Alumni speed networking sparks inspiration


Alumni speed networking sparks inspiration

Recently graduated, or a few years on, have you ever wanted to sit down with someone further along their career path? Someone who’s racked up some career accomplishments, knows what it’s like to be in your early-career shoes and genuinely wants to share their wisdom? So many questions, right? Well, on 25 October, with support from our Young Alumni Advisory Board (YAAB), around 130 alumni gathered at The Loft at Barangaroo, Sydney, for our Beer with the Boss evening and were able to do just that …

There was a time when alumni events were known for being stuffy networking opportunities, perhaps a lunch, mostly with people a lot older than you. You left feeling out of place, uninspired and no further advanced. Those days are long gone.

Macquarie’s recent Beer with the Boss event was alive with opportunity. Buzzing with potential. And ripe with connection. Many people came in groups, some brought a friend, but all left feeling they were among peers and part of something. No less, alumni were buoyed by the collective wisdom of the nine bosses, two of Young Alumni Advisory Board (YAAB) and, of course, fellow alumni.

‘Networking at Macquarie Alumni events is always insightful and inspiring,’ said alum Viraj Dugar, who enjoyed learning from the bosses how they tackle workplace challenges and what keeps them motivated.

Alumni Selena Therese Chua added, ‘It was great striking up interesting conversations with a diverse range of senior leaders and other alumni, making new connections and insights – I’m looking forward to more events like this!’

And fellow alumni Mason Brightmoore agreed: ‘It was such an extraordinary experience, networking with so many bright minds and hearing their stories. With lots of great people to meet and fun to be had, if you’ve been hesitant to join these events, this is your sign to come along!’

The evening began informally, with time to mingle in the bright and breezy space overlooking Darling Harbour, enjoying canapes and a drink of choice – beer was in no way compulsory! Alumni then gathered in relaxed groups around tables and lounges, and Dr Prashan Karunaratne kicked off the evening with his inimitable style and sense of humour.

Explaining the bosses were all connected to Macquarie either as alumni or as supporters of the University, he said, ‘A bell will ring every 15 minutes and the bosses will move on – it’s a bit like speed dating but with bosses!’ he joked.

‘But seriously, the premise of the evening is simple,’ enthused Dr Karunaratne. ‘Listen to the bosses’ stories, gather tips and tricks, and ask questions. You’ll be impressed, not just by their job titles, but by the diversity of their careers and expertise in a range of industries.’

Next, Dr Karunaratne introduced the bosses – Karen Ganschow, Head of Data Sciences at Aware Super; Heidi Han, Communications Consultant; Rakin Hasan, Manager of Technology and Systems Assurance at HLB Mann Judd;  Kaylene Hubbard, Tax Partner at KPMG; Michelle Hutchison, Chief Operating Officer at Schebesta Ventures; Richard Norrie, Cyber Resilience Consulting Lead at Dell Technologies; and Alejandro Ortiz, CEO and Founder of Alejandro Ortiz Consulting.

He also noted YAAB was instrumental in championing the event and introduced chair Ki Yan Baldwin, CEO of Kalibrate Consulting, and members Alistair Booth, Chief of Protocol at the US Department of State, and Delia Deng, Enterprise Account Executive at SAP. And, with the anticipation in the room growing, the first bell rang and Dr Karunaratne beamed: ‘Good luck – your time starts now!’

The room quickly began to hum with the chatter of the bosses introducing themselves. Many alumni were on the edge of their seats, leaning in to listen and ask questions, and all were soaking up the knowledge on offer. ‘There was a real buzz in the air,’ said Michelle Hutchison. ‘The alumni were super engaged and asked so many great questions.’

Kaylene Hubbard agreed. ‘The energy in the room was incredible, and the diversity of attendees and their confidence and enthusiasm were inspiring. I was in awe of them and their self-awareness – there’s so much to learn from these alumni.

‘The future is in good hands,’ she added, and indeed, the future and how to navigate it was clearly on alumni’s minds. From tips for how graduates from overseas can break into the corporate world to how long alumni should stay in their first job, and how to negotiate tricky situations, break into new fields or manage tech start-ups, the questions came thick and fast. The rise of cybersecurity, risk and AI were all hot topics, and the evening soon took on a life of its own, with the bell always ringing too soon!

‘There’s clearly a huge demand from former students who are keen to network and learn from business leaders,’ said Hutchison. ‘It’s so great Macquarie offers this initiative, connecting its alumni with the business world and inspiring them to reach their own version of success.’

Hutchison’s insights into AI proved particularly popular. ‘Every time I highlighted we all need to be using tools like ChatGPT every day for a deeper understanding of its capabilities, the response was often a mix of astonishment and amusement,’ she noted, with many surprised to learn AI is already one of her KPIs.

The reality of the modern workplace sinking in, the apprehension about AI potentially replacing jobs was also raised as a concern. Hutchison recommended facing this head-on: ‘Embracing and leveraging this technology is crucial,’ she said. ‘If we don’t capitalise on AI’s potential to refine our roles and enhance our organisations, we risk obsolescence,’ she cautioned.

Still, her passion was clear. In fact, as Richard Norrie noted, ‘All the bosses were really passionate about what they do. And this is what I attempted to instil into the attendees – passion will get you places that even raw talent can’t.’

He also suggested there was a real opportunity for those in their early careers to focus on their own personal branding and marketing. ‘There were alumni with blank or no LinkedIn profiles, and some were too scared to apply for other jobs.

‘Just get out there!’ he encouraged, noting there’s an opportunity to educate students in this area as how they market themselves and their confidence to pursue opportunities will directly impact their career trajectory.

Karen Ganschow also fielded questions about navigating the course of your career, including when to change jobs. ‘I see more value in someone who has had three promotions within a business than someone who has changed jobs every two years,’ she offered. ‘It’s all about investigating opportunities and networking within your organisation – that’s what allows you to grow.’

Ganschow also addressed alumni’s fears about losing their jobs. ‘It’s not about being made redundant – it’s about how quickly you get rehired,’ she explained, encouraging alumni to remain contemporary in both their knowledge and outlook. ‘There will always be challenges,’ she noted. ‘So be bold, be curious, and don’t stay still. Put a light on the hill and watch people swarm,’ she enthused.

Alejandro Ortiz also enjoyed sharing his insights and expertise with alumni, helping them to make well-informed career choices that are also meaningful to them. ‘A psychologist approached me for advice,’ said Ortiz, by way of example. ‘I encouraged him to introspect and identify his core talents, then consider how those talents could align with his passion to discover a fulfilling niche, fostering a career with a genuine positive impact.’

From the practical to the personal, the bosses were all generous in their insights and thoughtful in their responses, and their openness no doubt contributed to the evening’s success. ‘I was fascinated to meet one graduate who opened up about his journey so far, and how keen he is to make a difference in his employment and not lose himself when he’s in his chosen profession,’ noted Hubbard. ‘I was so impressed by his maturity and broadness of thought,’ she said.

Heidi Han was attuned to alumni who had been international students, as they often face various challenges beyond language, including cultural nuances and limited advisory networks, which can hinder their career progress. ‘I’ve experienced these frustrations, so was able to share insights to help alumni gain a better understanding of career options, improve their communication skills, and inspire them to build a supportive network for their career journeys,’ she said, emphasising – as all the bosses did – the importance of networking.

Han also connected with mid-career alumni, discussing how earlier in their careers, they were driven by ambition and focused on climbing the corporate ladder. ‘However, as life introduces new challenges, our capability and resilience are truly put to the test,’ she said.

‘Regardless of your profession, it’s crucial to maintain a long-term perspective on your work, your goals, and how they contribute to your overall life.’

How work fits into the bigger picture was also a strong theme, which Rakin Hasan also touched upon. ‘Our career is not a sprint, but a marathon, so it’s okay to not land that big role straight away. At times, we get inspired by others who we perceive are doing well in their career, and we may get frustrated if we’re not doing as well as we think they are.

‘It’s important to remember we’re all on our own journey, and we’re all running our own race. It’s not about reaching the finish line, it’s about enjoying the journey and what we learn along the way.’

And, it must be added, it’s also about who joins you on that journey, and the communities you’re part of that support you. As Ki Yan Baldwin noted, ‘What I marvel at most when it comes to being a part of the Macquarie University community is exactly that – the quality of our community.

‘I believe the curiosity, tenacity, generosity and humility I witnessed at Beer with the Boss is the perfect recipe for moving forward into a future that’s changing faster than ever, but one we can tackle head-on together,’ she said, and with the crowd mingling well after the official close of events to continue conversations, there was no doubt the event was a resounding success. Speed networking was never so much fun.


Thank you to all the bosses who volunteered their time and expertise with our 2023 Beer with the Boss event:

Karen Ganschow, Master of Business Administration (1991)
Heidi Han, Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) (2004)
Rakin Hasan, Bachelor of Commerce – Professional Accounting (2016)
Kaylene Hubbard, Bachelor of Laws (1997), Bachelor of Arts (1995)
Michelle Hutchison, Bachelor of Arts (2006)
Richard Norrie, Bachelor of Commerce (2022)
Alejandro Ortiz, Master of Business Administration (2020)

In 2023, our alumni volunteers have generously devoted over 1500 hours to support alumni activities, including guest speakers and graduation volunteers. If you would like to be a graduation volunteer, Sign up here. If you would like to become a boss for our future events, please contact

Want to know when our next Beer with the Boss or networking event is happening in Sydney or your part of the world? Keen to connect with other alumni? Reconnect with your alma mater by joining us at an alumni event near you! 

You can also connect with us on Facebook or LinkedIn, and make sure your details are correct so you can stay up to date with what’s happening at Macquarie. 

Comments (2)

    1. Yue Zhang Post author

      Hi Janice, thank you for your message! Due to the large scale of the alumni based in Sydney and the capacity of the venue, The event invitation was sent to selected groups at a time to ensure we will meet the capacity. However all of our events are promoted on our LinkedIn group so please feel free to join the group if you miss out the email invitation: We will have more events coming up next year, make sure your details are updated to receive event invitations:

      Thank you Janice and we look forward to seeing you in our future events!

      Kind Regards,
      Alumni Relations Coordinator


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