Early start: How Lisa Vitaris secured her first Board role

Lisa Vitaris is an experienced marketing leader with particular expertise in high growth acquisition, digital technology and branding across financial services, automotive and travel industries. She is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Tyro, an Australian payments provider and business bank. She recently secured her first Board role with Engineers Australia after the role was advertised on WOB.

 

You recently got your first Board role. Congratulations!

Yes, Engineers Australia is my first Board role. I joined  Engineers Australia in October 2021 and serve on their People & Culture and Audit & Risk Committees. Engineers Australia is the peak body for engineering with members in 120+ countries which exists to society through great engineering. 

While I have a strong affinity for software engineers given my experience in FinTech, I am the only non-engineer on the board, and instead offer deep expertise in marketing, digital technology and branding. I believe engineers have an incredible opportunity to change the world for the better and it’s exciting to be a part of this. I also have advisory roles for the University of Technology, Sydney’s Advanced MBA Students and for The Marketing Academy’s Alumni Council.

What are the areas of expertise you feel you bring to the Boardroom?

Given my marketing and advertising background (working on brands such as Aussie Home Loans, CMC Markets, Hyundai, Tourism Tasmania, Bankwest, Volvo, and LG) I offer deep expertise in high growth acquisition, digital technology and branding. From my executive role, I bring broader experience across strategy, finance, risk and people and culture. A large part of my career has been in the financial services industry and in high-growth companies, so risk in particular is an area I am well-versed in and passionate about, along with scaling businesses from start-up to scale-up and beyond.

When and why did you decide to pursue Boards?

Thanks to a scholarship with The Marketing Academy, a not-for-profit organisation developing leadership capability in talented marketers, I received free executive coaching and eight mentors, many of whom were CEOs and CMOs and served on several boards.

Whilst previously I felt a Board role was out of reach at this stage in my career, I was encouraged to pursue the opportunity now and not wait until later in life.

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing a Board role?

Finding the right role in the first place did take quite a long time. I wanted to ensure my experience would be a good match and needed to find a role that did not require previous board experience. Time commitments can be tricky when board meetings and management meetings intersect, but in general I found flexibility on both sides.

What do you most like about being on a Board?

I love being able to contribute to strategy and core areas of focus, knowing that collectively with the whole board and management, we are making a big difference to the engineering profession and hence advancing society.

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

I’d like to specifically call out and thank Belinda Rowe, NED for Temple & Webster, 3P Learning, Sydney Swans, HT&E, and Soprano Design and NSW Chair Advisory Board of SecondBite. Belinda was one of my mentors at The Marketing Academy, and went above and beyond to encourage me to start my board career early and to join Women on Boards. In addition, she shared a comprehensive list of questions to consider before selecting a board role which was incredibly handy. 

How has WOB helped you on your board journey?

For me, the most valuable part was the jobs listing which is where I found my Engineers Australia role. I also really value the Women on Boards open forum as I am able to learn from so many other experienced board directors about topical issues and opportunities.

What are the most useful skills you have gained which have helped in your Board career?

  • Confidence to speak up is critical – particularly raising a potentially controversial position.

  • Brevity – make every word count.

  • Stakeholder prioritisation – thinking about matters from all different angles to ensure the best possible outcome for all.

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

  • Consider advisory roles as a starting point.

  • Reach out to at least one person with board experience and ask for their advice and support.

  • Do your research – how to prepare a board CV and board cover letter, how to prepare for board interviews, clearly understanding the difference between management and board responsibilities, etc.

  • Check board role job boards regularly and scan for those that match your skill set and are open to someone with management experience only.

  • Learn quickly – absorb as much as you can from others on your board and from the wider industry, including formal training when possible.

  • Plan your time – work out how you can best balance all of your commitments and ensure you have enough time to contribute to your new board role.

  • Pay it forward when you can and lift up others.

​What can you tell us about you that others might not know?

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to over 110 countries (all prior to COVID) and in Kyrgyzstan, on my world travels, I decided to launch an environmental, sustainable travel initiative, 10 Pieces. 10 Pieces encourages travellers to pick up 10 pieces of litter and enables travellers to collectively make a difference. 

For my initiative, and thanks to my inaugural partner, World Expeditions, I was awarded a ‘Hero of Travel’ in 2018 by The Sydney Morning Herald. Outside of my travels, I love a good adventure, rock climbing cliffs hundreds of metres tall, hiking, caving, and attempting to ice climb.

You can view Lisa's LinkedIn profile HERE