Words by: Bridie Virbickas

I have always been drawn to leadership roles and have thought governance would be an interesting pathway that would allow me to continue farming while making my contribution to the wider industry.

I felt the Fonterra Governance Development Programme would be a good start for me as I do not have a lot of governance experience and I was delighted to be accepted to do the programme in 2020.

The governance development programme is dedicated to growing excellence in governance and encouraging the professional practice of directors. The course focuses on the 70/20/10 approach, where 70% of learning occurs in real life and on the job experiences, 20% from watching and working with role models, and 10% from formal training.

The first workshop was an intensive three days of listening to impressive leaders, working in groups in boardroom scenarios and learning about core governance subjects and what it takes to be a critically reflective director.

It was also a great opportunity to network with people within Fonterra and the other 20 participants on the course.

There is a range of governance experience across the group and different levels of involvement in the dairy industry which makes discussions on different topics diverse and interesting.

The first workshop was also a time where we learnt a lot about ourselves as individuals and how we work within groups which gave insight into how we would fit into the dynamics of a board.

Covid-19 put the brakes on the course, postponing our second workshop in June to October which means we will now finish the course in February. On the bright side, Covid-19 has provided us with a real-life scenario in which severe demands have been placed on our boards and management teams to steer their organisations through this global pandemic. We are now focusing our study on how to govern effectively through the crisis and how to develop strategy going forward.

The course has certainly opened my eyes to the depth of the responsibilities of governance and what is required to be a successful director. I am looking forward to the remainder of the course and hope that one day I will be in a position to use what I have learnt and to be a positive influence in our industry.