Professor (Emeritus) Julie Cotter
Julie Cotter is a Non-Executive Director with experience in the health, education and agribusiness sectors. She is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Southern Queensland and has expertise in accounting and finance, agribusiness, ESG, and research and innovation. Her executive experience includes Head of Department and Research Centre Director roles. Julie is a Chartered Accountant with a track record of ensuring strong governance and risk oversight for large public organisations including Hospital and Health Service Boards. She is keen to secure an ASX or national board role and is currently on the Australian Agricultural Company (AA Co; ASX: AAC) Scientific Advisory Board where she brings a commercial lens to innovation and technology projects.
What boards do you sit on?
Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA), Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Australian Agricultural Company (AA Co) Scientific Advisory Board, Qld Dept of Education Audit and Risk Management Committee
When and why did you decide to become a director?
I decided to commence the transition from a full-time executive and research position to a non-executive director career early in 2017. This decision was based on previous positive experiences with board roles and a desire to move into less academic, industry based roles where I could make contributions to a range of organisations aligned with my values.
What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?
My current director roles keep me employed about half-time and I’d like to add another one or two board roles to my portfolio. Ideally, a portfolio of three substantial board roles, including national or ASX boards, would be my medium-term aspiration.
outline your career background.
The majority of my career has been spent in University academic and executive roles including Head of Department and Research Centre Director. My core areas of expertise are accounting, finance, agribusiness, ESG, and research. I ceased full time employment at the end of 2017 and was awarded the honorary title of Professor Emeritus.
outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?
I have found it challenging to move from an academic career into a board career since some people tend to think of academics as not having relevant practical skills and experience. I have learnt to focus on my executive and board achievements to demonstrate that I have these skills. Living in regional Queensland has also provided some challenges and I am working on developing networks in Sydney and Melbourne.
Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?
I have been fortunate to work with some exceptional board chairs. In particular Dr Mary Corbett provided a solid grounding in governance and board processes as part of my first board appointment with the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service. What a fantastic learning experience!
Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?
While I haven’t had a formal mentor or sponsor, there have been a couple of people prepared to chat over coffee and help me understand what director roles entail and how to go about getting onto boards. There’s so much to learn when you are starting out and I found these conversations helpful.
What’s the diversity like on your boards?
My experience on public organisation boards has been very good in terms of diversity with at least 40% women. The private boards that I have been involved in are much less diverse with only one or no other females besides me.
How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?
I have been a subscriber of WOB for several years and have participated in some of the courses offered. I enjoy reading the weekly emails and advertised board positions and have applied for quite a few of them. Fortunately I have been successful in two. Ruth Medd has been particularly helpful when I have called to enquire about advertised positions and in providing feedback on my director profile. I’m about to embark on the WOBSX mentoring program and looking forward to it!
Any tips for women starting out in their career?
Networks are really important, even for advertised positions. If someone on the board knows you and is familiar with your work and your character, that makes it easier for them to decide whether to consider you for an interview. Also, before submitting an application for an advertised position, have a conversation with the nominated contact person so they are expecting your application. This also helps you to decide whether you are a good fit for what they are looking for, and if so, to make sure that you have the correct focus in your covering letter.