26 June 2013

First impressions of the Emerging Leaders Program

Photo: BOSS AFR Emerging Leaders
I was largely unaware of the Emerging Leaders Program until I was kindly offered an invitation by the Business School to attend the most recent networking event, which centred on an interactive Q&A session with Sue Cato – one of Australia’s top-tier corporate communications experts.

Sue Cato’s reputation as one of the most influential businesswomen in Australia promised a fascinating Q&A session. Sue’s talk was engaging and interesting, and it was invaluable for someone such as myself, right at the beginning of my career, to have the opportunity to listen to Sue explain how she became who she is today, and why she made the choices she did along the way.

Prior to the event, I assumed that there would be quite a few students like myself there, but once I’d arrived, I quickly realised that the vast majority were established professionals. In fact, a couple of people saw my University of Sydney Business School nametag and assumed I was an academic, not a student!

It’s quite rare that I get to attend a networking event that isn’t full of students or new graduates, and I therefore found the opportunity to talk to more experienced professionals both refreshing and interesting.

Nobody minded that I was a student, and they were eager both to impart their wisdom, and to talk to me about today’s student experience. Perhaps because of the nature of the people in the room, everybody was also highly approachable and eager to meet one another, which made for a comfortable networking experience.

One of the strongest insights I gained from the evening was that it’s very rare for people to be able predict what they’ll be doing one or two decades down the track, in terms of their career. University students are particularly prone to plotting their future career paths within the context of their current studies and immediate ambitions, and it was really interesting to talk to a wide range of people at varying stages in their careers, and learn about their career paths and how different their jobs are to the expectations they had five, ten or even twenty years ago.

The highlight of the evening, though, was definitely the Q&A with Sue Cato. To get the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of someone who has been so successful and influential throughout their career was fantastic.

Hearing her talk about the various decisions she’s made throughout her career, and what drove her to make those decisions was incredibly interesting. What was particularly valuable from my perspective was being able to gain a little insight into how someone such as Sue sees the world. She talked quite a lot about her early childhood and the remarkable things she achieved from a young age, and what really spoke to me was the clear drive, energy and confidence that informs her world view and personality.

Overall, I came away from the Emerging Leaders event extremely impressed. The program is a unique opportunity to meet and hear from experienced professionals, who will help you clarify and shape the direction you want your own career to take.

As a young person at the beginning of their career, this is an invaluable opportunity. Attend the events with an open and positive mindset, meet as many people and take as much knowledge from each as possible, and the sky’s the limit. I would highly recommend the Program to any ambitious young professional.

Author: Rory Aston James
Graduate of Master of Management (CEMS) and scholarship recipient at the University of Sydney Business School

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