Laura Jeffery

MME_Jeffery_Laura_2.jpgLaura is a qualified accountant distinctively skilled in strategic financial management, asset life-cycle planning, stakeholder engagement, governance and financial modelling. She has demonstrated success in a diverse range of roles across Finance, Remuneration & Benefits, Maintenance, Major Projects and Analysis & Improvement within the world’s largest resources companies including BHP and South32. She is the Managing Director of Tundra Resource Analytics, Non-Executive Director of Playgroup Australia and Chairperson of Seagrass Early Learning on the remote island community of Groote Eylandt, NT. Laura is a devoted mother to two young children and is passionate about early childhood development and community participation.

What boards do you sit on currently?

Playgroup Australia, Non-Executive Director and Chair, Finance Risk & Audit Committee
Alyangula Daycare Incorporated, Chairperson

When and why did you decide to become a director?

I attended a WOB Getting Started workshop in Darwin in June 2017 as part of my professional development for my role on the committee of Alyangula Daycare, an incorporated association in the remote community of Alyangula where I live. The WOB Getting Started course opened my eyes to the breadth of opportunities available (as founder Claire Braund preaches, “there is a board for everyone”), the value I could personally add to the boardroom, as well as the development and growth that I could gain from a directorship.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

In the short term I want to continue to grow in my role of Non-Executive Director and Chair of the Finance, Risk & Audit Committee of Playgroup Australia. As a board we’re in a period of transformation and navigating that path as a director is fantastic experience for me. In the medium to long term I’d like to take on additional directorships in progressively larger organisations. In addition to Early Childhood, I’m particularly interested in the Resources, Agriculture and Real Estate industries.

Please outline your career background.

I am the Managing Director of Tundra Resource Analytics, a consulting firm that provides asset strategy optimisation, data analytics, forensic analysis and major project cost controls among other financial services to companies in the Resources industry.  I am a CPA Accountant and prior to launching my company I held various roles across Finance, Maintenance, Process & Logistics, Benefits & Remuneration and Capital Projects for the world’s largest mining companies, in multiple locations and commodities in Canada and Australia.

Outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?

I think that age can be a hurdle in applying for board roles - I was 33 when I was appointed to the Playgroup Australia national board and there were two primary hurdles I needed to overcome to get there. The first was my own confidence – I had moments of self-doubt in terms of my competitiveness for the role and the interview process was significantly different from any I’d previously experienced. I leaned heavily on the expertise and coaching of Claire Braund and a few other members of my network during this time. The second hurdle is convincing the existing board to focus on your experience rather than your age.  Having a professional board-specific CV that highlights your governance, leadership and strategy skills rather than specific job titles and years of experience is absolutely critical. I’m also very fortunate that Playgroup Australia genuinely values diversity – in experience, background, age and gender among other variables. I would recommend, rather than applying for any board role, target a board that seeks out diversity in order to strengthen itself and that is aligned to your specific values and interests. 

Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?

Karen Wood, Non Executive Director of South32 and Chairman of the BHP Billiton Foundation. I’ve had the good fortune of working with Karen and her leadership, poise, and the precision of her language is something I’ve admired and long tried to emulate. She is one of very few female Directors of ASX50 companies and has had an incredible impact through her chairmanship the BHP Billiton Foundation among a number of other foundations and organisations.  In my professional career, Rob Jackson and Laura Tyler are two leaders I look up to and that stand out in terms of their integrity, approachability, family values and commitment to genuine diversity. 

Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?

Two standouts among many influential mentors are Leigh Bigg and Gerard Bond. Leigh Bigg is an HR executive, inspirational mother and my go-to sounding board. She is second to none in terms of her strategic vision and her ability to make things happen. Leigh has supported me selflessly throughout my professional and board career with constant advice, friendship and by paving the way for me as the Chairman of the childcare committee. She provides a powerful demonstration of how effective and wonderful it can be when women support each other as opposed to compete with one another. Gerard Bond (Finance Director, Newcrest) has been an invaluable mentor and sponsor. I am staggered by his support, his generosity with his time, and his considered, honest mentorship. He revived my professional ambition and drive at a time I was struggling and has been an on-going source of support since. He showed me the criticality of genuinely connecting with a sponsor and has inspired me to pay it forward in terms of helping develop others in their careers. 

What’s the diversity like on your boards?  

As Chairperson of Alyangula Daycare Inc., we’ve specifically sought to fill management committee roles with a diverse range of skills, age representation, family status and gender and have targeted very specific skillsets to strengthen the leadership of our organisation. We’re currently 60/40 Female/Male, 60/40 Parent/Non- Parent, and comprised of two Accountants, an Engineer, an Occupational Therapist and a Maintenance Superintendent. Each role offers a unique skillset, network of contacts and perspective. Playgroup Australia is also a skills-based board and, as such, is very diverse in terms of age representation and professional backgrounds.  We are not as strong in terms of gender diversity - as a non-profit in the Early Childhood Development industry, our board naturally skews to female representation (8 of 9 of our current directors are female) - however we are definitely doing our bit for female representation on boards. 

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

WOB has been critical at every step of my journey to the boardroom – from introducing me to the possibility through the Getting Started Course, to personal assistance with board CV development, to coaching and support through the application stage, to providing access to resources to further my development in my board roles, and finally, providing an invaluable network of other inspiring, like-minded women across every industry. 

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

It is never too early to start building skills in your professional career that will set you up for success in a board role. Seek a professional qualification. Build finance skills (irrespective of your background – every board member is responsible for the financial sustainability of the organisation), get involved in local committees, find mentors and sponsors and invest in those relationships, be strategic about the content of your roles and focus on the opportunities for growth as opposed to specific job titles.