Upskilling for the future

Up skilling for future

“In this world you're either growing or you're dying, so get in motion and grow!” Lou Holtz

I’ve just graduated from my course with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, something I started towards the end of last year.

It was something I had been considering for a while; I was the Chair of the Queensland Olympic Council, I was on the World Olympians Board, and with 2032 coming, I thought it was a good time to do some formal board training and upskill. 

My certification means that I can be a professional Director, and my studies will help me to make the biggest and best impact. Being on a board is very different to being involved in other areas of a business – you get a very different view, and need to use different ways of thinking. And, ultimately, the buck stops with the board, so the stakes are high.

There were five key areas to the course: finances, legals, running an effective board, risk and strategy, and governance.

The immersive 5-day course culminated in a decision of whether or not to complete the assessment. The assessment was a 3-course meal! It included a multiple choice timed exam, a timed 4-question longform essay, and a 3,000-word assignment – and, mind you, I haven’t done study like this, let alone formal assessment, since 1994… nearly 30 years ago! – so even the ‘learning’ was a learning curve. I had to work hard to get my brain in the game, re-learn how to study, and how to apply my studies in an exam environment. 

It’s been pretty intense, but also very enjoyable, and all the lectures were fantastic. I’ve loved being in a group environment with like-minded people… learning new skills, and activating different parts of my brain.

You don't have to complete the assessment in order to finish the course, however by passing, I now get the honour of being able to add a ‘G’ (for Graduate) to my ‘AICD’ post-nominal letters. It was quite stressful and nerve-wracking, and there were many times I thought about taking the exit ramp… I didn't realise how important it was to me to compete! It meant a lot, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out, as the quiz took me a few tries. I’m so glad I put in the effort. 

With great power comes great responsibility

One of the biggest takeaways was my responsibility as a director. It's such an important role, and as the saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Some other key learning areas were around Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), which is corporate responsibility in terms of social impact, sustainability, diversity and inclusion. This is something that is becoming increasingly important across all sectors, and it’s something that will underpin all my board and director roles, now and into the future.

The legal and finance subjects were the ones I found most challenging, because they’re not areas I have done a lot of work in over my career. But I stretched myself, and ended up finding them really interesting.


I got to meet a lot of great people from a range of different fields. One of my buddies was Ross (pictured above, with some of our fellow graduates); we worked out pretty early on that an accountability buddy would be a huge advantage! And it was! Teaming up with Ross was a crucial part to our success! It always helps to have a buddy, so you don’t feel like you have to go it alone. It worked in my volleyball career, and it was great to have a ‘partner in crime’ again for my studies. And I am pleased to say that Ross is now a GAICD, too!

Overall, I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved and the ways in which I challenged myself. I stayed committed through the hard yards, and I followed through in getting my certificate. 

So, if you’ve been thinking about studying, upskilling or challenging yourself to learn something new, let this be the sign you’re looking for. There will never be a ‘perfect time’ to do it, so my advice is just to do your research, make a plan and jump right in. With 2032 only 10 years away, now is the perfect time to get yourself skilled up so you are ready to grab your goals! I am already exploring my next course! Stay tuned!

Natalie Cook OAM OLY GAICD