The Top100 Future Leaders Awards offers students the opportunity to gain exposure to Australia’s top graduate employers, establishing invaluable connections that can lead to exciting and impactful careers. This year, 37 UNSW students made the Top100 list across 13 award categories, with eight of these students topping their nominated category. This success showcases UNSW Employability’s philosophy of broadening your experience and networks to discover, launch and grow the career you want.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education & Student Experience, Professor Sarah Maddison with the UNSW team at the 2024 Top100 Future Leaders Awards in February. Standing beside her is UNSW Employability Lead, Coaching & Development, Vanessa Bakhos holding the AFR Most Employable University, awarded to UNSW for the fifth consecutive year.

"Our achievement truly speaks to the calibre of our students. We take great pride in guiding and supporting our students to develop their skills, experiences, and knowledge, thereby helping them secure rewarding internship and graduate job opportunities," Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education & Student Experience, Professor Sarah Maddison says

“I feel privileged to collaborate with such a committed group of academic and professional staff, including the UNSW Employability team, who are deeply passionate about fostering excellence in education and empowering our students to reach the Top100.”

“The program teaches students different ways of thinking and problem solving, and to take ideas and turn them into something tangible. And just within the span of a couple of days, students make incredible leaps in how they communicate – and I think that's so relevant for work.”

Professor Sarah Maddison,
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education & Student Experience

Bright futures for students and their communities

Commbank Brighter Communities Award winner Dylan Nguyen is still early in his university journey. But the second-year Bachelor of Commerce and Finance student is already inspired to use what he’s learned to make a positive impact. He believes bringing young leaders together is an opportunity to drive more innovation and contribute to a culture of excellence that will help solve the world’s toughest problems.

“This award is not just a personal achievement but a testament to the collaborative efforts of everyone who has been part of my professional and personal growth. I am committed to paying it forward by continuing to strive for excellence and making a positive impact in my community and beyond,” Dylan says.

Commbank Brighter Communities Award winner Dylan Nguyen at the 2024 Top100 Future Leaders Awards.

He acknowledges how UNSW Employability programs helped him get through the rigorous application process, and ultimately make it to the top spot for his category.

“The UNSW Employability Innovator Pro and Leadership Foundation programs definitely played a crucial role in giving me the necessary skills and experiences required for every step of the application process,” Dylan says.
The process includes an online application, psychometric tests, a video interview and attending the in-person ‘assessment centre’ run by recruitment agency Chandler Macleod. Students are directly assessed by representatives from the company sponsoring each award, including the likes of Commbank, Unilever, Westpac, EY and more.

“During the Leadership Foundations program, I was able to leverage my leadership, communication and problem-solving skills, which is vital for standing out in the competitive process. The programs also helped me learn how to craft my own personal narrative, so I could showcase my qualifications and achievements to the judges.”

An invaluable experience for career building with confidence

Third-year Law and Arts undergraduate student and Employability program participant Anne Pan also made the Top100 list, entering in the Ashurst Law category. Before applying for the Awards, Anne was one of a small number of students selected to attend the CDEV3500 Future Leader Lab course, a leadership and sustainability program at the Møller Institute, at Churchill College in the University of Cambridge. Offered by UNSW Employability, Anne says traveling to Cambridge to study was an invaluable experience, leaving a lasting impact that she believes has already helped her in building her future career.

Ashurst Law Award finalist Anne Pan attended CDEV3500 Future Leader Lab at the Møller Institute, at Churchill College in the University of Cambridge during Summer Term (January) 2024.

“The Future Leader Lab course had both a written application and interview, and this helped me feel better about the Top100 application, which can be quite daunting. The course also involved a lot of group work and taught us how to work effectively with others, which I think helped me perform better during the Chandler Macleod assessment centre,” Anne says.

“But the highlight for me at Cambridge, was being surrounded by so many incredible students that I could learn from. Everyone quickly became friends and we all navigated through the course together. It was an invaluable experience and cannot recommend it enough.”

And while she never imagined making the Top100, Anne feels like going through the process solidified her passion and drive for commercial law, as well as her ability to push herself into unfamiliar territory.

“Making the shortlist feels nothing short of a dream, and being part of the Top100 alongside such talented people is quite humbling. Meeting so many other talented and inspiring people, I think what Australia and the world need from its graduates is curiosity and a willingness to give every opportunity a go. You never know what you might miss if you don’t.”

Fueling future growth and ambition

Finalist for the Coles Technology Top100 Future Leader Award category, Ved Khanolkar saw the application process as an opportunity to test himself and see what he could learn and who he could meet along the way. He says making the Top100 was a moment he’ll never forget.

Coles Technology Top100 Future Leader Award finalist, Ved Khanolkar describes the Innovator Pro program as a game-changer, not just for Top100, but for his personal growth and future ambitions.

“I knew the competition was fierce, and seeing my name on the shortlist was both a shock and an incredible honour. It wasn’t something I expected. I viewed my application as a long shot, a step outside my comfort zone,” Ved says.

“This recognition has been a powerful affirmation of my dream to become a successful entrepreneur. It’s incredibly rewarding to receive such a tangible nod that says, ‘You’re on the right track.’”  

Currently in his second year of a Mechatronics Engineering and Computer Science undergraduate degree at UNSW, Ved has completed the UNSW Employability Innovator Pro program and describes it as a game-changer, not just for Top100, but for his personal growth and future ambitions.

“Innovator Pro showed me what real collaboration looks like – how different perspectives can come together to create something amazing. It boosted my entrepreneurial spirit, too.”

Ved Khanolkar,
Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Computer Science

Innovator Pro showed me what real collaboration looks like – how different perspectives can come together to create something amazing. It boosted my entrepreneurial spirit, too. Being around so many motivated people, all eager to pitch their ideas and make them work, was incredibly inspiring,” he says.

“I also got to practice building genuine connections, not just networking for the sake of it, but forming relationships that could last well beyond the program, and I know this will serve me well in the future.”

Giving future leaders the opportunity to uplift their learned skillset, build confidence and expand their network is opening the door to careers that are both personally rewarding and widely impactful. Initiatives such as the Top100 Future Leaders awards and complementary courses like those offered by UNSW Employability play a role in not only building practical skills but also inspiring students to be the changemakers and innovators of tomorrow. We look forward to seeing what they can do.  

“Being a future leader means embracing innovation with responsibility. It's about being audacious enough to tackle significant challenges while being grounded in the real impact on individuals and communities,” Ved says.

“I aim to be at the forefront of this new wave of leadership, where success is defined by the breadth and depth of positive change we can create for our community.”

Commbank Brighter Communities Award winner Dylan Nguyen, Suncorp Resilient Communities Award finalist Ilsa Mansuri, UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs at an exclusive afternoon reception at The Lounge celebrating the UNSW students that made the 2024 Top100 Future Leaders Awards.

This article was brought to you by UNSW Employability