Dr Michele Allan
From Makeup to Livestock to University Chancellor. A Career of note.
Dr Michele Allan (1975) was inducted as Chancellor of Charles Sturt University (CSU) at an Installation Ceremony held last December. As Chancellor, Dr Allan will play a pivotal role by leading the University Council, in particular in determining future strategic directions for that institution. She is the first woman to be appointed to the role.
Dr Allan’s CV is filled with accomplishments, educational qualifications, and a series of career steps that have taken her up the ladder of career achievement. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science Major – Biomedical Science - Cytology (UTS), a Masters in Management Technology (University of Melbourne), a Doctor of Business Administration (RMIT) for which she was also awarded the University Medal, a Master of Commerce Law (Deakin University) , and is a Graduate and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Those credentials are probably as expected for a person in her current role. Yet, what may be unexpected is the wide range of Boards she has served. She has Chaired and/or been a Director on 26 Company Boards since 1991, notably for CSIRO Food and Nutrition Flagship Advisory Committee and Meat and Livestock Australia. Other companies include the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council, Innovation Australia, and Forest and Wood Products Australia and the list continues. She chaired the Wheat Export Advisory Task Force 2013-14 which reported to the Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce, and she was part of an Australian Government delegation to Japan at that time. She continues to serve on Boards and subcommittees and she said she “works for both the blues and the reds in Canberra”.
So, how does a Danebank girl come to do all this? One thing that is obvious is her thirst for knowledge. When confronted with a barrier, something she needed to know more about, she took herself off to learn about it at the highest level and through the most rigorous courses. This led to her developing her skills set that includes Human Resources, management systems and business strategies. She describes the courses as “fantastic”, especially her doctorate course.
Interestingly, Michele’s first job after completing her Bachelor’s degree was with the makeup company, Helena Rubenstein, in their quality assurance laboratories. She chose this company because it offered a day off work each week to attend university, something other companies did not offer. While there, she became interested in all facets of Quality Management, an aspect of business that has featured strongly in her career trajectory. After her first career steps, she took a series of positions which became increasingly more executive level, right up to becoming CEO/Managing Director of Patties Foods Ltd.
Dr Allan’s appointment as Chancellor at CSU will enable her to contribute from her wide-ranging experiences, particularly her experiences in food, agriculture and livestock businesses, her relationships with big producers, her first-hand understanding of government processes and her experience in Board-level administration. CSU is a rural/regional university that values and supports its community by offering courses in agriculture and wine sciences and animal and veterinary sciences. Dr Allan looks forward to the challenge of supporting the university in these areas especially. “We need to reflect our community,” she said.
While her Danebank years must seem a very long way behind her, Dr Allan still spoke enthusiastically about her school years. She keeps up with her Danebank friends and she said that the school “pushed us to do our best”. She admired Mrs Tisdell’s teaching of Ancient History because, she said, Mrs Tisdell’s enthusiasm “brought the subject alive.” Mrs Tisdell became an important mentor, encouraging her to aim high. She also said that having studied public speaking was a bonus because it gave her confidence.
Dr Allan attributed family values as contributing to her attitude towards to her career. Her father owned a sheet metal conversion factory that she worked in during holidays as well as a family farm. “We were expected to pitch in,” she said.
She attributes luck to her success too. She said she has been “fortunate to be in the right place at the right time”. Yet it is clear that there is no-one so “lucky” as she who works extremely hard, who strives to learn and develop her knowledge base, who takes very seriously those she is responsible for, and who brings an exceptional mind to her work.
Advice to those who wish to succeed:
- Take up opportunities. Say yes to everything;
- Express your opinion in a non-threatening way;
- Ask yourself – Can I make a difference? If it looks interesting and you think you can add value, have a go.