FULL-TIME NON-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND QUT COLIN BRAIN CORPORATE GOVERNANCE FELLOW KIRSTIN FERGUSON ON FLYING HIGH
‘I did not anticipate how much I would enjoy the diverse nature of a directorship career’
1 You are one of only a small number of full-time female non-executive directors. What boards are you involved with?
I was recently appointed as the Chairman of the Thiess Advisory Board, I have been a non-executive director on the board of SunWaterLtd since 2008 and I was elected as the first female non-executive director of Queensland Rugby Union in 2011. I have also previously been an independent non-executive director of the ASX-listed Dart Energy and have also been an independent member of the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Board.
2 What was your path to becoming a professional non-executive director?
I started my career as an Air Force Officer after graduating from ADFA. While posted to an F-111 Squadron, I started studying law and eventually went to work at a large corporate law firm for almost a decade in various senior executive roles. From there, I became CEO of a very successful global organisation providing psychological-based safety programs all over the world to the mining and resources sector.
3 What has been the most unexpected aspect of your career as a non-executive director?
I did not anticipate how much I would enjoy the diverse nature of a directorship career. In any week I can be in a board meeting discussing new pipelines in regional Queensland, looking at issues facing the construction industry or thinking about increasing the number of young girls and boys playing rugby across the state. I thoroughly enjoy the variety of people I get to work with and the different dynamics of each board I sit on.
4 Why did you decide to go back to university and do a PhD?
I have always seen completing a PhD purely as a personal challenge and I am currently in the final year of a PhD in Business at QUT. My research is focused on the role of boards in driving safety outcomes in organisations and I was recently named the QUT Colin Brain Corporate Governance Fellow for this research, which was an incredible honour.
5 Have you had mentors and how have they assisted you?
I have been fortunate to have some incredible mentors. Most recently I was part of the AICD Chairman’s Mentoring Program, where I was mentored by a very senior Brisbane-based director, Martin Kriewaldt. He continues to be a source of advice and assistance, and I have a number of informal mentors I meet regularly.
6 Are you involved with social media?
Yes – I have a Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and Facebook page. You obviously need to be very mindful of how you use social media but I find it invaluable for keeping abreast of what is happening across industry and I get virtually all my news online. There is no doubt that platforms like Twitter are the quickest ways to hear what is going on.
7 What is the best decision you have ever made?
Marrying my husband, Glen. We met when I was only 21 – he was flying F-111s and I was smitten. We have two daughters and have built a wonderful life together.
8 What takes up your time when not in the boardroom?
Most weekends I am busy with my beautiful children and doing things with friends and family. I also enjoy running and have a 16km loop around the river I try to do every week. I have just registered for the Gold Coast Half Marathon, which will be the longest distance I have run to date, so now I also need to train for that.
9 What is your favourite book?
A recent book that I really enjoyed was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. A beautifully written modern family saga. But my favourite book of all time will always be the (Jane) Austen classic I first read as a child, Pride and Prejudice.
10 What was the last movie you watched and what did you think of it?
I recently watched Argo on a long-haul flight. Normally after I watch movies on planes I often can’t remember what they were once I land. But Argo was fantastic. The catchphrase still gives me a laugh.