Donna Burnett

Donna has climbed her way up the corporate ladder within La Trobe University step by step, starting from a mid-level student administration position, and now enjoying a leadership role as the Manager of La Trobe’s Business School. The tertiary sector has been her professional field of development for 12 years and she has been in a leadership role for eight years. “I love the quality of lifestyle La Trobe offers and really love the people and the environment,” she says.

Donna values La Trobe’s cultural qualities – care, connected, accountable and innovative. “I hold myself and everyone around me highly accountable to those cultural qualities,” she says.

Donna’s professional path was marked not only by working hard towards management roles, but also on gaining further education whilst simultaneously trying to start a family.

Working towards what she wanted to achieve and with a strong desire to set an example for her ‘miracle’ baby, she re-enrolled back into a Master’s program full time and completed her MBA. This was undertaken while still maintaining a full-time senior position at La Trobe, working two part-time jobs after business hours and a raising a child. “I nearly fell over” she says.

Her current role is high-pressured and entails many additional hours outside work. Donna knew that in order to gain professional recognition, she needed to be able to “walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. Managing so many professional and private duties may not have been possible without having a support network and a way to release the pressure.

Donna’s passion is swimming. “I love teaching both kids and adults this crucial life skill.” she says. Swimming is her outlet and her “brain relief time.”  It has helped her get through her everyday duties, while also giving her a strong sense of community contribution.

Donna says one of the things she loves about La Trobe is the support she gets from her colleagues. “The community here really helps one another when times are tough.” She appreciates that La Trobe recognises a working mother’s needs and allows flexibility – including working from home and bringing a child to work.

In her current role, Donna’s biggest challenge is managing the workload and finding the right balance, as well as trying to build high performing teams. She has at times felt that many people tend to take their professional roles for granted, and says her job is more than just a job, it’s her life. “We need to give back and make a sound contribution.”

She has numerous advice for young and aspiring leaders:

“Be humble. Don’t dive into high-level roles without doing the hard yards and climb the corporate ladder step by step.  Prove yourself on all levels and learn from peers and managers.”

“Draw on the success of the people around you to help you shape your career and the way you want to move forward.”