“As a country we need to do a better job of attracting women into science careers and allowing the scientific talent we have to reach their full potential”
Dr Leonie Walsh FTSE is a respected leader and expert practitioner of industrial technology development and commercialisation, with a career evolving from large multi-national corporations across diverse applications, markets and geographies to current roles as a leader and strategic adviser to industry, government and academia in the areas of business development, collaboration, technology commercialisation, and the future skilled workforce.
Dr Walsh has accumulated more than 25 years of technology leadership experience in a broad range of industrial applications both locally and globally. She has worked in companies such as Dow Chemical, Henkel and Visy with a focus on the development and commercialisation of technology. She is Board Chair for C4NET (Centre for New Energy Technologies) and was Victoria’s first Lead Scientist (2013-2016). Leonie is an outstanding advocate for early career researchers and women in STEMM across all professional sectors.
Dr Walsh served as Women in STEMM Australia’s inaugural Ambassador from 2016 to 2019. Dr Walsh says, “During my time as Lead Scientist it became clear to me that as a country we need to do a better job of attracting women into science careers and allowing the scientific talent we have to reach their full potential. It is imperative for our economy and society that we continue to focus on these key issue. I see my role as continuing to use my experience and networks to improve education on STEMM careers for women and help break down barriers limiting the development of our science talent pool from early career researchers to senior leaders in the STEMM community.”
Dr Walsh has combined her professional career with honorary roles as the Chair and President of the Fight Cancer Foundation, a non-executive Director of the Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry and a member of the Board of the Worldwide Network of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. Dr Walsh is a strong supporter of volunteer roles as a means of paying back to the community, broadening her skill base and also developing new connections.
Dr Walsh holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and a Masters of Science (MSc) from Swinburne University, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA Exec) from the Australian Graduate School of Management and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. Dr Walsh also received an Honorary Doctorate (HonDUniv) from Swinburne University of Technology for contributions to Science, Innovation and the Community.
What was the key thing that helped you get to where you are today?
Although I would say that my ability to understand and pick up a diverse range of technologies has been valuable in my career the attribute that has proven to be more valuable has been relationship management skills. The ability to work with people at all levels within and across organisations enables you to get the best out of others through inspiring, influencing, building strong bonds, being open to new opportunities and resolving potential conflicts.
Do you have a mentor or sponsor? Has this person’s support helped you advance in your career?
I have not had any formal mentors throughout my career however I have been very fortunate to have had several sponsors who have supported my career in significant ways. The support has been varied and includes prodding me to take on extra responsibility in different voluntary organisations, putting my name forward for roles and committees, nominating me for awards and also acting as referees when needed. Without this support I would not have been as strongly positioned for the Victorian Government Lead Scientist role.
If you have had a career disruption how did you manage to stay productive during this time – what helped you the most?
Just as my career at Dow Chemical was starting to take shape I was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia. The treatment protocol required monitoring and management with chemotherapy over a 12 month period followed by a Bone Marrow Transplant from my sisters bone marrow. I was extremely fortunate to have a compassionate and supportive manager and incredibly supportive co-workers. It was important to me that my treatment and recovery was conducted on my own terms and I held my ground with the HR Director with regards to staying connected to work and my colleagues during my recovery phase. Having something else to focus besides my illness helped my mental state without out overdoing things on a physical level and it also meant that when I came back to work full time there was less pressure as I had kept up with what was happening in the organisation and my business unit.
What do you love most about your professional role in STEMM?
Although I would consider that I am at the latter stage of my career my interest in learning new technologies, engaging with the next generation of talent, sharing knowledge that I have gained over the years and maintaining long term relationships and friendships built throughout my career has not decreased.
LinkedIn: Leonie Walsh