Shan Welham


shan.jpgShan is a skilled and experienced technology manager and leader. Shan’s career has been characterised by management of major outsourcing contracts and telecommunications networks for large Australian corporates, both on the vendor and client side, and team leadership of communications professionals. Shan is currently both the Head of Network Services and the Commercial Manager for NAB’s Telstra Network Services Agreement (NSA). Shan spent almost 14 years working for Optus in a range of roles, including leading the commercials for ANZ’s Super Regional Network (SRN) and finally leading Optus Business in Tasmania. Shan has been responsible for strategic development and implementation of large IT programs, commercial and contract negotiations, operational change initiatives and leading governance frameworks. Shan is a confident speaker and communicator, with an ability to influence and inspire allegiance from operations through to executive management. Shan is committed to assisting the community through directorship, particularly in health services, currently as the Secretary to the board of Heartbeat Victoria’s Bendigo branch and recently as a Non-Executive Director for the Maldon Hospital. Her commitment to driving outcomes for Heartbeat recently resulted in an invitation to join their state board.

What boards do you sit on?

Heartbeat Bendigo and Maldon Hospital

When and why did you decide to become a director?

Early in my tenure with NAB about 5-6 years ago. I was invited to participate in NAB’s Board Ready program and after speaking with directors such as Linda Nicholls and Marian Macleod, I thought that aiming for a board portfolio as a career move with longevity and flexibility was right for me.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?

Short term – learn as much as I can as a director, be a valuable and active board member and give back to my community through serving on local boards.  Medium term – expand my knowledge and range of industries that I serve on boards for with a view to supporting a long term strategy of moving from executive roles in Technology to a board portfolio career.

Outline your career background.

I started in food retail and hospitality when still in my home region of the Sunshine Coast.  I moved into Technology when I secured a role with Optus in Brisbane.  I held various roles with Optus across 13.5 years, including running the Carrier & Vendor Management group for the Managed Services arm in Optus Business and leading the international ANZ Super Regional Network contract.  My side hustle through that time was as a writer and then QLD state editor for a national music website.  In 2012 my peer at ANZ recommended me to NAB and I’ve happily been in NAB Technology for over 6 years, recently promoted to Head of and caretaker GM of Networks.  In 2017 I was appointed as Secretary of Heartbeat Bendigo and in July 2018 I was appointed as Director on the Maldon Hospital Board.

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

With the help of my education and networking contacts through the NAB Board Ready program and Women On Boards, I’ve experienced no hurdles getting onto a board as yet.  Yet.  I know it will come!  Being an Office Bearer in a very local charitable organisation which has been running for decades has had its challenges, mostly to do with a demographic of membership that doesn’t like change, trying new things or new people running the organisation.  Smiling, listening, doing my best and soldiering on has been the best way to overcome the naysayers.

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

Paul O’Sullivan set the bar high for me as CEO and now Chairman of Optus.  POS was both inspirational and aspirational, always reaching for better, and it delivered results.  An intensely private person, it didn’t matter at all that we didn’t know much about him, we didn’t need to.  POS’ authenticity and integrity as a leader shone through in every speaking engagement he had with staff.  Unlike many of today’s leaders, POS focussed on the job at hand and the good of the company rather than promoting himself.  
I learned a great deal from Linda Nicholls and Sheena Wilson, and I also look to Wendy McCarthy AOM as a role model, although when I introduced myself at a function and told her of my board aspirations, she told me I was too young.  I laughed and accepted it as a challenge.

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

Yes, mentors and sponsors and also detractors and challengers who teach you what you are made of.  The worthy adversaries have taught me just as much as, if not more than, those who sought to guide through encouragement and support.

What’s the diversity (gender & other) like on your boards?

Fairly equal, I’m pleased to report!

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

Getting Started and WOB networking events introduced me to fantastic women who inspired me to just give it a shot.  The position postings, and particularly the Snap! emails have been the catalyst for me applying to Heartbeat and the Maldon Hospital, it was very true that the positions and I were a perfect fit for each other.

Any tips for women starting out in their career?

Always do what you say you will and speak up early if it turns out you can’t.  Integrity in business is everything.  Be a learner, be curious, challenge your thinking. Train yourself to be commercially astute – commercial acumen is a given in men and those soft skills they try to teach women to use to get ahead don’t mean anything if you don’t understand the financials and can’t strategise accordingly.  Servant leadership delivers consistent and far-reaching rewards: your people are the foundation on which you stand, they are your most important asset, treat them accordingly, it will be worth it.