Start small, dream big: How MedTech executive Sue Hansford secured her first NED role


Women on Boards member Sue Hansford has 30 years’ experience in the medical technology industry, is Managing Director for Australia/New Zealand of a listed US medical device company, Integra Lifesciences, focused on the neurosurgery market. Sue is also a NED with board experience in the not-for-profit sector.

What boards or committees are you currently on?

I hold two NED Board positions - both of which I saw through WOB’s Jobs Board. Two years ago I was appointed to the board of Road Trauma Support Services Victoria - a not-for-profit organisation contributing to the safety and wellbeing of road users through education, support and counselling. This was my first Board appointment, after completing my AICD Company Directors Course. I was also recently appointed to the board of The Bridge, an NDIS disability service provider.

At my stage in my career I believe in giving some of my time and expertise to organisations that provide service and support for the community. This is my way of giving back.

What are the areas of expertise you feel you bring to your boards?

Commercial leadership for sustainable and profitable growth, strategic marketing and business planning, M&A projects, change management and culture transformation, quality compliance and risk management.

When and why did you decide to pursue boards?

Around four years ago, after I was invited to attend a focus group on corporate culture and engagement, I spoke to a few of the attendees about their Board experience which piqued my interest. I started researching what I needed to do and what skills and experience Boards were looking for. This led me to undertake the Company Directors Course, and pursue some applications for NED positions. Shortly after I was successful with the RTSSV NED position.

What challenges and hurdles have you had to overcome?

Getting that first NED position is the toughest. Approaching the application and preparation like a job interview worked for me. I knew it may take a series of attempts before being successful, but it made sense to very carefully read the brief, research the organization, making sure I was aligned with their values, purpose and mission.

The passion and honesty with which you can describe what value you will bring to the board will always shine through.  

Once serving as an active Board member, there is a steep learning curve to understand the lingo, operational and financial aspects as well as the culture of the organization. The board meeting cadence, flow and protocols differ between organisations, so it takes a little bit of time to settle in and feel comfortable and open to share your views with your fellow board members.

What do you most like about being on a board?

Contributing to the vision, strategy, financial viability and growth of such worthwhile social enterprises for our community. It’s also a personal and professional growth opportunity. I’m constantly learning, and find my Board appointments add depth and diversity of thought to the way I approach my career role, and vice versa.

How has WOB helped you on your board journey?

Women on Boards is a great source of information on changes to legislation and new considerations to bring to the Board. I always scan the Board Positions, and WOB is where I found the openings for both my Board appointments.

What advice do you have for others starting out in their board journey?

  • Persevere. 
  • Ensure you believe in the organization’s mission before applying.
  • Read what skills and experience the Board is looking for – can you deliver, and do you have a story that demonstrates alignment? 
  • Start small and dream big!
You can find Sue on LinkedIn here