For the next few months, Big Fat Smile Acting Executive Manager Risk and Compliance Tammie Dron will analyse her vulnerabilities and strengths in a bid to become one of the region’s new generation of leaders.

As one of 27 participants in the 2023-24 Leadership Illawarra Program, Ms Dron has been partnered with mentor and Cram Foundation CEO Karen Burdett, to work on her self-selected goals and develop the skills to become a vocal advocate for the Illawarra.

Together they will take stock of Ms Dron’s personal factors, imagine future possibilities, set goals, develop plans, consider strategies and implement opportunities for personal and professional growth.

According to Ms Dron, the two-year program will help her better understand how to communicate ideas and work with like-minded people to deliver strategies and programs to drive future change in both her workplace and the broader Illawarra community.

“I was thrilled to be teamed with Ms Burdett as a mentor as she has a similar vision and purpose to my own,” she said. “I know she’ll share with me her own positive and negative learnings as well as listen to my goals and unpack emerging issues.

“I’m hoping she’ll challenge my perspectives while sharing insights into leading teams and supporting others. This will give me the confidence to pursue opportunities and lead from the front in developing new ideas to support a changing community.”

The Leadership Illawarra Program, now in its 11th year, is a partnership between RDA Illawarra, The Sydney Business School, University of Wollongong and The Illawarra Connection. It aims to produce inspired and well-connected visionaries with a passion for the region.

The 2023-24 program draws future leaders from businesses as diverse as Wests Illawarra, Mercer, BlueScope, IMB Bank, not-for-profit organisations, local government, small business and the community sector. The mentors include retired Illawarra senior leaders, current leaders of large organisations, business directors and board members.

RDA Illawarra CEO Debra Murphy said the role of mentors is to encourage growth of a resilient community by sharing their wealth of knowledge with the next generation of potential leaders.

“Some of our mentors hold PhDs, while others are recipients of The Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) or Members of the Order of Australia (AM),” she said. “They are passionate about our region and the community and want to ensure the Illawarra enjoys economic prosperity and strong liveability standards into the future.”