Nicki Bowman

Non-Executive Director

MME_Bowman_Nicki.jpgNon-executive director with blue-chip senior management experience across a number of disciplines. Strong focus on risk and governance built on several years of commercial and corporate legal practice, first in a top 10 law firm and later in-house with BHP and BlueScope Steel.

What boards do you sit on currently?

Dress for Success Sydney Inc and Football South Coast Limited

When and why did you decide to become a director?

I joined my first Board in 2008 (Blackthorn Resources) and the second (Football South Coast) shortly thereafter. Board work presented a way to do several things:

  • Work more flexibly which allowed me to be more present for my first child (born 2009)
  • Combine my legal, strategic and business expertise and work at a higher level; and
  • In the case of my NFP work, make a significant contribution to issues I am passionate about

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

At present I am happy to continue to work with my current NFP Boards. My career direction has shifted to speaking and writing about leadership, so I am not actively seeking commercial Board positions – but never say never! I see my future engagement as working with Boards to ensure that the leadership of their organisations is equipped to deal with the challenges of a rapidly changing economic and workforce landscape.

Outline your career background.

I started out as a lawyer after completing a B.Ec/LLB at University of Sydney, working in  private practice for several years, focused on corporate and commercial law. I then moved in-house to BHP Coal, then to BHP Steel and while there transitioned into executive roles. I have also had two stints in executive roles in the finance industry, most recently with Pillar.

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

The primary challenge is the fact that most Board roles are still not advertised, and are filled from existing Board members’ networks. It can be a very “closed circle”. WOB has done a lot to start to shift this culture and illuminate available vacancies through their jobs board.

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

Not specifically. I admire anyone who is prepared to risk their role by taking a stand, and who insists on driving the right sort of corporate culture.

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

I have rarely had mentors but there have been three critical points in my career where someone has “tapped me on the shoulder”. This is when real shifts in my career occurred – my first non-legal managerial role, my first executive role and my first Board appointment. None of those roles were advertised, so those were instances where sponsorship was the only path to them.

What’s the diversity like on your boards?

On Football South Coast we have since inception had a very gender-balanced Board. Perhaps surprising in a male-dominated sport, and very unlike many of our peers or indeed the various State Federations.
Dress for Success Sydney Inc has just appointed its first male director in recognition of the fact that though our mission is solely about women, our governance need not be.

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

It was wonderful to finally feel there was a critical mass of like-minded and supportive women in one place! I have acted as a mentor in the WOB program, and also as a syndicate adviser for the Next Gen program, and have been very inspired by the calibre and commitment of the young women I met. It goes without saying that the advocacy work of WOB has done much to elevate the issue to the benefit of all of us seeking Board appointments, and it’s always great to see the success stories being shared.

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

A couple of key things – first – know that you have time. I’m more than 25 years into my career and it’s shifted so many times, and is now shifting again. If you feel you are on the wrong path, it is NEVER too late to change or to throw caution to the wind and try new things. My second piece of advice would be to always be really, really clear on your values and what’s important to you. A short term career boost in not worth a lessening of yourself, your principles and the things you think are most important in life. Finally – don’t forget to keep investing in yourself. Many big companies are fantastic at providing development and learning for their people, but those who are self-employed and in smaller organisations often miss out. So read. Watch TED talks. Listen to podcasts. Really importantly, sign up for relevant courses, conferences and seminars. Not only will you keep stimulating your thought processes, but you will meet some amazing people – you never know where your next Board seat is coming from.

Interview published: June 2018