On Saturday the 8/04/2017 Westpac turned 200 years old. This was a momentous occasion, as it is Australia’s oldest business. Because it was such a big occasion Westpac decided to do something special and start up a foundation called The Westpac Bicentennial Foundation. Now creating foundations and charities was definitely not the new thing, but it the foundation provides grants to the people they believe will lead the way in Australia’s future. And again this isn’t the part that no one else has done, Westpac has set out to give out 100 scholarships, every year – Forever. That was the different part, the forever. Now imagine being part of the first 200 scholars that kicked off this foundation, pretty cool right?
Well I am one of those 200, and was welcomed into the W100 network just as Westpac is having its birthday. How can you not be proud? I am one of 200 that kicked off the program as Westpac turned 200 and am the beginning of forever. I felt this was quite an achievement, being the start of something big. Who else could say they were there when it all began.
The welcome into the W100 network happened in two parts, a state welcome and the entire network welcome. The state welcome happened a couple of weeks ago with all the state scholars getting together to meet everyone in their state, so being a NSW scholar I met all of the other NSW scholars. I drove up to Sydney right after my last lecture on the Friday. I was pushing it for time to get to Sydney by 5pm. I went and picked up another fellow scholar and began the drive to Sydney. It wasn’t a very long drive only an hour and a half, but it was peak hour – which i wasn’t expecting driving into the city. the event was at a local lawn bowling club, so it was a pretty relaxed event. We had a unlimited bar tab and free food and bowls for the night. It was an awesome break from uni and this was just the beginning, the big two day summit was still to come.
On Thursday and Friday in early April, I, along with 100+ scholars arrived in Sydney for a massive summit. I was quite nervous, I had no idea what to expect, was there going to lots of people, or none at all? What events were we going to participate in? Most of the scholars arrived Thursday morning and a few arrived Wednesday night, as they were travelling from far far away land. The scholars were from all over Australia and traveling from Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth. Some of them waking up at 4 in the morning to fly over and be in Sydney. I don’t know how they managed to wake up at 4am, I can barely wake up at 8am to get to class on time.
I caught the train up with a few other scholars, as Wollongong is a short distance from Sydney. We arrived around 10am and walked from town hall to the hotel, carrying our bags. we checked in and went to check out our rooms. we all had our own rooms, queen beds, such an upgrade from university accommodation. After checking into our hotel for the night we walked over the the International Towers which is where the event was starting. It was just a short 5 minute walk down the street. on the way I walked part the Westpac Group headquarters, where it was being evacuated with 3 fire trucks sitting out side. Nothing appeared to be wrong, maybe just an exercise for the fire crew. There was also a group of people across the road from the fire trucks, making cat noises and weird hand gestures. They were probably Westpac employees bored because they were stuck outside.
We were welcomed to one of the Westpac buildings at Baragaroo where we collected guest passes and our name tags. As everyone was just arriving in Sydney we all gathered in a foyer with snacks, chatting and getting to know each other before the summit officially kicked off. This was kinda awkward for me, as I knew one person and but it didn’t seem awkward for the future leaders as they went around meeting everyone. The event started with all of us getting shuffled into a room on the 28th floor, with a stage set up the front. The bicentennial foundation CEO – Susan Bannigan, welcomed everyone and informed us of the plans for the next few days.
We split off into our scholarship streams, and headed off into different rooms in the tower. this was when I took the picture on the right, because I don’t think I’ve ever been this high up before. Now was the time when we did the compulsory ice-breakers. They weren’t too bad this time because we only really did one, then socialised over food. We also learned about who the important people in Westpac are, just so we have an idea when we eventually meet them all. After lunch we went back up stairs to witness an interview with the SBS news presenter Lee Lin Chin.
The Westpac Group CEO – Brian Hartzer, spoke to all of us new people and gave us a little sneak peak into what to expect from Westpac. this was then followed by the only reason why half of us were here, the Lee Lin Chin exclusive. One of the 2016 scholars, was in-charge of running the interview. I don’t know if I could have done it, too intimidating. It was great to see an onscreen celebrity, in real life, and comparing the two. Lee Lin is almost just like she appears on TV. Her witty comments made everyone laugh, and it made me think that the massive wine glass was full of alcohol, instead of apple juice.
After this each stream split up again, to participate in an active learning session. My session was the one hosted by Julian O’Shea. Julian is a 2016 scholar and also the founder for Laika Academy. Just as the session was beginning we had afternoon tea, which was brownies and plenty of other healthier foods. after this was when we all played a massive game of scissors, paper, rock, with a twist. Every time you won you evolved into a new creature, then every time you lost you went back an evolution. and every time you met someone you had to introduce yourself and your degree. It was a very interesting way to meet my fellow scholars. the rest of the session involved creative thinking, new ways to come up with ideas, how to use the strengths of businesses to solve particular issues, and good old friendly competition.It was an awesome way to get to know the other scholars and realise the many different ways to innovate. After the sessions ended, everyone traveled back to the hotel, to freshen up and get ready for the awards ceremony in an hour. On the walk back I experienced more weird stuff as a smart car (extremely small two door hatchback) came rushing by with lights and sirens… it was an ambulance.
The awards ceremony was semi-informal event but with lots of formal attire. There was no assigned seating or anything but a stage, bar and live band, so it was more a party rather than an awards ceremony. This was when we officially became a part of the W100 network and were welcomed into Westpac. Each stream was introduced with each scholar having their image appear on the projection screen and receiving a W100 badge – yep it wasn’t official until we got the badge. After the stream presentations the food started rolling out, the band started playing, and the selfies began. Photos were being taken, left, right and center, capturing proof that we were actually here. This was also the time to meet as many people as you could: people from Westpac, scholars – anyone. It was essentially a great time to network.
I didn’t take too many photos but there are a few on my Instagram – Check them out @andy.wilkie.
The next day started at 7:45am at the hotel where everyone gathered for breakfast, but I slept in like every other teenager would have done after being up late. So I don’t actually know what happened in the morning, l made it downstairs just in time for the group photo, but I assume the breakfast was good if the other meals were anything to go by. Now was the time to head over to our next destination, Carriageworks.
Carriageworks is an old train works warehouse that is used for events, and where the Westpac 200 years expo was set up. We put our bags down in one of the old work bays which had been converted into a cloak room, then sat down in front of a yet another stage. It kicked off with a welcome by some dude that I’ve never seen before, but that wasn’t why everyone was here. The speeches continued with one from Brian Hartzer, all followed by an imagination lecture. The imagination lecture was by none other than the co-founder of Netflix, Marc Randolph. He talked about how he got started including his meeting with Blockbuster and how Netflix has “gotta crush them”. He also discussed some key ideas about how to run a business, what defines a good idea, and how you have to take risks to be successful. It was interesting to hear the struggles he went through, how many companies he has helped start up.
The audience wasn’t just scholars, it was also businesses of the future and other randoms, but it was very exclusive. It was pretty cool being chauffeured around Sydney and being treated like someone important, especially at the age of 18. the scholars were set free and allowed exclusive access to the Westpac 200 Years exhibition, before the public. The expo was split into 3 sections: first, second, and third centuries. Which was basically the past, present and future for Westpac, where they came from, what they do now, and what they want to do. The third century was my favourite, it had all of the exciting future technology in it. It also had a section dedicated to scholarship program. It was awesome seeing a panel with the first 200 scholar names written on it. Eventually the exhibition will pack up and travel all around Australia, and then be set up in a permanent location, probably in Sydney somewhere. It also include heaps of the technology that is being released and yet to be released, including cool things like, augmented reality and unmanned aerial vehicles. All of this happened before lunch, so the next item on the agenda was food.
All of the scholars gathered in some random area of carriage works, where a bunch of tables and yet another stage was set up. It was strange having a stage set up in almost every room we went into. We had more inspirational speeches, from 2016 scholars and Susan Bannigan, during lunch as we started to wrap up the event. The only thing I was really thinking about at the time was how many brownies can I get without seeming greedy. I think I got about 4, so that was approximately 12 brownies for the entire 2 days. As the brownies started disappearing was when Susan got back on the stage and began thanking everyone, handing out gifts to the helpers. It was kind of sad that it was the end. It was so much fun having an entire event dedicated to you and 99 other special people. But it was the end of 2 action packed days of excited events, and free food. We were all promptly scooted out of carriage works, grabbing back and scrambling around to make it onto buses to get to the airport, but of course not after we grabbed the heaviest book they could possibly give us, a copy of The Westpac Story. I’m yet to look at it, but it has plenty of pictures. Luckily for my and the other Wollongong and Sydney scholars, we only had a 10 minute walk to the train station and plenty of time to return home.
Overall it was awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting other like-minded people, famous people, people that have changed the world and just generally cool people. Oh and not to forget, the free brownies were pretty good. I would definitely do it again if given the opportunity, but who knows this might lead to working over in America for a big tech company because they know Westpac, who knows what is next to come.