Key lessons in risk: A finance manager (and part-time canyoner) shares his postgrad story

Rob Thomas, canyoning in Kanangra Main, NSW.
Rob Thomas, canyoning in Kanangra Main, NSW.

Keen canyoner Rob Thomas FGIA FCG is used to challenging, risky situations where good decision-making and quick judgment are essential. And as risk management became more prevalent in his professional career as a finance manager, embarking on postgraduate education became an important next step. 

Recently graduated from Governance Institute of Australia's Graduate Certificate of Applied Corporate Governance and Risk Management and recipient of the Goffage Prize for best student, Rob shares his postgraduate story and key lessons.


Rob Thomas FGIA FCG
General Manager Finance, LFG Global Services Australia Pty Limited

Why I choose to study with Governance Institute

As a newly appointed company secretary, I originally did the one-day Accidental Company Secretary course, which was excellent but highlighted the limitations of my knowledge in governance. This led me to search for a suitable course to provide the corporate governance knowledge I needed.

After examining a few training providers, I decided on Governance Institute based on the course structure, the practical content, online feedback on the quality of the course and that I got a recognised qualification at the end.

After completing the Graduate Diploma of Applied Corporate Governance and Risk Management and becoming a Chartered Secretary, I proposed to my organisation that I completed the Graduate Certificate of Applied Corporate Governance and Risk Management as risk management was becoming much more important to both my role and the organisation. This latter qualification has proved to be very worthwhile.

Governance Institute courses have been very practical, and the real-life experience of lecturers was greatly appreciated, as it brought context to many issues we all face. Courses from other providers seemed to be less practical and more theory.

Career investment or learning for immediate use?

I believe my postgraduate study is a little of both. I am certainly using the learnings in my role, which currently involves a lot of legal work. I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new.

Going forward, I think both qualifications will stand me in good stead both in my current organisation and, if I decided to leave for a new role, will open up the range of roles I can apply for.

Online learning – a new landscape

2020 resulted in many changes globally, but not many to my study as the major project was always online. However, during COVID, I needed to plan further ahead than normal for my site visit in rural NSW as COVID tests were required.

The quality of lecturers in the online forums was excellent, and attending via the web was great as could we ask questions as we were listening, and the lecturer discussed these as the questions arose.

Online learning allowed me to study on the train and plan my time depending on my commitments. I found with lectures, which I really enjoyed, that I would occasionally miss them due to work commitments. 

Managing the work/life balance

I am fairly disciplined and have a 40-minute train journey to work, so I tried to get as much study done on the train as possible.

Where possible, I would plan ahead for weekends when I needed to study and reward myself with other weekends of canyoning or spending time with my family.

Advice for those considering postgraduate study

Take note of the time commitments that Governance Institute says are needed for the course as these are a good guide, although time is probably more weighted to the assignments and exams.

You need to be disciplined in your time management and make the best use of any spare time (for example, commutes to work) as, if you don’t and leave it to the last minute, work will no doubt get busier just when you least need it to and you will be stressed trying to finish the assignments on time.

Make sure you plan to study, especially assignments, in advance, reward yourself when you finish the assignment. I found doing assignments over an extended period worked well for me as I could do a lot of my thinking/reviewing on the train and submit a week before they were due. In many cases, if I left the assignment to the last minute, I would have struggled as work commitments would have impinged on time available.

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