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Deakin student Ben Hall

24 August 2021

What would you do if you were Vice-Chancellor for a day? Law graduate Ben recounts his rare networking opportunity

Not everyone has the courage to speak to the Vice-Chancellor, let alone ask him for the opportunity to spend a day with him! But, thanks to a spontaneous moment of bravery, student Ben Hall has learned that putting yourself out there pays off. Here, we asked him to share his experience of shadowing our Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin for a day.

By Ben Hall, Deakin Launch Network representative

Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin (pictured) invited me to attend a ‘Networking Day’ where I was fortunate enough to shadow him in his everyday dealings as the ‘boss’ of the University.

The opportunity arose as a reflection of my determination to put myself out there and seek further opportunities. At the 2019 Deakin Sport Awards, I was awarded the ‘Emerging Sports Leader’ trophy. I received this award due to my continued efforts to engage in, promote, and support the participation of sport at Deakin. This award was presented to me by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin

On the night of the awards, I made a bold decision. I asked the Vice-Chancellor whether it would be at all possible to shadow him for a day in his important position of running the University. On the night I was told that Professor Martin would be in touch.

A week later, the date was set. On 8 April, a year and a half after the initial meeting (thank you, COVID), I was lucky enough to spend a full day with both Iain and the Director of Partnerships and Community Relations, Michael Mangos.

The day was an invaluable experience to see just how busy and wanted the VC of a tertiary institution is. A day that involved back-to-back meetings, important decisions, as well as 376 (or so) phone calls. It was a great opportunity to see just how exhausting a role like this could be. This type of setting provided me with exposure to the inner working of not only a university but a corporation that has 50,000 customers (or students, as we like to be called) and 2000 employees (or staff, as they like to be called).

My favourite moment above all else was seeing how personable and caring Iain was. The man is probably the busiest person I have come across in my life, and yet he was still polite enough to take the time throughout the day to answer my questions and give advice on what I should seek to achieve moving forward on my life journey. This gives me great confidence that the University is in very dedicated and thoughtful hands.

I learned a lot from this experience. One, to put yourself out there and just take a leap of faith in asking for something. Why? Because you never know what it may bring. On the night of the Sport Awards, I thought to myself, ‘should I really be asking this?’, but I thought again and told myself: ‘What do you have to lose? Absolutely nothing, that’s what’.

Also, people in highly important roles all have two things in common. They have: 1) a proper plan in place; and 2) organisation skills, to ensure that they can stick to their ‘plan’. As a highly organised person, I like to think I am well on my way to achieving this but seeing Professor Martin in his position pushes that idea to a whole new level.

My words of wisdom for anyone reading this? Perhaps you’re thinking, maybe I could try out [asking for] something like this? Ask yourself the following: ‘What do I have to lose? What are the consequences if… ? What could I gain if… ?’

If you can answer those questions and you have nothing to lose? Then go for it! By doing this, you are automatically changing your mindset to put yourself out there. If Professor Martin came back to me that night and said, ‘No, we can’t accommodate your desire to shadow me for a day’, I would have lost nothing in my quest to network further. I would have simply been told ‘no’ and then moved on to the next opportunity. But look what I was able to experience as a result of taking that leap.

It’s in your hands, go for it.

Ben joined Deakin in 2016 and has since graduated with a combined degree in Law and Criminology. He has a passion for advocacy and was awarded a Deakin Hallmark for Leadership Excellence in recognition of his impact on Communities. He is now an Associate to Judicial Registrar Freeman at The Supreme Court of Victoria. We are extremely grateful for Ben’s continued contribution as a Deakin Launch Network Ambassador, despite his many commitments. To learn more about Ben, connect with him on LinkedIn, or better still, join the student- and alumni-led Deakin Launch Network and start a conversation.

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