What it means to me to be a Westpac Scholar and how this has shaped my future

Deniz Atakan, Westpac Scholar

Deniz Atakan - 2017 Westpac Asian Exchange Scholar


The Westpac Scholars Network is a diverse group of Australia’s best and brightest minds from all backgrounds and age groups, each one making an indelible mark on the nation’s future in their own unique way. That being said, there is a common thread tying all of the program streams together into the vibrant tapestry that the W100 is – generosity of spirit. By generosity of spirit, I mean the unquestioning desire to help those around us to achieve their aspirations, the curiosity to question and improve the status quo, and push to continue Australia’s engagement with and integration in the region. When combined with the support of the amazing team at the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation, being a Westpac Scholar has shaped my life in three key ways.


Collaboration beyond the classroom

The value of having a group of highly motivated but diverse people in one room cannot be overstated. Through both of my Scholars’ Summits (once as a scholar, and once as the debate talent) I was able to meet some amazing minds and absorb their experience and knowledge to develop my own perspective and ideas. In fact, after my first summit, a group of us began a start-up pitch group where we discussed and developed ideas to pursue further. Whilst none of us ended up being the next Marc Randolph with Netflix 2.0, the experience was my first taste of the intelligence, motivation, and entrepreneurial mindset of other Scholars, and the potential within the Scholars’ network to improve Australia as a nation.


Learning to lead

The leadership development program assisted greatly in framing my perspectives of Singapore and region, identifying problems faced but also developing the leadership skills to craft solutions to them. I also made some lifelong friends through the program who I had the privilege of travelling with through the region (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand to mention a few) which further gave us an understanding of how we could meet the needs of the region. These experiences allowed me to maximise my personal development and enhance the value of my exchange to the National University of Singapore.


Professional and personal development

Following on from my time on exchange, being a scholar has helped me both professionally and socially. On the professional front, I was able to utilise those experiences to assist in securing Australian investment in a South Korean solar farm, through my work as an investment analyst, to help grow the sustainable energy footprint in the Asia. There is also significant heft in being able to say, with confidence, that you have one of Australia’s premier institutions backing you, which has helped me to secure further internships on my path to becoming a professional. On a personal front, I have also been able to draw on the leadership experiences and perspectives both in my own leadership mentoring work, but also to give back to the next generation of Scholars through various events and catch ups. This is perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of being a Westpac Scholar.


In short, being a Westpac Scholar develops you in a profound way, which you don’t really appreciate and comprehend until you find yourself engaging with these new networks and positively contributing to the conversation. Each and every one of the scholars is an intelligent, motivated, and capable person with a wealth of experience behind them, from all walks of life. The best part of this is that they are only a message away from helping you to achieve your ambition to help improve the future development of Australia.


Apply now for a Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship, applications close Monday 4 December 2023.

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