Conference Speakers in 2021

The Corporate PA Summit attracts a fantastic mix of inspirational speakers, celebrity speakers and leading EAs. This Corporate PA Summit will build upon this tradition in 2021, with an agenda packed full of exceptional presentations.

Photos and bios of confirmed speakers can be found below.

Would you like to be considered as a speaker at future ThinkTank events? You can submit an application here.

Jessica Strutt (MC)

Jessica Strutt is an MC, facilitator and entertaining panel guest who brings a high standard of professionalism to any event.

She worked as a journalist and broadcaster in Western Australia for two decades but most recently has been working for one of the State’s major integrity agencies, helping with its reports to WA Parliament.

For almost eight years Jess worked at the ABC in Perth, where she covered a number of Federal and State elections in her role as Chief State Political Reporter.  She was later a presenter of various programs with ABC Radio Perth.

Before joining the ABC, Jess worked as a senior media adviser in government.

Jess has experience across all media platforms including print, radio, television and online.  Before entering journalism, Jess completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in politics and history at University of Western Australia.

She started her journalism career as a print reporter, which included five and a half years with The West Australian.  At WA’s only daily newspaper she covered State politics for four and a half years, before taking on the social and Aboriginal affairs round which had her travelling to many remote spots across the State.  Jess’s first job was in the wheatbelt farming town of Merredin.

Over her journalism career Jess has won numerous awards for her political, resources, indigenous and social affairs reporting.

Dr Fiona Wood AM, FRCS, FRACS

Fiona Wood has been a burns surgeon and researcher for over 30 years and is Director of the Burns Service of Western Australia (BSWA). She is a Consultant Plastic Surgeon at Fiona Stanley Hospital and Perth Children’s Hospital; co-founder of the first skin cell laboratory in WA; Winthrop Professor in the School of Surgery at The University of Western Australia; and co-founder of the Fiona Wood Foundation (formerly The McComb Foundation).

Professor Wood’s greatest contribution and enduring legacy is her work with co-inventor Marie Stoner, pioneering the innovative ‘spray-on skin’ technique (Recell), where today the technique is used worldwide.
In October 2002, Fiona was propelled into the media spotlight when the largest proportion of survivors from the 2002 Bali bombings arrived in Perth where Fiona led the medical team at Royal Perth Hospital to save many lives.

Fiona was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2003. In 2004 she was awarded the Western Australia Citizen of the Year award for her contribution to Medicine in the field of burns research. Fiona was then named Australian of the Year for 2005. She is an Australian Living Treasure. Fiona is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science.

Fiona is married to fellow surgeon Tony Kierath and is mother to four boys and two girls.

Alicia Curtis

Alicia Curtis is one of Australia’s most inspiring social and business entrepreneurs as a personal leadership expert and change maker.

Clearly with a knack for inspiring crowds and empowering people to discover their own potential to be leaders, Alicia established her leadership development company in 2001. Her face to face and online leadership programs have always been at the cutting edge of increasing diversity in leadership, challenging the stereotypes of who can be leaders and the difference they can make. In 2016, Alicia co-authored the book, Difference Makers: A Leader’s Guide to Championing Diversity on Boards. Alicia is passionately driven by her purpose to ignite leaders to transform the world for the better – whether than be in the workplace or broader community.

Alicia continues pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. In 2014, she co-founded 100 Women, a collective giving circle which inspires everyday people to become powerful philanthropists. Over that time, 100 Women has granted $720,000 and impacted over 10,500 women and girls in over six different countries.

Alicia has a masters in business leadership and has numerous awards to her name including being inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020, top 4 in the 2019 Business News 40under40 List, 2018 EY Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the western region, Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow in 2017 and the Westpac & Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence List in 2014.

Alicia’s leadership journey started at just 12 years old, attending the first International Children’s Conference organised by the United Nations and then co-founding a children’s conference in Perth – since then, she’s never stopped!

Tracy Vo

Tracy, who has been part of the Nine News team since 2007, is the weekend news presenter for Nine News Perth. She is also a senior reporter in the newsroom.

While completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Curtin University, her journalism career began in radio in Sydney on 2SM in 2004. Tracy spent two years at the station as breakfast editor, newsreader and reporter. She soon moved to television, taking up a producing and reporting position at Sky News Australia before joining the Nine News Sydney team and the Nine News Network in Sydney in 2007.

In 2010, Tracy was offered the role of political reporter in Nine’s Canberra bureau. She immediately grabbed the opportunity to work with veteran political editor Laurie Oakes. After a busy year in politics, Tracy returned to Sydney as a general reporter.

By the end of 2011, Tracy also took on the medical round. She covered a range of stories and roles, from field producing chief presenter Peter Overton during the Black Saturday bushfires, travelling across the country for the 2010 election campaign, trekking through the jungles of Borneo and walking with lions in South Africa.

After almost 10 years in Sydney, it was time to head home to Perth, where she continued to cover stories overseas. They include the death of Nelson Mandela, Schappelle Corby’s release, the mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and abandoned baby Gammy in Thailand.

In 2014, Tracy became a published author, telling her family’s story in Small Bamboo. In 1978, following a dramatic escape from war torn Vietnam, Tracy’s parents boarded a leaky boat, exchanged wedding rings en route to Malaysia, and
then sold them and their scant possessions to feed themselves and their relatives on the journey. They had no idea of what their future would hold or whether they would live.

In 2016, Tracy took on the role of presenter for Today Perth News, before moving to the Nine Live Perth chair at 4pm in 2018. She is also a familiar voice on Radio 6PR. 2020 saw her move back to Sydney to take on the TODAY newsreader role, before returning home to Perth later in the year due to COVID-19.

Tracy is an inspiring and motivating speaker whose presentation encompasses the wonderful life she and her family has now.

Vanessa Vershaw

Vanessa is an award-winning organisational psychologist, Harvard Business School coach and author with over 20 years of broad international consulting experience. She brings innovative, global solutions to both public and private sector clients across industry sectors. Vanessa has written published articles on topics relating to leadership, strategy, disruption, innovation, culture and organisational psychology and transformation. She was the Deputy National Chair of the Australian College of Organisational Psychology, State Manager for an organisational research firm and, Vice-President, Knightsbridge-LHH. She now runs her own boutique organisational and leadership development firm Reinvention in Perth, Western Australia.

An executive-level practitioner and trusted advisor to many, Vanessa has successfully managed both leadership and large scale-organisational development initiatives with Boards, executives, teams and Fortune 100 companies around the globe such as – Adobe, SAP, Uber, S & P Global Platts, Dell, IBM, Diageo, Starbucks, NAB, CBA, BHP, Rio Tinto, South32, Biomarin, Varian, Novartis, Pfizer, PwC, Brookfield, Synergy, Western Power, NRW, Ausdrill, Australian Football Commission, Australian and Canadian Federal Governments and Cirque du Soleil to name but a few.

She also has extensive  experience in the tertiary sector as both a guest lecturer and providing high level strategic consulting to Curtin, Murdoch, UWA, McGill University, Queen’s University and the Canadian Colleges Association.

In 2019 she launched the Fire up the Future series of agile leadership development programs with Australian and Silicon Valley Technology thought-leaders focussed on developing adaptive leadership capability through creative strategy, agile thinking, human-centered design capabilities and heart skills and the Trail-Blazer program for women leaders.

Vanessa received an award for Innovation in HR and was shortlisted for the Telstra Business Woman of the Year (Entrepreneur) in 2016. She is also a highly sought-out keynote speaker and regular media commentator on business, leadership and psychology-related matters.

She loves to run, box, cross-country ski, write, travel and cook. She is a proud mother of two and continues to be inspired daily by random acts of kindness, the arts and the natural world.

Chandler Comerford

Chandler Comerford is a leadership consultant, coach and professional speaker who grew up in the North East of the United States.  Chandler attended the United States Naval Academy where he was a National Champion Collegiate Boxer and earned a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography.  In 1995 he received his commission as an officer and was one of 16 (out of a class of over 1000) Naval Academy Graduates selected to become a SEAL.  SEAL Teams are the US Navy’s primary special operations force and the acronym SEAL stands for Sea, Air and Land, which is the environment in which all SEAL Teams operate.

In order to become a SEAL Team member, trainees must first pass Basic Underwater Demolition School which is a 6 month long training program with attrition rates between 60% and 80%.  After completion of training, Chandler was assigned to SEAL Team One in San Diego California.

Chandler left the Navy in 2001 to move to Australia. Since living in Australia Chandler has been a facilitator, coach, and strategic risk consultant in the Oil and Gas, Mining and Government sectors. Chandler currently runs leadership and resilience programs to assist individuals and teams to become more effective.

He lives in Mullaloo with his 3 children and his dog, Bear.

Michelle Cowan

Combining her two passions of being a mother and AFL coach, Michelle’s amazing story is a tribute to what all of us can achieve with enough guts, grit and determination. With over 18 years of coaching experience in the WAFL, AFL and AFLW a long and successful career that has contributed to the game’s exciting evolution.

At 21 Michelle became Australia’s first female WAFL assistant coach and put West Perth through its paces. Her role at West Perth was followed by a three year stint at South Fremantle Football Club as midfield coach. Michelle later took on a dual role at Melbourne Football Club as the Senior Coach of their Women’s Team and Development Coach for the Men’s team before being appointed by Fremantle Football Club (Dockers) to be the inaugural coach of their AFLW side 2016-2018.

In early 2019 Michelle was appointed as Assistant Coach of the West Coast Eagle’s AFLW team and in 2021 was offered the opportunity to become Head of Operations & Player Wellbeing for the team.

Michelle was awarded the AFL Football Woman of the Year in 2013.and in 2014 was announced as AFL DSR Coach of the Year.

Her achievements have made it clearer for the next generation of women in football proving that when it comes to football or business, gender is no barrier to kicking goals.

Samantha Garrett (masterclass facilitator)

Samantha is a highly experienced and respected technology trainer who works with education, business and government clients across Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia. She specialises in helping organisations make the most of their cloud collaboration platforms, including Google Workspace (G Suite) and (Microsoft) Office 365.

She is deeply passionate about helping people become more efficient, productive and organised. Samantha is well known for her signature training style – delivering practical, relevant and easy-to-understand content with energy, enthusiasm and joy. You won’t get bored or lost in her training sessions!

So what does all this mean in practice? That Samantha LOVES helping people clean up their inboxes, organise their files, get in control of their task list and generally become more efficient in using their everyday tools.