Legal professional and former diplomat Diana Nestorovska on negotiating the world of Boards

 

Board and legal professional, and former Australian diplomat, Diana Nestorovska speaks four languages (English, Arabic, French and Macedonian) and currently serves on the Boards of Melba Support Services and South Gippsland Water Corporation. She is also a member of La Trobe University’s Human Research Ethics Committee. She has previously served on the Board of Family Planning Victoria and the University of Wollongong’s University Council.

What are the areas of expertise you feel you bring to your boards?

I have gained significant experience across diverse sectors and industries during my career, including the disability support services, e-commerce, government, health, university, and water industries. My areas of expertise are in governance, risk, and compliance, and working with government at the international, state and federal levels.  

When and why did you decide to pursue boards? 

My Board career can be divided into two phases. The first phase was my election as the student representative to the University of Wollongong’s governing body, the University Council. I enjoyed my time at university and wanted to participate in mapping the strategic direction of my alma mater.  

After graduation, I spent several years living and working in Canberra and the Middle East as a part of my role with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. When I returned to Australia, I decided to gain experience in the corporate world by working as a commercial lawyer, however I felt that I had more to offer my clients than the strict provision of legal advice.

I have always been a “big picture” thinker and like to analyse legal problems within strategic and operational contexts.

I considered volunteering my time for organisations that aligned with my personal and professional interests and looked for non-legal roles to that effect. Having had my previous board experience with the University of Wollongong made it easier for me to consider serving on a not-for-profit board. As luck would have it, a board position with Family Planning Victoria came up while I was on maternity leave, and I decided to apply. To my surprise I was interviewed and invited to join the board, and I haven’t looked back since! 

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in your Board career?

Trying to juggle my day job with my Board and family commitments is challenging. The COVID pandemic was particularly difficult, especially without childcare during Melbourne’s long lockdowns. 

That said, the pandemic did force Boards to embrace technology and adopt virtual meetings, which have in some ways been a blessing in disguise for me. The ability to participate virtually, combined with my own flexible working arrangements for my day job, have helped me to maintain ‘the juggle’. I am also fortunate in that I have a supportive husband and employer. 

What do you most like about your Board roles? 

I enjoy creating a purposeful career where I can cross-fertilise ideas within my diverse portfolio, drawing from the various industries I have worked in and the various legal and non-legal roles I have had. I have never enjoyed being ‘pigeon-holed’ in my career. I also like aligning myself with organisations that serve the public interest and share my sense of community. 

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

I have had mentors both in my Board career and my legal career through formal, structured mentoring programs. In 2018 I was lucky enough to apply and be awarded a Victorian Government scholarship for the Women’s Board Leadership Program, which had a mentoring component.

I also recently participated in the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia’s mentoring program for in-house lawyers. My mentors have been a great sounding board for me as I have navigated the challenges of building my Board and legal careers, and I am still in touch with them even after the conclusion of the formal mentoring programs.  

Has WOB helped you on your Board journey? 

Definitely. When you start your Board career it can be difficult to know where to look for Board roles and how to apply. One of my current roles was advertised through the Women on Boards website. 

Any words of advice for other women starting out in their board journey?  

Don’t talk yourself out of applying for Board roles that interest you, even if you think you don’t have the experience. Spend some time figuring out your unique value proposition, make sure it’s front and centre of your application and prepare a Board CV (which is different to the standard CV). It is a competitive environment to secure a board role and you need to persevere. 

Find out more about Diana on her LinkedIn profile HERE