Is your mindset holding you back from a board role? I’ve heard a lot of barriers that stop people from their aspirations of serving on a board. The two main ones I hear are:
• I’m too young
• I don’t have enough experience
And actually, all those beliefs might be true – you might be young and inexperienced, but you do have skills, you have networks, you have lived experiences, you have a perspective and a curiosity that may be useful to some community organisations.
Plus if you’re willing to learn fast, commit to the responsibilities of a board directorship, work hard, be a strong team player, be humble and be an advocate – you might just be stopping some community organisation from gaining a fantastic board director – you!
So the question is… are you holding yourself back?
Cecilia is a 23 year old solicitor who is involved in commercial litigation and human rights law. She had an aspiration to become a board director and give back to society but thought she was too young and inexperienced to pursue this aspiration straight away. Cecilia attended an UN panel discussion and heard Alicia Curtis speak about the importance of diversity in governance and the role of young directors in the boardroom and this challenged Cecilia’s perception. She signed up for the Board Ignition course straight away!
Check out my full interview with Cecilia here..
Or read our conversation here.
Hi Cecilia. Thank you so much for joining me. Now, you did the Board Ignition course and I’d love to hear a little bit about your experiences with the course. But before we get started can you just tell me a little bit about yourself?
Yes, I can. I’m 23 years old, and I’m a solicitor. I’m experienced in commercial litigation and human rights law and I was interested in being a more valuable part of the community.
So tell me what made you want to join the Board Ignition course? You wanted to step up your volunteering. Tell us about that.
Well I’ve done a little bit of volunteering in the past and I just felt really good when I was sort of being more than just a passenger like a member of society. But when I started working full time I stopped really making time for any volunteering. So, I was really just developing my skills related to my job and leaving my other skills behind and I was looking for something more. I thought about joining a board but I just saw that as more of a long-term goal for when I was more experienced. I didn’t think that someone at the beginning of their legal career was going to get a position on a board. And I actually went to a panel discussion run by the UN in Australia that you were on the panel for and you were talking about how young people do have a place on boards and I was like, oh wow maybe I should do this now, maybe it’s not a long-term goal. So, I got in touch about the talk and I found out about the course and just thought what a great way to use the skills I have to make that valuable contribution but then to also be able to get involved with an area that I like that it’s not related to my job.
Yeah, absolutely. It gives your life a really lovely balance, doesn’t it? You’ve got your work and you’re volunteering and your family.
I think it’s really valuable to have a sense of achievement that doesn’t relate to what your paid job, like an everyday job is.
You’ve realised that you can actually give your technical skills to the community as well as to your work as well. So, I’m so glad that you were inspired at that event to just reframe, you know, who can be board directors and realise the value that you could bring onto the board. So, what made you consider the board ignition course? What did you like about it? Were you hesitant about anything before you joined?
I wasn’t hesitant about anything. I liked the sound of the board ignition course because you can do it at your own pace. Because a big thing for me was like am I gonna have time to do this with work and everything? But I was just really relieved to know that it’s kind of just the materials are there and you can do 3 modules in a day if you really feel like it and then you can sort of put on the back burner for a few weeks. That’s what really appealed to me. And I also really liked that your role was quite hands on. So, it wasn’t just reading a course and at the end you just sort of aren’t able to ask questions or clarify things, that guidance for me was what really pushed me to do it.
And tell me what was some of the most valuable parts of the course for you? Did you like the video interviews or was it the reading or the practical challenges, what was it for you?
I found the board director interviews were really valuable. Being able to hear from people who are actually on boards and to understand in a practical sense how their roles work was very interesting and something that I don’t think I’d be able to go and find on my own if I hadn’t done the course. I mean you can find books and reading but to be able to hear directly from people who are doing it was very valuable. But in my case the practical challenge in module 2 which was to attend an AGM I thought that was probably the most valuable thing that I did during the course because again I was like “oh why would I go to an AGM? What am I going to say?” And it was through searching for AGMs to go to that I found that WA Youth Theatre company were having an AGM and that’s what led me to sort of end up in the position.
So, tell me about the WA Youth Theatre Company and just, you know, what’s happened since you doing the Board Ignition course.
Well I found out that they were having an AGM and that they actually had some spots on their board. So, I went revised my coursework, got in touch with the manager and the chair of the board and sort of was like Hi I’m interested, I really like the arts, so, I thought that would be a good place for me to make a contribution. Remembering the Ted Talk by Chris Gardner, I don’t remember which week it was; he said passion is not enough. And when he said that that really resonated with me because there are a lot of things that I’m interested in and I’m passionate about like you know human rights or helping people with disabilities. But I realised I need to pick an area that I’m kind of up to date with and able to actually make a contribution to. That’s more valuable than just being like, hey I really like this. So, I was in touch with them, they were really keen, I got to know some of the members before the AGMs so that when it came to the AGM I wasn’t doing my pitch to a room of strangers and I got elected and that was fantastic. And I’m actually, it only happened two days ago, I’m now the secretary.
Oh, great job. So amazing. And it’s just so great to hear you’re reflecting on some of the key learnings that you have gained from the course and how beneficial it has been through your journey to getting onto board as well. These things, they’re not difficult to learn, any really intelligent, passionate, determined person can pick up on these things but I find with boards it’s still a secret society and we just don’t give a range of people an opportunity to learn about this and how they can give back in this way. And once they pick up and they know the difference between boards and management, yes passion is good but it’s not enough for board directors. You know you can get onto the right pathway to finding the right board position for you. It’s something that’s very well aligned with your skills experience, knowledge, passion, networks and history. So, it’s so great to hear your story.
So, were there any other parts of the program that really helped you with achieving this goal of being a board director?
I think it was really important not only to talk about how boards work in a practical sense but also being able to understand that board directors have legal obligations that are quite serious. I think is really important because then when you’re coming onto a board for the first time you’re not in the dark you really understand the magnitude of your role and the scope of your role. That was a really important part of the course that really legitimises what you’re doing.
Absolutely. I think it’s so important just to be really clear about the expectations of board directors. What are they coming in there to do? What’s their legal obligations? What’s the time commitment involved? And to make sure that you can sign off on all of those areas so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into as well.
So, you know I’m just really pleased to hear your story. Is there anything else you want to share about you know maybe things that you really enjoyed or surprised you about the course or any pieces of advice that you would give that people who are maybe considering the board ignition course and wondering whether it’s right for them?
My advice would be to just do it. It’s so great. And to not be worried if they’re a few weeks that past where you haven’t looked at it, it’s always there and you can always go back to it which is great. And what’s really good about it is it caters to different learning styles. If you’re not someone who likes a lot of reading just watch the videos and you get the gist of it and the videos are even summarised if you don’t have time to watch the videos. It’s really got all different types of resources so it caters to everyone and I think that’s really important and it makes it less daunting.
Yeah, absolutely. We want to try and make it as easy as possible for people to commit and being involved and gather this information and really help them on their journey. And you’re so true like there’s no feeling of being behind because even if you sign up and it takes you 3 months to get into the coursework it’s there for you at any stage. And we do do live launches of the course so you know if you miss one or you sort of get a little bit behind you can always catch up in the next live round, ask questions of the Facebook group and just really take it in the way that is gonna best suit you.
But what you’ve done is take it one step further and put it into action and now you know you get into the fun stuff of actually being an advocate and an ambassador and somebody who’s sitting at the table, getting to make those decisions and direct the vision and the values of a not for profit organisation. So, well done to you.
And thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today, I really appreciate that.
About Board Ignition
Board Ignition is a dynamic online course that helps you fast track your board journey to get your first board position and serve a community organisation. There are 8 modules to the course which you can complete at your own pace (while you also receive an 8 week email series to help you discover the modules). Check out the course here. Join before 18th June and attend our next Board Ignition live Online Summit with current participants and alumni!
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