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Putting your Best Self Forward

Sunday 26, May 2019

How many times have you seen someone amazingly inspirational on stage and have thought how incredible it would be learn more from them but hesitated to ask?

How many of you have questioned whether or not you are getting paid what you should be, but are not sure how to approach a discussion with your manager?

AWS and AWSN hosted an event on the 23rd May 2019 on ‘Putting your best self forward. Part 1’.

It was a Melbourne version of the same event organised by the Sydney chapter last year. 

It was an interactive and highly engaging session which saw only 2 out of the pre-determined 10 questions covered in the end, which is why we are looking to organise a part 2!

The panelist’s provided some great insights and advice which we wanted to share for the benefit of those who couldn’t make it.



What advice to you have on Mentoring?

The panelist’s kicked off the discussion by asking the audience whether they would ever think to contact one of panelist’s to ask them to be their mentor and if so, what is stopping them. The panelists wanted to understand the barriers the audience was feeling in finding a mentor. 

Most people in the room said that they would be too afraid or too shy to approach senior leaders, due to worrying that they would be bothering busy people and that they would say no.

The panelists then provided the following advice:

  • Mentoring, sponsorship and a good network is critical for your success in cyber
  • Don’t be afraid to ask senior managers/leaders for help. A crafted pitch on what you need and a specific question, makes it hard to say no. Senior leaders usually actually like answering and helping. 
  • Remember that often mentors get as much out of mentoring as the mentoree (Reverse Mentoring)
  • Mentors however expect mentorees to come prepared with what they want to get out of the relationship. There is nothing worse than someone who demands a 1 hour meeting and doesn’t know what they need/want. Come ready with something specific.
  • When someone asks to be mentored- it makes it official, indicating commitment and level of responsibility. Therefore you should start with asking a particular question to someone who you think could help you in the aspect of your career that you need assistance. Mentorship should be  the outcome not the start of the discussion
  • Get a board of advisors and look for 5 min mentors who can confirm or guide you on something! 

Many in the audience voiced that they often felt pressure to promote themselves more on social media and attend networking events when they do not feel comfortable doing this.

The advice from the panelists is that networking events can be intimidating. Don’t force yourself to be someone you are not. Be yourself, and that will help make you perform better as you are doing what come naturally and what you are comfortable with. A bit of stretch and getting out of comfort zone is good, but not if don’t want to.

2 courses were recommended by the panelists:

2. Why is it hard to ask for a pay rise?

The panelists asked us to close our eyes and to imagine how it felt to ask for a pay rise. Most of the audience said that they felt their heart beating fast and that they felt sick in the stomach. 

The panelists suggested that sometimes it can help to try and separate yourself from your work self. To try and take the emotion out of the task. 

  • You need to prepare for the discussion, and first know your worth to the business if you were to leave. How would it impact them if you left? 
  • Phrasing the question in a different way can assist. For example, starting the discussion with “Help me understand…[what I need to do in order to get your consideration for a pay rise in the next performance review period…..or What do I need to work together on over the next few months to get to an end objective]”
  • If your company has more than 5-10% pay gap, ask your manager to help you understand if you are on equal pay to your peers and if not, what can be done.
  • The panelists reminded the mixed audience of students, entry level professionals and experienced professionals, that at the beginning you career or a new job, it is important to chase value rather than money. To ask for a better opportunity rather than money. 

Other advice:

  • When going for an interview, it’s usually good to interview back. Ask questions of the interview panel as it shows interest in the role and remember that you are equally offering them value through your unique skillset.
  • Be clear about the boundaries of your work with your manager, so they can help you and understand you better. If you have kids and need to do the occasional pickup,  it’s good to be transparent.
  • It is the responsibly of leaders in our industry to recognise and nurture talent. Investing time in their individual needs. Proactively encourage and help support staff through their career.
  • Being able to sell your idea through persuasion, negotiation and pitching is a useful skill to have – Dan pink – selling is human (
  • The FITT Diversity report outlines the diversity technology gap in 2018 –

Thank you to the panelists: Jacqui Kernot, Kelly Taylor and Jon Kaehne

Thank you to moderator and organiser: Mairead Bourke

Thank you to our generous host AWS