Mary Sue Rogers
Mary Sue is a seasoned executive with more than 30 years of leadership positions from CEO to Partner in global professional services organisations such as Talent2, IBM and PwC. She has a strong focus on business strategy and transformation and is considered an expert in the HR and Talent market, with significant experience and track record in strategy, outsourcing, consulting, technology services, mergers and acquisitions. Mary Sue sits on the HR Committee of the Board of Save the Children Australia and provides pro bono consulting and serves on the board of a newly merged Diving and Travel Services organisation. She has her blog at SaveHR.com and is a guest writer for several organisations including Shared Services Outsourcing Network.
What boards do you sit on?
I am fortunate enough to be a NED on two boards – Women on Boards Australia and Save the Children Australia. I also sit on several advisory boards, one in the leisure and tourism industry, and two in HR Technology.
When and why did you decide to become a director?
After being a senior executive for over 20 years, I wanted to use my skills and expertise “on the other side of the table”. Providing governance, oversight and strategic direction to CEO’s and their executives and helping ensure that the executives’ actions and direction are in the best interest of the stakeholders.
What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?
Short term I want to do the best I can for the boards that I am on, in the longer term I aspire to be on a larger board, ideally multinational and listed.
outline your career background.
I have been a Partner in PwC (actually Coopers & Lybrand), a global GM in IBM and Talent2. I have been fortunate to have led teams in every part of the world and learn from some incredibly talented senior executives in some of the largest businesses in the world. Today I am a “gig worker” doing NED roles, coaching and consulting in areas I enjoy, strategy, M&A in both commercial and not for profit. I have also invested in myself with a strong focus on continuing education through Women on Boards, AICD and INSEAD International Directors programme.
outline the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?
Getting on a board is a little more challenging than I initially thought it would be. After years of very senior executive experience I felt that it would be easy to get on board, but well that was not the case. If I could provide any advice, it would be to start early to prepare for board roles as they will take longer to achieve than you will think, unless you are fortunate. And it is still in many ways who you know and not what you know.
Are there any directors/leaders you look up to?
There are many that I admire, men and women, almost too many to name. A couple of great leaders (in my humble opinion) would include Senator Penny Wong for her championing of diversity, including women in leadership. Ronni Kahn as founder and CEO of OzHarvest, for her ever-present tenacity and passion, to take on the government and others to fight food waste. The over 100 women at the Women’s College at the University of Sydney who on 9 October 1901 agreed to create The Women’s Club to fill some of the needs of intellectual and academic women. Ruth Medd for her deep passion for great governance and the role women play. These are just a few examples.
Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?
I have had great mentors and coaching – including my first boss where I learned about succession planning - I would never move to the next role unless I could identify a successor. I learned how to listen to clients, write and present from great senior partners at C&L and PwC, and wonderful coaches that allowed me to survive the transition to IBM, and senior executives at Talent2 that helped me be successful in Australia and New Zealand. I have been very lucky to have dozens of mentors and coaches that I still reach out to.
What’s the diversity like on your boards?
For the two boards where I am a NED, I would have to say the diversity is mixed. For Women on Board, we have an all-female group so not that diverse. Save the Children is close to 50/50. On the advisory boards, I sit, I am the only woman. Not sure what you can make from those statistics.
How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?
Being part of Women on Boards has been a significant contributor to both my personal development and network. From Director Lunches on significant topics for NED’s through to “Getting Started Workshop” which I took when I started considering board roles.
Do you network strategically? Please explain how and why.
I spend a lot of time networking, and more importantly, I enjoy networking. I participate in several networks such as AICD, WOB, INSEAD alumni, PwC alumni, and some technology-specific ones around HR Technology and start-ups. And I have a group of ex-colleagues and teammates that meet up to compare notes and have a few drinks.
Any tips for women starting out in their career?
If you do think you want to be a non-executive director, then start early – get on an NFP or charity board, get some experience. And network – who you know can be far more important than what you know.
Interview published: June 2018