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Improved interpersonal skills often translated into


stakeholder engagement and management

on secondees’ return to work. Melissa Griggs was

working for Westpac when she participated in a

secondment and then later a fellowship to Cape York:

Since that time, I’ve expanded into change

management and now project management.

Some of the skill sets I needed for project

management had absolutely been learnt on

secondment—particularly around stakeholder

engagement. In terms of the diverse amount of

people I had to deal with, different degrees of

education and different passions and drivers—

those skills have absolutely helped me.

Renee Schicks had a similar view: ‘The secondment

increases your awareness of the diversity of

stakeholders out there and how you can motivate

those stakeholders.’

Ben Tan said his secondment contributed to

enhanced stakeholder management skills due to

exposure to senior executives. ‘I’m much more

comfortable dealing with senior stakeholders.

In my work, I usually deal with junior managers but

on secondment I was dealing with departmental

secretaries.’ Trish Clancy articulated the value

for her in terms of stakeholder engagement

and management: ‘It has helped me in working

with a wider array of people, learning how to

communicate in different ways. Having a broader

view plays back particularly well in working

deeper with clients.’

In 2007, Maria Niedzwiecka, then

a business development market

analyst for KPMG in Sydney, was

seconded to Djarragun College

in Cape York. She was attracted

to the secondment program for

the opportunity to ‘spend several

weeks working with Indigenous

communities, making a positive

impact … while actually keeping

my job.’ She also found the

partnership model appealing:

‘I was really attracted to the

model of working with Indigenous

communities instead of just

providing them with services.’

Maria spent five weeks creating

a marketing prospectus for the

college and says her time on

secondment helped her become

more flexible and adaptable. ‘The

project was something completely

different for me. I remember

sitting in front of the computer

for the first time, working with

software I had never used before,

on marketing materials which were

new to me, so it was a very steep

learning curve.’ The secondment

also stretched her interpersonal

skills. ‘I had to develop a network

very quickly within the college

and find people who could help

me with challenges I’d never dealt

with before.’

Maria recognised her growth

in intercultural competency.

‘Before you go on secondment,’

she said, ‘you’ve got a number

of assumptions and they all get

challenged … One of the great

things about the program is that

you go through induction and

have the opportunity to listen to

Elders from the tribes who live in

Cape York, and they explain their

customs, their traditions, their


That deepening of cultural

awareness has been extremely

valuable in her current role as

Senior Manager for Deloitte

Touche Tohmatsu in Japan. ‘[My

secondment] made me realise

that a solution developed in one

particular place, for a particular

set of people, is not going to work

that easily if you’re just trying

to transplant it to a completely

different community and different

situation. That was incredibly

helpful throughout my career, but

in particular in moving to Japan.’

Maria says her Jawun experience

made it easier for her to transition

to another culture and deal with a

completely new set of challenges.

‘It’s just something you’re prepared

for,’ she said. She draws from her

secondment in her approach with

the Japanese locals. ‘My work in

Japan involves a lot of listening

to people, understanding where

they’re coming from, why they

behave the way they do, what

they consider are the biggest

roadblocks … At the end of the

day, it’s not about imposing [your

ideas] on anyone else—and that’s

a skill that’s applicable to any

working environment.’

Growing soft skills and

intercultural competency