.
What’s the diversity like on your boards?
The diversity is very good. The thought mix through varied skills, as well as gender mix is good on all my Boards.
On a few throughout my Board career, I have been the first female, but I have always felt equal and welcome at each occasion, with sincere recognition of the expertise and thinking as just some of the value I add.
How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?
I have been a member since its inception. I have utilised training programmes to learn and to network.
The directory has provided me with some roles, including the role as Independent on the Gymnastics Australia Nominations Committee. WOB has encouraged me to apply for roles and I feel supported and genuinely important as a member, for them. I have made a new network of inspiring and terrific women and heard some excellent speakers. I am naturally very focussed on professional and personal learning and WOB is one aspect of how I achieve this for my own growth. Today I sit on the WOB Board, which allows me to help shape the organisation and provides a further opportunity to give back to aspiring women Directors.
Do you network strategically? Please explain how and why.
At times I do. I will reach out to people who have been, or are, involved in a Company that I am applying to join the Board of. I also keep in touch with people who I admire, who I like and who are carving out successful careers and will often ask them if they’d be prepared to be a referee at a relevant time.
Any tips for women starting out in their career?
Think it through, and have a great CV. Say “yes” to opportunities in your corporate life as often these lead to greater experience for you, as well as showing grit and an ability to diversify your capability. Find a mentor, or two, and formally work on strategies to commence or evolve you Board portfolio.
Think about who you know, and spend time learning and asking a lot of questions, formally and informally.
If people offer help, take them up on it, and show gratitude for the value they’re providing you.
Help others, and be aware that developing a Board career takes time, effort and energy and that it is a process and you have to try, and keep trying, for roles that appeal to you.
Interview published: May 2018