Reflections from the Westpac Scholars Summit: Finding strength in vulnerability

Jocelyn Chan, Westpac Scholar, 2021 Asian Exchange

In July 2022, Westpac Scholars gathered in Sydney to attend the Scholar Summit, an annual networking and leadership development event hosted over two days. This year was extra special as it was the first time Scholars had come together since 2019. Following the event, we asked 2021 Asian Exchange Scholar Jocelyn Chan to reflect on her experiences at the Summit and share how it changed her perspective on leadership.

At the 2022 Westpac Scholars’ Summit, I realised what the W100 truly represents, and it touched me in personal ways I didn’t expect. Instead of it being just another working event filled with small talk, the beautiful stories of other scholars reminded me that our drive to create change is shaped by very personal experiences.


Whether it was through organised panels, casual chats on the bus or over lunch, I was inspired to reflect on the power of vulnerability. It's the helplessness we feel at our darkest times that fuels our drive and passion. 


This led me to realise that vulnerability isn’t just about opening up to others, but being able to accept how difficult the reality of a situation is, and embrace the emotions that come with it. Society often pressures us to brush things off so we can feel ‘better’ quickly and convince ourselves everything is okay. However, I was reminded that true leadership requires us to ride the cycle of ups and downs, because it is these very experiences that drive us to make positive change. 


I never thought to describe leadership as ‘wholesome’, but this was how I felt every time I connected with a new scholar. Whilst there were definitely moments where I was in disbelief that I am part of this network, what really helped me find a sense of belonging was realising that many Westpac Scholars, like myself, didn’t fit the conventional leadership mould. I met plenty of others who shared my introverted personality and mental health struggles, but the way these perceived weaknesses became a source of strength for them, left me feeling hopeful and inspired. 


I was also surrounded by professionals I would usually feel intimidated by because of their experiences and successes, particularly as a young Asian Exchange Scholar looking up to Social Change Fellows and Future Leaders. I would often joke to myself, what am I doing here? However, the vulnerability behind everyone’s stories and the openness of each Scholar, made them human. 


This made me realise I can also dream big and follow in their footsteps. I became motivated to inspire others in the same way one day, especially as we learned that networking isn’t just about gaining something for ourselves, but also helping those who share our passions. 


We live in a world where prejudice towards people with different backgrounds and experiences continues. However, Westpac’s support for people like us is a reassuring reminder that there is strength in diversity. Despite the W100 being a professional network, to me it is a safe space to share our personal struggles and big dreams. 


Westpac also made it clear to us that the W100 is a community that believes in us, even at times when we don’t believe in ourselves. With their support, I can’t wait to embark on my own journey, with the realisation that leadership is so much more than just a fancy word in the professional world but, instead, something close to your heart which drives you to touch the lives of others. 


Published 13 September 2022

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