Linda Bracken

Non Executive Director

Linda Bracken is a leading digital strategy consultant and talent coach.

With a career spanning over 30 years in the media and digital sector, Linda has led some of the most innovative areas in the ABC as the Manager of triple j, the Head of Content and Digital for ABC Radio across Australia and as the Head of Audience Strategy and Digital Experience for the organisation.

She left the ABC in 2018 to start her own consultancy and also to undertake a Board Career. She works with organisations on digital strategy and customer/audience acquisition and also as a coach to CEO’s and Directors to help them develop engaging public presentation skills.

What boards do you sit on?

The Australian Horse Industry Council and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. 

When and why did you decide to become a director?

A factor in my decision to leave ABC last year, was a desire to create a portfolio career as a consultant and to be able to contribute as a Board Director. 
One of my best mates, Liesl Tesch, multiple Gold medal Paralympian and now a member of the NSW State Parliament said something to me many years ago, and that was “to do something that scares you – every week” and well making this career leap, was certainly that!
After many years in the one organisation as a Senior Executive, I wanted a more flexible approach to work in terms of when, what and where I was working. I had the most amazing career at the ABC, working with some of the loveliest and most talented people both in content areas and in digital. However, being a country girl at heart, each Monday morning when I had to leave my farm in the dark to drive to the city to work for the week, grew harder and harder. So being able to establish a Board and a consultancy career has given me the best of all worlds, more time at my farm to ride my horses (I now have time to compete again after 30 years) and I also get to spend time in Bondi where I live in Sydney and often get to work in  Melbourne which is one of my favourite cities (and not entirely because they have the best clothes and jewellery stores.)
It’s early days yet, but I rarely wonder if I’ve made the wrong decision. 
The other appealing aspect for me in being a non-executive director is being able to give back to areas that are important to me such as the Horse industry and the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation – Australia’s oldest community-based HIV organisation. I wrote an article on Linked In recently about my family connection to the BGF. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/joining-board-bobby-goldsmith-foundation-one-you-bracken-gaicd/
I think it’s important to be able to give back in some way by sharing skills that you have built up over a career.    
Finally, it has introduced me to a whole network of fabulous people outside my previous media/music/digital industry world. People who have done amazing things, lived amazing lives and I love learning from them

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

It’s early days yet, it’s only been 6 months since I have started down this path, so I am hardly an expert.
At first it seems pretty confusing about where you can find out about these opportunities and how the whole thing works.
The statistics show that it’s still clearly a bit of an old boys club in terms of ASX Boards. Organisations such as WOB and the AICD are obviously working on changing this, but you get the impression that it is still very much about who you know. And I think this is where women continue to be at a disadvantage, the traditional ways of networking aren’t especially appealing or even available to women. Also, I think women are generally less likely to be as comfortable in putting themselves out there as assertively as men.
One thing that I have done has been to seek the counsel of some of those “old boys” (I don’t think they would mind me calling them that) that I have met during my career – people like former Managing Directors and Chairman of the ABC and others, who are extremely experienced. Without exception, they have been very encouraging and also very generous with their time and advice, all of which is very confidence building. 
One bit of advice they gave me was to get the qualifications. Do the AICD Company Directors course and complete the assessments. A lot of people I did the course with didn’t bother to do the assessments and exams which I think seems like a waste of both time and money.
Another piece of advice from one was to join Women On Boards (which I had already done before I left the ABC.)

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

So I have mentioned some above. I have always been lucky to have the best bosses at the ABC, and other senior people around me there who have been mentors. I have a broadcast mentor in the US, Valerie Geller who has been a major influence on my career for 20 years. I have also had a couple of Executive Coaches in my career that have been pivotal, even life changing. The work I did with my most recent coach, Rebecca Craske last year was instrumental to me making the decision to change the course of my career and importantly, to have the confidence to do it. I can’t recommend the idea of an executive coach more highly. 

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

Although I didn’t find either of my positions directly via WOB’s, the first thing they did for me was demystify the whole concept of being on a board. Information on the website and looking at the vacancies posted online, gave me some initial understanding of the area. The week after I left the ABC, I attended a one-day session run by Ruth Medd which was both energising but also sobering. It gave me some real insight into what is involved and your responsibilities as a Board Director. I love that they are fierce advocates to increase the amount of female representation on boards. 

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

Don’t be hesitant asking people for advice, I have found people to be very generous with their time and advice.
Work out what you have to contribute to a board that might give you a leg up – in my case, where there are often a lot of highly qualified lawyers and finance people applying for boards, my digital & media experience sets me apart, so it’s important to be able to communicate what unique skills you can bring.
Get qualifications like the AICD CDC. 
Join WOB so you have access to information, vacancies, education and events.
Build up your experience by applying for appropriate level board positions – it seems unlikely that your first board position will be an ASX 100 company.
Support other women to succeed.