Marie Downie, Board Cadet
At the intersection between planning for the future and reflecting on the past lay a unique opportunity for Marie Downie.
As a life-long learner, Marie was considering her next steps in professional development when she spotted the advertisement for the Community College Gippsland Board Cadet program.
“It really stood out to me for two reasons,” Marie explained. “Firstly, the Cadet program gives you the rare opportunity to build practical experience on a Board in a supported way. Secondly, my career started with training at an RTO just like CCG, and the idea of being able to contribute to an organisation like that really appealed to me.”
Today, Marie is a senior partner in human resources with significant experience in employment relations, social justice, governance and policy – but she would be the first to describe herself as a ‘late bloomer’ on the career front.
“I left school in year 11 to have a baby and really focused on raising my family well into my late 20s. I hadn’t finished secondary school or had the opportunity to gain any work experience, and I was feeling a little like everybody my age had left me behind,” Marie explains.
“I decided that I would make my own way and started studying a Certificate IV qualification. Completing the course with little kids at home wasn’t easy, but it taught me how to be self-directed and disciplined, taking every little window I could find to study. I went on to a Diploma, and then a post-grad as a mature-aged student.
“It taught me the value of learning throughout your life, and that different people need different things to achieve their goals. It hasn’t slowed me down in the fullness of time – I’m right where I should be.”
Now an experienced professional in her field, Marie was looking for ways to share her skills and knowledge, as well as continue her own learning.
“I was interested in joining a Board but would not have applied for a Director position, because I wasn’t sure that I had enough experience to deliver to their expectations and I wasn’t sure if it was the right fit for me,” Marie said.
“Before I saw the ad, I had no idea that an opportunity like this existed. It ticked all of the boxes, giving me the chance to get exposure to the Board, learn what was required and check that my participation would be valuable for me AND the organisation.”
For Marie, a significant benefit of the program was the opportunity to be mentored by an existing CCG Board Member.
“I was speaking to my mentor about how to best prepare for Board sessions because I wanted to be an active participant in the program. He showed me that how you contribute matters more than how often you speak up. Now, I lean into my unique skill set and perspective, and focus on bringing something of value. It was a great learning for me.”
For people considering taking the leap and applying for the program, Marie says: do it.
“The impact has been huge, personally and professionally. It has been an amazing experience, and I can’t speak highly enough about it. Explore what it takes, and be aware of the time commitment involved, but definitely do it. I have no regrets. I have absolutely loved it.”