Meet the amazing leaders from the Melbourne community; small  business, corporates and government

Sandy McDonald Founder of and charity, CreateCare Global, Sandy McDonald is an author, a TEDx speaker, and a storytelling trainer, working with business and academia to improve and enhance communication through purpose-led story.

ArtWords in started out in 1992 and Twenty two years later, it had become an award-winning marketing communication solutions destination for some of Australia’s most successful enterprises. In 2008, Sandy started her first charity Knit-a-square that led to her next career. She delivered a standing ovation TEDx talk about this extraordinary adventure in 2014. The intersection of these two experiences was to prove pivotal to the work she does now. In ArtWords, if they couldn’t get their clients clear on what they were positioning, why, and for whom, they’d failed. This became the single most important component of their work. During the formative years of Knit-a-square, they learned that online stories with a focused purpose touched lives everywhere. They helped build a worldwide community of 20,000 people in 71 countries which is still growing.

Sandy wrote the book, Get It Right Online to detail the framework for how this was achieved. The principles that informed this govern what she did then, and still does: Clarity: getting people clear on purpose, principles, people, product, and positioning Curiosity: keeping them in pursuit of their truth Coherence: helping them articulate their purpose and brand promise truthfully and consistently. In 2012, Sandy started to coach others as a clarity guide. Soon people asked for her help to tell their stories which lead to her career today.

Melissa Ellul is an experienced senior IT leader with 20 year’s industry experience across Australia and Asia, including IT consulting, with a passion for leading Digital IT transformations and fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration.   She is a strong values, team and results focused leader, earning a reputation for successfully leading transformational changes and being a leading authority in Agile, Lean and Design Thinking delivery approaches and practices. 

Melissa led the Retail IT function at Telstra from 2012-2016.  During this time she successfully delivered a number of challenging programs end to end, including an inspiring world-class future retail environment as showcased in Telstra’s Melbourne and Sydney Discovery Stores.

Melissa is currently the Global IT Leader Enterprise at Aurecon, a global consulting, engineering design, management and specialist technical services firm that works across a broad range of markets and sectors fostering innovation, harnessing disruption and bringing ideas to life.  Reporting to the CIO, she is the trusted IT partner for the business across the enterprise.  She is responsible for executive/business engagement, shaping and co-creating business strategies, strategic roadmaps and is accountable for the delivery that drives strategic value for Aurecon and delivers a foundation for continuing and sustainable innovation.

Melissa is accountable for the Workday platform and building upon our established HCM capability and embarking on the delivery of a fully integrated Workday Finance, Projects, Procurement and People Platform…taking the opportunity to truly innovate how we work at Aurecon.

Lisa Sweeney is CEO of Business in Heels, daily she works to fast-track women on their journey. She has 4 1/2 years of small business experience and well understands the transition from corporate to business owner.

Her expertise includes strategic planning, marketing, expansion through digital marketing, she is a strategic connector.

Her background is 25 years of corporate buying experience with expertise in strategic planning, sourcing, online retail,  negotiation and she well understands the hurley burley of a corporate career.

She is passionate about making a difference for women & on a daily basis works to find solutions to levelling up the playing field. This year having launched mentoring, access to new women’s professional indemnity & superannuation solutions.


As an experienced cybersecurity, risk, insurance and innovation leader, Susie Jones has delivered commercial outcomes as a cybersecurity business services manager, corporate insurance broker, risk manager and now a startup co-founder and CEO. She and her co-founder are on a mission to reduce the number of small businesses who fall victim to cyber attacks across the globe by introducing them to the concept of Cyber Fitness. She leads the business side of Cynch Security, translating the world of cybersecurity and cyber risk to the company’s non-tech stakeholders, and introducing as many small business owners as possible to the opportunities that building cyber fitness can bring them. 

She is skilled at leading teams through change, inspiring others to take action, operational and contract negotiations and risk management, assessment and mitigation (general as well as cyber risk).

Having consciously managed and progressed her career at speed, Susie is a great sounding board for those looking for a new approach to overcoming hurdles and finding the career path that brings a real sense of achievement and satisfaction. 

Sarah Denholm’s a presentation skills, public speaking & influence coach, teaching you how to be confident, engaging & influential in every speaking situation.  
After years of trial and error, she learned what’s needed to prepare and perform at your best as a communicator – whether that’s one to one, or in front of a group. 
Originally training as a professional Classical pianist, performing at a high level in venues such as the Purcell Room, Southbank, London (as a Park Lane Group Young Performer of the Year).
During her six years at music college in the U.K. she suffered from performance anxiety. The competition and pressure was intense, but she coped – until chronic and disfiguring severe eczema took over my whole body. She deteriorated and had to be hospitalised – twice. At one point she didn’t leave the house for three months – her world couldn’t have shrunk any smaller.
She found her performing anxiety solution: learning how to speak in public. She then became passionate about helping others to communicate well in front of groups or in social situations, and founded Improve Your Public Speaking in 2009. Now, she has worked with over a 1000 clients, often in tech, law, engineering, healthcare and architecture.
She now helps others through a combination of techniques learned as a  keen researcher into effective communication skills, psychology, neuroscience, performing arts and speaker.

Sarah Taylor is an extraordinary human being. COO & CTO of Melbourne’s hottest start-up’s, 21 x World Bodybuilding Champion, International Speaker, Business Strategist, High Performance Coach and Nutritional healer. Sarah’s journey to the top is nothing short of incredible.

With over 25 years experience in the full vertical stack of every hands-on technical, business and Agile role within the IT industry, and with a proven track record in the end-to-end delivery of large scale projects across multiple industries, Sarah transformed the entire culture of a start-up company within 3 weeks, increasing productivity by 4 x and throughput by 5x. Over the course of 1 year, she sustained program delivery performance improvements of over 8x with a smaller team compared to the entire previous 2 years and saved the company between $1.5m – $3M in resourcing costs.

As a ‘career’ contractor, Sarah knows exactly what it takes to succeed in a (still) male dominated industry, and credits her exceptional communication skills as being the key to developing the ability to talk her way into roles she’s never done before and getting top dollar!

Leading by example, Sarah lives by her motto ‘It’s never too late, start today’, and is passionate about helping others excel by coaching people on communication skills for business influence and authority, mentoring and educating women about how to get started in their career, progress their career to the next level, step up into leadership roles and succeed in male dominated industries.

Natalie Burrows is the Head of Corporate Sales at Medibank.  She is a self-motivated and driven Sales Leader with over 20 years of sales experience.  As an empathic leader, Natalie chooses to lead from the front and in doing so has had the opportunity to work in several industries managing diverse groups of people.  She is an example of how good leadership skills can be transferred from one industry to another and highlights the importance of an open mind.

Natalie’s great passions are personal development, constant learning and health and fitness.  She is always looking for opportunities to learn and develop both personally as well as a leader.  Her current role merges her passions and gives her the platform to engage with organisations on how best to support their employee’s health and wellbeing.

Natalie is also an active member of her community volunteering her time when she can.  She is the President of the P&F committee at Mentone Grammar where both her boys attend, and she gives her time to help develop the school community.


Tania MacPhee completed a Diploma of Financial Planning and a Bachelor of Business in Marketing (graduating with distinction) before working as a Marketing Strategist then establishing MacPhee’s with her husband Craig in 2001.

MacPhee’s Wine Cellaring Specialist is a pioneer in the wine storage industry with
unrivalled experience and expertise in creating bespoke wine cellars and spaces.
The business offer s clients a range of world leading products to help protect their wine collections including wine cabinets, climate control equipment and racking systems.
The MacPhee’s team of specialists works with leading architects, designers, developers and hospitality clients on their residential, multi-residential and commercial projects, assisting with the selection and supply of the right equipment whilst providing essential technical specifications and advice.
Tania is Managing Director of MacPhee’s, responsible for running the business. She works with key clients on their projects, liaises with suppliers and leads a team of about 10 people with a range of functions including finance, sales, marketing, logistics, engineering and buying. Tania is also responsible for the performance of the business including sales and profit targets which she reports to the company’s board monthly.
MacPhee’s has experienced double digit growth over the past few years, with further growth projected based a strong strategic plan for the future.

Valerie Clifford is a 15 year PwC partner in the Risk and Quality team for the Assurance practice. Having spent many years on the auditing front line, Valerie now leads a national team of 20+ staff providing support and guidance to the business, protecting the PwC brand and ensuring PwC stands up to the high standards expected by the PwC network and regulators. She leads our Assurance Business Learning team.

Serving on three of the past Assurance Leadership Teams, Valerie has regular interaction with senior members of firm management, and members of the Executive Board. Valerie has worked in 20+ countries within PwC, and spent four years living and working in Asia where she built an extensive network.

For the past seven years she has represented the Australian firm at a Network level for both Risk and Quality, and Audit Methodology. Her nine year role as a member of the Australian Audit and Assurance Standards Board finished at the end of 2016. Valerie relished the time spent with a diverse range of Board members over the period – challenging the thinking, representing the PwC view, and leading sub-committees. Valerie has a passion for promoting diversity and inclusion within the workplace, as a coach and mentor, and is the current female partner representative on PwC’s “Symmetry” program – with the long term goal of increasing female representation at senior levels. 

Lyly Greca, a Vietnamese immigrant lucky enough to arrive in Australia with my mother and older brothers at the tender age of 6. Today, I’m married to a beautiful Italian man whom I met at University whilst studying my Bachelor of Economics and Finance degree and together we’re blessed with 2 amazing children living in Australia’s most livable city Melbourne.

I am the 3rd child in our family of 2 older boys and a younger half-sister. My brothers and I were raised by an incredibly strong and traditional woman with amazing smarts, fantastic work ethics and greatest generosity. From a very young age, I knew what I wanted and often map out how I’d achieve those goals. Today I operate a premium flower and gift social enterprise called “Miei Fiori”. With more than 10% of Australian population living below the poverty line and just half of those are Children, Miei Fiori was created as a vehicle to combat poverty, serve our people, support our community and protect our planet.

We do that by that by:
Donating 100% profit to children’s charities within Australia
Commit to sustainable options
Complete transparency

My entrepreneurship started at about 15 years of age when I was able to make my very own first dollar at Mc Donald’s. I mapped my path to owning my first property by 18, how I’d earn 6 figures by 25 and operating a Company that is dedicated to solving some world challenges by 40. Today I’m 37 years old and couldn’t feel luckier and more grateful for everything I’ve achieved thus far with my best-friend and soul mate.

Before taking the bold step to start my own company, I had an incredible Corporate career in varying roles across many industries practicing the lessons learnt from mentors, making many mistakes along the way, solving problems and pivoted through challenges whilst having a lot of fun along the way.

Linley Watson  Co-founder and CEO, Peak Performance International
Linley’s corporate career began in the IT industry in technical support, sales and marketing roles. Rising quickly through the ranks, she enjoyed several years senior management experience gained as Marketing Manager for Compaq and then Oracle in New Zealand. To satisfy her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for developing people, she left the corporate world and co-founded Peak Performance International, a leading trans-Tasman people and culture consultancy, in 1999.
Since then, the Peak Performance team has worked with many significant clients across Australasia such as Air New Zealand, AMES Australia, Bank of New Zealand and more. In her role as CEO, Linley has been fortunate to partner with senior leaders in most of these organisations to help them drive the major change necessary to achieve their objectives
Linley’s strength is connecting people, culture and business strategy to improve performance and results. As an authority on culture integration, she works with CEO’s to help reduce the risk of merger and acquisition (M&A) failure due to people and culture issues. Linley has written numerous articles on leadership and culture and her book “Avoiding the M&A Failure Club (What the Numbers Don’t Reveal)” was published in 2017.
As a dual Australian and New Zealand citizen based in Melbourne, Linley is actively involved in the Australasian business community. 

Linley has been a preliminary judge for the Telstra Business and Telstra Business Women’s Awards for several years. She has a number of professional accreditations, a Diploma in Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Marketing and International Business.

Linley is married with four children, including triplets, and considers herself an expert on work-life balance!

​Dr Rosemary McCallum is passionate about people and their mental health. She has made it her life work to study the fascinating complexities that make up human behaviour. For over 25 years Rosemary has immersed herself in identifying the effect unseen motivators have on staff engagement.  A renowned keynote speaker, published author and authority in the field of implementing emotional culture through foundational emotional intelligence, she aims to help people bring meaning and purpose to what they do.

Her intellectual property spans from how organisations achieve partnering their cognitive culture with a compelling emotional culture, staff engagement to boost people, productivity & profits, corporate stress and mindfulness

She loves to focus on middle management as her research has found they are often overlooked in being given the skills to draw out the best in their teams. She aims to equip managers with tangible techniques that maximise the potential of every team member and meet performance goals every time without stress and worry.

Rosemary’s teachings have turned around executives’ mindsets, empowered management to deliver an impactful leadership role, wowed teams and built sustainable, emotionally intelligent cultures.

Trisca Scott-Branagan was awarded the Marketing Executive of the Year by CEO Magazine and ranked #5 most innovative CMO by CMO Council Australia in 2017. Her current role is Head of Marketing, Institutional at ANZ Bank; and she is also an Advisory Board member of ADMA (Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising), IAPA (Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia) and the Deakin University School of Marketing.

Over the past 20+ years, Trisca has worked across financial and professional services, health and education, in both B2C and B2B marketing and business development roles. Working in large, complex organisations that operate across multiple geographies and in highly competitive markets is her specialty. Trisca is passionate about customer centricity, data and digital enablement, and embedding new ways of working to ensure marketing teams are more effective and individuals thrive.

While currently based in Melbourne, Trisca has lived and worked in Sydney and New York, and held various global roles.

Outside of work, you’ll find Trisca adventuring in the mountains, and spending time with her husband, 11-year old son and soon to be 10-year old girl/boy twins.

Sian Stephens is an experienced consultant who delivers high-impact and interactive development programmes. Sian specialises in helping managers and leaders to identity the behaviours that are blocking successful working practices, encouraging them to replace those with sustainable changes that will lead to stronger working relationships between all team members. She engages with people who may have challenges in their work environment and inspires them to try new methods. 

Sian is passionate and inspired by the SME/B global marketplace and finds it to be where innovation and creativity are at it strongest also where customer service and value for money is a priority.

Sian has travelled extensively and enjoys experiencing new cultures and embracing difference and diversity. She has worked in the UK, across Europe, in Russia, and the UAE. Sian ran her own business from 1997 – 2017, before she joined Enhanced Group to add her skills to a larger portfolio of services for SME/B’s. She has enjoyed being the first Women in Management board member for The Chartered Management Institute UK, mentoring for the Australian Human Resource Institute, and currently with the Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia/New Zealand mentoring program. 


Andrea Bernard is currently the General Manager, Marketing and Sales at Simply Energy, which she joined just over a year ago to further leverage her proven track record for building high performing teams. Over the past 17 years she has led teams across a range of industries, including banking, energy and media. She has extensive experience working in complex organisations, developing strategy and meeting ambitious growth objectives. Andrea describes her passion for managing disruption and agitating for improvement and innovation as one that she has had no choice but to apply! She is always keen to share her experiences in building teams while maintaining a strong focus on results, as well as responding to an ever evolving market with customer expectations at an all time high.

Natalie Donohoe is the CEO of Premium Health, she leads a team of 50 professional staff (nurses, paramedics and counsellors) who are committed to creating a measurable impact on the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients’ employees.  With a background in nursing, Natalie has a passion for promoting mentally and physically healthy workplaces through high quality education and training.  Natalie has significant expertise in strategic planning, RTO compliance, tender writing and project/contract management.  Natalie often acts as an education advisor or subject matter expert at industry forums and on steering committees for accredited courses such as the new Victorian Government Course in Gender Equity.

Natalie’s qualifications include a Master of Management, Diploma of Business, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Registered Nurse Division 2 and Fellow CEO Institute.

Michele Sterkenburg is passionate and curious about people, how they behave, what’s important to them and how to
influence them. She thrives on learning, especially about marketing, communications, new concepts and
the future. It’s important to her that she adds value and makes a difference in this world.

She is the Brand and Communications Manager for REMINGTON in Asia Pacific, a role which she finds challenging and
enjoyable. For the last 20 years, her career has been in Marketing in a variety of companies,
Large corporates; Mars Confectionery, Arnotts Biscuits, National Foods, Seek; Medium-sized
companies; Davies Bakery, Focus on the Family, Eurocave wine cabinets and Small businesses/Start
ups; Freedom publishing books, Redgum communications, World Literacy Foundation and POD TV.

She enjoys all aspects of marketing because it is about understanding people and business, her
favourite aspect is Brand Communications and Strategy. This is because she enjoys working with creative
people and making connections between people, concepts and business progression. Her aim is to
keep learning and making a difference wherever Ishe is.

She has a husband, 4 children and a dog called Remington.

Wendy Dawson
Throughout my career in New Zealand and Australia, my passion and focus have been working with organisations to achieve their strategic growth goals and hone their greatest competitive advantage – their people. Leveraging off my extensive background in consulting, sales and leadership development, this has predominantly been realised through the creation of high-performance cultures, coaching and executive mentoring, and always focusing on creating the best experience and outcome for the customer.

From a business leadership perspective, many of the roles I have undertaken have come as the result of being appointed to lead organisational change – even during times of volatility and uncertainty.  I have learned that to achieve significant, sustainable success and growth you must focus on the customer experience and outcome – continually delivering a better service today than yesterday.

As an executive mentor and leadership coach, I have worked with other business leaders in their personal develop as they too contend with the challenges of leadership during uncertainty and on the journey of organisational change and service excellence.

Melanie Colling is the Founder of Purpose Driven Projects, co-founder of Experts On Air – Podcast Booking Agency, host of the Business Connections Podcast and Amazon International best-selling co-author of ‘You Are A Genius’.

Melanie is a successful entrepreneur, mum of 1, avid podcast listener, voracious business book reader, loves meeting new people and learning about what they do and why they do it and just can’t help connecting people and having fun!

She is passionate about helping business leaders and experts succeed and accelerate their businesses by developing valued connections to become leaders in their field, industry and/or niche. 

She believes entrepreneurs will make the change in the world we want to see and need, not governments. So is committed to supporting and connecting entrepreneurs to empower change! This is why she gets up every morning!