Passing the Torch: Interview with 2019 Co-presidents – Caitlan Howle
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am a third-year student studying a combined commerce and science degree. Outside of uni, I enjoy singing and I am currently working for the Australian Girls Choir to fulfil this passion. After graduating from university, I am hoping to go into a management consulting role.
What motivated you to join Capital W?
In my first year, I was approached by Capital W members at the Business School student orientation. They were incredibly passionate about the society so I went along to the first-year social and met a number of like-minded women which prompted me to join. It was a great female community and I really resonated with the mission of trying to connect female students with industry and equip them with the skills to be career-ready.
What was your first year in Capital W like?
The landscape of the team was so different! Capital W was much smaller and I joined in a cohort of only seven subcommittee members. Our team was very close, which I think is a tremendous benefit and some of my closest friends today are from that team.
I was part of the IT portfolio, who at the time, was in the process of redesigning the website and relaunching the blog. I was fortunate to have a real impact in this process which had both technical and creative components. We were also allowed to move around portfolios so I got to experience being in HR where I helped organise the welcome back social for Semester Two. It was a great experience and the reason why I chose to continue my journey with Capital W as I felt like I was really part of the community.
Additionally, the exposure to the industry is incredible and is something that I wouldn’t have engaged in during my first year had I not been in Capital W. I definitely credit a lot of the skills I have developed to the role models that I had in Capital W as a first-year student.
Are there any experiences have you been through in Capital W before becoming the Co-President that you think is crucial and had a big impact?
Taking on initiatives as a Director, putting my hand up to take on additional tasks and helping to organise different workshops gave me lots of experiences that have been invaluable in the Co-President role. In particular, running the 2018 subcommittee drive where we expanded our team quite significantly was a great learning experience. It was a big undertaking and being able to manage the workload of Capital W responsibilities, my studies and part-time work was a valuable opportunity to learn how to effectively time manage which I think is crucial especially when being Co-President. The workload is very significant and I was grateful to have had a brief taste of that during subcommittee recruitment.
We also didn’t have an events portfolio last year, so I was quite heavily involved in the logistical side of Annual Dinner. It taught me a big lesson in balancing a large number of personal preferences and needs which is an important part of my current role.
I know that balancing between the presidency, school work and work is very hard and I would like to know how you managed all the three things?
Balancing the three requires a lot of planning; knowing what are the times that are non-negotiable in terms of work, Capital W and uni commitments, as well as being available for last-minute emergencies that are quite inevitable. A great thing that Henrietta and I have done when the work became a little bit overwhelming was to both have an evening off Capital W where we just ignore all the emails and messages. We have been referring it to our “date night” where we can just focus on either work, uni or social life and this has been a real help. With everything being so digital now, it’s very easy just to be constantly on your phone checking emails, checking messages, so sometimes, you just need to block off time, switch off and focus on something else.
How would you describe your experience as a co-president of Capital W?
Challenging and rewarding at the same time. Managing the annual changes with new Directors as well as introducing new portfolios, events and sponsorship models has been challenging at times. On the other hand, some of the opportunities that have come as part of this role have been amazing! Speaking in front of over 200 people was something that I don’t think many university students could say that they have done, and I was fortunate to do this at Annual Dinner in a room filled with students, sponsor representatives and special guests. As well as this, I was able to lead our O-Week team where I was able to meet the next cohort of female students at the UNSW Business School.
Despite this, the most rewarding part has been working alongside Henrietta. She has had incredible experiences both at university and at work and I honestly don’t think I could have done the job without her. I have learnt so much in this role and am so privileged to be part of a team that genuinely cares about fulfilling our mission.
What makes Capital W special to you?
I think the community of people that are so passionate about helping women to be career-ready makes Capital W truly special. The conversations I have had with students at events have always been fantastic and we are fortunate to have so many connections with sponsors who have been helpful in giving students opportunities to build their skills. Working as part of a team where we all get along also makes Capital W so enjoyable.
What do envision Capital W to be like after your presidency?
Each year the presidents, Henrietta and I included, go in with these grand ideas of things we want to accomplish and it’s really hard to manage everything. Having said this, I believe the incoming Co-Presidents will do a great job in continuing some of the initiatives that we have started this year and further increasing our reach. I know there have been discussions about changing the sponsorship model lately and I can see them bringing in new sponsors that would broaden Capital W’s reach to not just business students, but also more STEM students. Additionally, I can see a continuation of the Women in AI series as it is both a great opportunity for Capital W and the broader UNSW community. Continuing a tight-knit team with the Capital W culture is also something I think the incoming Capital W Co-Presidents would want to continue and strengthen.