SEVEN diverse people, working in and for rural Australia, are in the midst of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation's program for seasoned leaders: TRAILblazers.
For Sugar Research Australia, supporting a place on the program for Queensland University of Technology's Professor Geoff Kent is a valued way of investing in the sugar industry's robust future and contributing to strengthening rural Australia.
For Mr Kent, growing up as the son of a cane farmer in the industry's heartland of Bundaberg, he always knew that his career would revolve around the commodity.
But it was through a degree in Mechanical Engineering, rather than farming, that he found his place in the world of sugar.
"My industry is one that is never dull, no day is boring, and there is always a new challenge requiring innovative ways of thinking in my role," he said.
Working in systems and engineering since 1986, Geoff's career trajectory has seen years of experience and hard work lead him to a stage where he is now a Principal Research Fellow, and - something he finds most novel - a port of call for advice and mentorship from students.
"I have post graduate students seek me out from time to time, and I suppose I do act as a mentor for some … but it's funny to realise, because my leadership journey has been a gradual one."
Currently supervising projects in cane transport operations, Mr Kent said that as an academic, he was looking for a program that would be rural-focused, but also hands on and experiential.
When he began to speak with colleagues about taking part in TRAILblazers, he knew of others who had done the program, and found great support from others urging him to give it a go.
At the beginning of the eight-day experience, Mr Kent said he was looking forward to trying something so out of the ordinary from his usual routine.
"I expect to learn things about leadership I didn't know before, and I'm hoping as part of the program to think more about where I'd like to be, and what I can contribute."
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