Capital W, UNSW Business School’s women’s business society, held its annual dinner. Over 170 female undergraduate students and industry representatives were in attendance. The night provides female students with a unique networking opportunity and the chance to gain insights from some of Sydney’s leading business women.

The night kicked-off with cocktail style networking and then proceeded to the seated dinner. To ensure students made the most of the opportunity to learn from seasoned industry guests, students rotated tables between courses.

“One of the main goals of the annual dinner is to create an intimate environment where students can meet a variety of business leaders, hear their stories and ask for advice. Rotating tables gives everyone an equal opportunity to learn from all the guests,” explained Vianna Pan, Capital W President.

Jacki Johnson (MBA Executive 1999), Group Executive People, Performance and Reputation at IAG, gave the keynote address. The night’s theme, ‘Be INSPIRED, Be INSPIRING’, was reflected in Johnson’s speech. She discussed her own career path, both challenges and successes, offering attendees an inspiring snapshot of one woman’s journey that started in a very different place from where it is today.

“As I prepared for tonight I realised my change journey started when I was six. I immigrated to Australia when I was six – a very lonely journey dislocated from extended family with my parents under financial and personal strain as they settled in a new country,” explained Johnson. “I learned to adapt very quickly.”

As she reflected on her career path, the theme of change was pronounced.

“I read last year that skills we learn and qualifications we secure have a shelf life at best of 7 years. The pace of change is so fast and the world demands we adapt. Those that will do well in their careers and personal lives will be those that can be the change,” said Johnson.

Recognising change as a constant, Johnson emphasised using it as a catalyst and as a force for good, but she also cautioned that change needs to be managed as it can have profound effects on the human spirit.

“If you want to grow as a leader and really be the change,” Johnson explained, “you need to ask yourself one simple question – do you care enough?”

Johnson ended her speech with advice for the aspiring young business leaders in the room.

“Understand and value your own journey,” said Johnson. “You don’t need to replicate someone else’s – make it personal so it is authentic and it is you.”

“And most importantly,” Johnson continued, “learn from every experience you have. The good and the bad. We can all be the change, just reach into yourself.”

For some, Johnson’s speech really hit home.

“I found it inspiring,” said student attendee Beatrice Lau.

“You really never know where life will lead. But, if like Jacki, you continually embrace opportunities, take on new challenges, and try to make an impact, doors will open, you will learn, grow, and find meaning in your work. That’s a take away I will never forget.” ​​