Leaders program a ‘career game changer’ says Nicole

Nicole McDonald is social science researcher with a focus on job satisfaction in agriculture and a 2018 graduate of the NFF’s 2030 Leaders Program.

Nicole shared their experience in with AustralianFarmers and her advice for this year’s 2030 Leader’s Program group.

Applications for the 2030 Leaders Program have closed.

Why are you passionate about Australian agriculture?

Nicole: I’m always curious about things I know nothing about, and five and a half years ago, knowing next to nothing about agriculture, I leapt at the chance to undertake postgraduate studies supported by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation.

My research project was investigating the psychological factors that lead to job satisfaction for farm workers. I when in with a completely open mind, and it’s fair to say, a lot to learn. I have a  lot of very patient people answering a whole heap of questions to thank for welcoming me and helping me learn about the wonderful work opportunities that exist in agriculture.

From my first interview I was absolutely hooked and looked for any chance to get out to farms and in amongst the incredible networks of smart, enthusiastic, go-getters that make Australian agriculture the exciting, progressive, sustainable industry that the world needs.

Nicole at the 2018 Cotton Conference

What are your aspirations for your career in agriculture?

Nicole: I want to use social science to understand and overcome barriers to improving the productivity and sustainability of Australian agriculture. My short-term goals are focused on the future of work in agriculture, specifically cotton.

With my colleagues in the Australian Collaboratory of Career Employment and Learning for Living (ACCELL) research team at USQ, we are establishing a body of evidence that will inform the way agriculture approaches career education and development, and building workforce capacity and capability.

In the longer term, I’d like to expand our ag careers work internationally and directly contribute to the global achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the International Labour Organization’s Decent Work Agenda.

What do you see your role to be (or potentially be) in assisting Australian agriculture in becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030 ? 

Nicole: I see my role as contributing to the attraction, development and retention of talent needed to reach the $100 billion target for 2030 by illuminating career pathways and supporting people to find their purpose, realise their potential and create the jobs needed to do the work to get us there.

I am also keen to keep developing in my agriculture advocacy work building positive relationships and encouraging curious and respectful conversations between producers and consumers. I want all Australians to feel connected to agriculture and to have confidence that we are world leading in the ethical and sustainable production of food and fibre.

What was your experience participating in the 2030 Leaders Program and how did it assist with achieving your aspirations?

Nicole: The NFF 2030 Leadership Program was an absolute game changer for me. It’s help me to feel confident that I can take everything I’ve been listening to, observing and learning about and use it to speak up and actively be a part of leading the conversation and executing the vision for the future of Australian agriculture.

I’ve known I wanted to build my career within agriculture for a while but there was always something in me that worried that I didn’t quite fit, the dreaded imposter syndrome. Aside from the interpersonal and self-reflection skills, the course helped me articulate and demonstrate who I am and what I stand for.

The relationships formed with the fellow leaders gave me a strong sense of belonging and a network of incredible and diversely-talented friends who challenge my perspectives but also support me to turn my ideas into actions. 

The NFF 2030 Leaders Program 2018 graduates.

What does leadership mean to you?

Nicole: I’m usually asking this question when conducting my research, not having to answer it! Leadership is (a) having a vision of where you want to get to, (b) meeting people where they are, (c) listening and learning, (d) working out a strategy/setting goals, and then (d) getting your butt into gear and inspiring, enabling, and mobilising others to help build and create a positive, and better future. Leadership is a behaviour not a position.

What advice would you give to the 2019 cohort?

Nicole: Be open to the experience. This will require trust, honesty, attention, reflection, and vulnerability. Make sure you put in the work but also leave room to have fun with your fellow leaders and enjoy your time in the program.

The NFF 2030 Leaders Program helps develop the leadership capabilities of people over the age of 18 and currently involved in agriculture. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), in conjunction with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF), look forward to working with our 2019 cohort in helping Australian agriculture reach $100 billion in farm gate output by 2030.

Applications for the 2030 Leaders Program have closed.



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