Reflections from my first year as Westpac Future Leaders Scholar

Leesa Chen, Westpac Scholar, 2019 Future Leader

Written by Leesa Chen, Westpac Scholar, 2019 Future Leader


The world around us continues to shift. As a Westpac Future Leaders Scholar, 2019 has been a year of shifting perspectives.


Thinking back to earlier in the year when I started my journey as a Westpac Future Leaders Scholar, I entered with a relatively clear train of thought of what matters to me and what I intended to pursue both in my personal development and also through a Master of International Business at Melbourne Business School. What matters most to me hasn’t changed; international opportunities for Australian agriculture and thriving regional and rural communities in which it operates in but going back to studies after time in the industry taught me a few lessons.


The first lesson which I learnt very quickly returning to studies is that speed of learning is everything. The content and theories covered in 12 weeks is remarkable. There is constant talk about graduates needing to be more employable and the need for institutions to prepare job-ready graduates. Yes, I agree, but I also believe that the opportunity to absorb extensive theories and models is too often discounted. If the classrooms were limited to the scope of only what is applicable in the workforce, then our courses would cover a fraction of what is currently offered and since industries excel at streamlining operations and standardising best practises, would there be value in university degrees if much of what is required can be achieved through on-the-job training? 


As an advocate for education, I hold onto the belief that the power of formal education which teaches how to learn and how to think. I have found that the possibilities to be limited to one’s ability to incorporate creative thinking with its theoretical application. The fact that we do not face the same degree of scrutiny or fierce competition is a rare luxury that encourages creative thinking and unorthodox problem solving. Thinking differently ultimately paves that way for what I am able to bring to the table.  


Secondly, learning by doing is in invaluable. I am lucky to be able to do what I enjoy and to be able to be part of incredible organisations like the Australian Women in Agriculture who are motivated by the greater good of empowering the role and representation of women in agriculture in Australia and beyond. Without realising it, a lot of what I do, I am actually learning and with people-to-people ties that develop, there is always someone to see and something new to learn about. Overtime the linkages of people that transcend borders allow for continued opportunities for shared learning and partnerships for collaborative growth.


2019 as a Westpac Future Leaders Scholar would not be without the extraordinary people that I am lucky to call my close friends. Having a strong support network has been vital especially in a year of change and transition. Serendipity happens and in the midst of the unexpected that is life, a strong support network and a sounding board has made a world of a difference. The W100 Alumni Network is also full of inspiring game-changers, achievers, bright sparks and believers. 


I continue to be in awe of the impact of my fellow Westpac Scholars. If you are ever offered an opportunity to pursue further education, grab the opportunity with both hands and run with it. You too will experience a shift in perspective and start to embrace positive change. Here’s to the shifts in 2019 and all the new and exciting adventures that will unravel in 2020. 


Published 11 March 2020

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