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Celebrating Curtin’s graduates at the 40under40 awards

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The 2020 Business News 40under40 Awards saw ten Curtin University graduates honoured for the fantastic work they are doing in the community and beyond.

The awards, held at Crown Perth on 15 October, celebrate Western Australia’s top business talent under 40 years of age across a range of sectors from finance, manufacturing and health to the arts and community leadership.

The highest honour of the awards, the First Amongst Equals, was awarded to podiatrist and othortic entrepreneur Rachael Ferguson. Other Curtin graduates among the winners were Andrew Erkins, Briege Whitehead, James Koerting, Rafael Kimberley-Bowen, Samantha Hall, Dayna Pool, Amanda Walker, Leslie Delaforce and Yvonne Power.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Rachael Ferguson, SynxBody

Rachael Ferguson headshot
Rachael Ferguson

Rachael Ferguson was named the 2020 First Amongst Equals winner, the highest honour of the 40under40 Awards.

Rachael is CEO of orthotic company SynxBody, founder of Elite Sports Podiatry and the WA ambassador for the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organisation.

Rachael graduated from Curtin University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Podiatry, beginning her career as a podiatrist in community health and private practice.

She co-founded SynxBody in 2011 with colleague Marie Lewis after they designed and patented a super slim insole, Synxsole. After securing investment on TV show Shark Tank in 2015, Rachael’s company has grown rapidly.

She was grateful for the role her Curtin experience played in her success.

“I am so proud to be a Curtin graduate, my podiatry degree was a huge stepping stone in my career and I left Curtin with so many job opportunities and the confidence and skills to jump right into my full time job without any hesitation.

“I have the fondest memories of my lecturers and colleagues during my time at Curtin and the experience and skills gained during my degree has helped shape me into the practitioner and entrepreneur that I am today.

“Thank you, Curtin University, for being such a huge part of my success story.”

Andrew Erkins, Digit

Andrew Erkins graduated from Curtin with a Bachelor of Commerce and Electronic Commerce in 2003. Acting on a desire to help businesses and their people navigate the increasingly digital world, he embarked on six months of in-depth market research to find out what businesses really needed. It led to him to establish the cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting advisory company, Digit.

Briege Whitehead, White Spark Pictures

Curtin grad Briege wearing beanie in Antarctica
Briege Whitehead

Briege Whitehead graduated from Curtin in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Performance Studies and Screen Arts and is the founder and creative director of White Spark Pictures.

Briege is an experienced producer, director and writer, and is passionate about finding and telling important stories from the world around us. She learned the importance of engaging audiences early on when she had her own weekly radio show as a child.

After graduating with a master degree from Edith Cowan University in directing, Briege has gone on to receive critical acclaim as a director and executive producer for her work on original TV series including Poisonous Liaisons and The Antarctica Experience.

James Koerting, Gold Fields Australia

James Koerting is the Energy Manager at Gold Fields Australia and graduated from Curtin in 2020 with a Master of Business Administration.

James was awarded for being an emerging leader in carbon emissions reduction in the resources sector and a key driver of the $113 million Agnew Hybrid Renewable Energy Microgrid Project. The project, which integrates solar, wind, and battery storage with gas backup to power the Agnew mine in the northern Goldfields, is expected to supply more than 50 per cent of the mine’s power requirements through renewables.

“As a working professional, my MBA studies started boosting my career from the very first unit. I feel I am a much more capable manager after completing my MBA at Curtin,” he says.

Dayna Pool, Healthy Strides Foundation

Dayna Pool portrait shot
Dayna Pool

Physiotherapist Dayna Pool founded The Healthy Strides Foundation in 2017 after identifying a gap between research and community therapy provision in Western Australia.

The Healthy Strides Foundation brings together her research findings on muscle electrical stimulation by providing intensive therapy and rehabilitation programs for children and adults with neurological conditions.

Dayna graduated from Curtin in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy (Honours) and also participated in Curtin Ignition, a program for aspiring entrepreneurs.

She says the program played a pivotal role in her success.

“Access to networking opportunities and industry experts via Curtin Ignition is second to none and really helped to pave the way forward. It gave me the skills and confidence to step out on my own and establish an industry leading organisation that is making a positive difference in our community.”

Amanda Walker, WA Homestay

Amanda Walker posing with award
Amanda Walker Photo: Matt Jelonek and Gabriel Oliveira

After graduating from Curtin with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Corporate Administration in 2002, Amanda Walker began her career in corporate finance before moving to education and assisting small businesses with advertising and web maintenance.

After owning and managing a holiday home in the state’s south west for a number of years, Amanda founded booking platform WA HomeStay.

She describes Curtin as a launch pad into business.

“I had no idea my journey would lead me here but everything I have learnt has helped me to this point and Curtin was what started it all,” she says.

Leslie Delaforce, DreamSpark

Leslie Delaforce, a proud Gumbaynggirr man, graduated from Curtin in 2014 with a Graduate Certificate in Business and was the Managing Director of DreamSpark. Dreamspark aims to inspire young Indigenous Australians to pursue and create their own employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

Leslie was also the co-founder and co-owner of Covocate, has worked across the not-for-profit sector on boards HelpingMinds and StartupWA, and worked in senior government roles including a position as the principal policy advisor within WA Museum.

Rafael Kimberley-Bowen, Sealz

Rafael Kimberley-Bowen headshot
Rafael Kimberley-Bowen

Co-founder of Sealz sunglasses, Rafael Kimberley-Bowen has built a portfolio career combining board and advisory board roles, CFO and general advisory, angel investment and entrepreneurship.

Raf studied a Master of Business Administration in 2013. In addition to his role with Sealz, he is the Director of StartupWA, Perth Angels, Scale Partners and Techboard. He is a venture partner at 808 Ventures and creator of Techboard’s Australian Angel Awards.

He studied at the Curtin Graduate School of Business (CGSB) in the city centre.

“I loved my time at the CGSB and met some awesome people while studying there. Completing an MBA at CGSB really gave me some great tools to apply in my career.”

Yvonne Power

Yvonne Power graduated from Curtin with a Master of Arts (Cultural Studies) in 2008. Yvonne is passionate about building a sustainable energy future, especially in remote communities and developing nations.

Yvonne is co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Village Energy, a WA born start-up that has developed energy technology to operate at the edge of the energy grid and deliver cleaner, cheaper and more reliable power to underserved populations.

She led the development of a highly successful pilot project in Andhra Pradesh, India, with which WA has a sister-state relationship. Since the pilot, Village Energy has signed agreements across India, Indonesia and Cambodia and has a potential pipeline of millions of customer connections.

Samantha Hall, Campus Intuition

Samantha Hall
Samantha Hall

Samantha Hall was recognised for her work helping organisations understand how physical buildings impact the health and performance of occupants.

After almost ten years in business development, Samantha went back to study Environmental Science at Curtin, and completed a PhD in sustainable cities and buildings, also winning a Curtin Innovation award for her Rate My Space app.

Following a STEM leadership program in Antarctica, she left academia, exploring innovative ways for research to be better translated into practice.

Samantha now leads the development of the Campus Experience Index at Campus Intuition, a tool being used by universities to understand student experience in campus environments.

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