Better planning, better network, better governance: A graduate’s online study journey

Is the next step in your career either supporting or joining a board? Whether it’s in your short or long term plan, you’ll benefit straight away from postgraduate study.

We know this because our graduates, like Australia Post’s Head of Legal Marina Panagacos, tell us that their learnings can immediately be put into practice in their day-to-day work.

Now a Governance Institute of Australia fellow, Marina shares her recent study journey with us, including the challenges and rewards. If you’re weighing up postgraduate study to elevate your governance practice, read on to see if Marina’s experience can help inform your decision.

Marina’s motivators

A deeper understanding of good governance

In her role as Head of Legal at Australia Post, Marina has a broad remit with responsibilities across delivery and international services. Her key motivation for undertaking postgraduate study was to deepen her understanding of the role of the board and management team in good governance.

“I was really taken by the fact that the Institute [courses] would look at the perspective of governance from those who support the board, it wasn’t just about directors' duties or board responsibilities,” Marina says.

Broadening perspectives

As an in-house lawyer, it can be easy to be ‘siloed’. Marina says she was keen to ensure she could offer broader perspective and greater value within the organisation.

Her studies helped her to better understand significant issues for business outside of her organisation, such as the Hayne Financial Services Royal Commission. This was gaining a lot of momentum and attracting plenty of media coverage at the time she began her studies, with her learnings helping her to better interpret its implications for governance more broadly.

Marina’s challenge

Accommodating her coursework into a busy work schedule and home life, which includes young twin children and a “very rambunctious” dog was Marina’s foremost challenge.

With the support of her family, and the intrinsic drive to achieve the course certification, Marina says that although it wasn’t easy, “you do find the time for what you want to prioritise”.

Ultimately, the challenge led to a positive outcome for Marina. “The course probably made me a better planner, that’s a good time management skill that you probably get out of the course, beyond the accreditation”.

Marina’s rewards

The rewards received by her postgraduate study with GIA surprised Marina, and were beyond what she thought she would gain based on her research prior to enrolling.

It turns out her top three benefits were gaining knowledge that could be put into practice straight away; having access to top experts in governance and business; and the sense of community that developed between students of the course.

Immediately practical

Driven by her desire to build knowledge and confidence for a future ‘next step’ over the long-term, Marina was surprised that she was able to implement what she was learning into her day-to-day work.

“I feel like I have immediately been able to roll out what I learnt from my course in my day job, which I didn’t expect, so it was a pleasant surprise.”

Access to ‘titans’

Governance Institute courses draw on our extensive network of governance practitioners from across industries. Marina says it was this exclusive access that really boosted the benefits she received from her studies.

“Something that really surprised me and was an absolute delight was having the closed sessions with governance titans in the market.

“[The] presenters are of such a high ilk - you just don’t get access to people like that on a regular basis... I really think that’s something that people should look forward to.”

Community vibe

In line with the ‘new normal’, our courses are being delivered fully online, which brings benefits of flexibility and continuity, but did this mean it was harder to build rapport with fellow students?

The answer is no, according to Marina. “I have to say the level of sophistication in how the online delivery and platform is rolled out is extremely high standard. I didn’t feel like it took away from the in-class experience at all.”

She’s built a network of friends and colleagues which she feels she can rely upon to offer guidance and advice if needed. The community came together through sharing their diverse experiences, learning about each others’ organisations and sharing insights in the online classes and course chat groups.

“I’ve just made so many great friends out of the course… that to me is something I absolutely value. I feel like if I was ever considering a governance issue and I wasn’t quite sure how to deal with it I could reach out to that network and they would probably give me some guidance if they’d come across that issue as well. I think that’s pretty key and something you just can’t buy,” Marina says.

“The hardest thing is making the commitment, but once you do, you do find the time... you will find you’re supported by the community, you’re supported by the Governance Institute. You’re able to get through it.”

A board role

Marina was recently appointed as Non-executive Director at RMCC (Refugee Migrant Children Centre).

“I am delighted to join RMCC's board and combine my professional experience with my passion for educating and supporting children to overcome experiences of disadvantage. I believe my experience coupled with the Graduate Diploma’s credibility and deep insights helped me demonstrate my ability to succeed in this role.”

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