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Exclusive Interview with Westpac Grad Leanne Li

What is your background?

I studied a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Finance and Accounting, at UNSW. I began my graduate career in Westpac’s Corporate & Institutional Banking department in February 2019.

How do you recommend balancing university studies, work and social life as a student?

Over the course of my university studies, I always had to balance full-time work (I was a cadet at an accounting firm for a period), manage my grades and participate in extracurriculars/maintain a social life. To be completely honest, this was a lot of hard work and took a great deal of time and energy – but it was well worth it.

I think what drove me to achieve success in all of these aspects stems from:

a) loving what you do, and

b) knowing you’re working towards your goal.

I found that if I was genuinely passionate about what I was doing, for example, the course I was studying, or really enjoying my time at work, then it didn’t feel so much like a chore.

In terms of balancing these aspects, I would recommend planning ahead, and really understanding the prioritization of tasks (i.e. what’s urgent). Another tip is to manage the expectations of others – under-promise and over-deliver.

As a woman in the workforce, what are some positive changes you’ve witnessed over the course of your career? What more could be improved?

Albeit in a very short career so far at Westpac, I’ve gained some insight into what it was like to be a woman in the workforce today in comparison with previous decades, through insights shared by my colleagues. Across certain industries, there are no doubt shortages of female employees and, indeed, leaders; however, I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by both successful and empowering female colleagues here at Westpac, with whom I work alongside and that I am privileged to be mentored by. In a recent catch up with a mentor, she shared with me an example; one of her female colleagues was returning to work after maternity leave and was able to gain flexibility to work part-time and from interstate, to support her new role as a mother. It made me realise that we are extremely fortunate to be working in a time where flexible work arrangements are valued and advocated for.

Of course, I would like to see a greater representation of women in leadership roles, especially in the banking industry. I think that in order to do so, it is important to keep the conversation alive and in the forefront of executives’ minds. Change is needed now, especially if the next generation is to be ready.

What are some changes a student should expect and prepare for when transitioning from university to the workforce?

I noticed that learning at university is very much ‘spoon-fed’ to you. You go to lectures, attend tutorials, etc. which can sometimes leave you feeling demotivated and no longer in control of your learning. However, this isn’t the case when you transition into the workforce, and you can use this to your advantage.

The advice I would give is to be curious, ask as many questions as possible (be a knowledge sponge), and really utilise the myriad of experience and expertise of your colleagues. You’re now in charge of driving your own learning and development, and in a way, that is extremely liberating!

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