Jennifer Douglas: Paint a picture of your ideal portfolio and chart a path towards it

With 25 years experience in executive and legal roles in the media, technology and telco industries, Jennifer Douglas took the leap into full-time Board roles in 2016. Her advice tip for anyone thinking of doing the same? "Think about it as a career like any other and invest in it with education, research, networking and hard work."

She currently sits on the Boards of Judo Bank, GUD Holdings, Hansen Technologies, Essential Energy, St Kilda Football Club and Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation. I also sit on various committees, including being Chair of the GUD Risk Committee, Chair of the Essential Energy Regulatory Committee, Chair of the Judo Remuneration Committee and Chair of the newly formed St Kilda AFLW Committee.  I am also a Mentor in the Kilfinan Network which supports not for profit CEOs throughout Australia. 

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

I bring deep experience in driving customer centered growth and change, as well as an understanding of technology, supported by my legal, regulatory and strategy background. 

When and why did you decide to pursue Boards?

I decided to move into full time Board roles in 2016 after over twenty five years in executive and legal roles in the media, technology and telecommunications industries. I was ready for the next phase of my career and keen to leverage my experience in driving change and customer centered growth in different businesses and sectors that would be facing into disruption. I was especially interested in working with businesses that have a significant impact in the communities they serve such as energy, banking and health organisations. 

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome?

Making the transition from executive roles into board roles was initially a bit more challenging than I expected. I had served on boards and understood the governance framework, but transitioning from having day to day accountability for a business to playing a more hands off board role is quite a step change which can take some time to adjust to. Needless to say I am loving it and strive to continue to grow as a person and leader in the role. 

COVID has also thrown up significant challenges for all businesses and some tough decisions have had to be made in some such as in the sporting industry. But I have been so inspired by how every management team has responded to those challenges and worked with their boards with a people first approach. I am looking forward to finally meeting some Board members who I have only met over Zoom through this time! 

What do you most like about your Board roles?

I love learning about different businesses and industries, and getting to know many interesting, clever and wonderful people. I also love helping those businesses be the best they can be in my role as a director by creating long term strategy and plans, by facing into challenges and working with a team for the benefit of all stakeholders and the community. 

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

I have had many wonderful bosses and mentors on my journey. More recently, I was lucky to be part of the AICD Chair's Program and Bruce Brook was my mentor. He helped me enormously by providing a sounding board on my boardroom approach and how to consider opportunities when they arise, as well as connecting me with some fantastic people. This also inspired the establishment of a similar mentor program at St Kilda for our AFLW athletes who have to juggle work and football careers!

How has WOB helped you on your board journey? 

WOB provides me with a weekly update on some of the key issues affecting women and board directors as well as fantastic job opportunities on the site. I also love the way WOB creates a forum for women to come together to support each other and help those starting a board career. Thankyou to the team for inspiring and empowering us all to shoot for the stars. 

What advice do you have for other women starting out in their Board journey?

Think about it as a career like any other and invest in it with education, research, networking and hard work. Take the time to understand what your value proposition is as a director, what you would bring to a board and what roles you are interested in. Paint a picture of what your ideal portfolio looks like and chart a path towards it.  But be open to all opportunities that come your way as you never know exactly where the opportunities will come and some of the most unexpected for me have led to the best experiences.

I had not considered joining a football club Board and it has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

And take the time to have fun along the way. Get to know your fellow directors because it is not only good for the soul but essential if you end up in the trenches together.  

You can find Jennifer on LinkedIn here