by Ryan Rosendale

For some students, completing a degree is the first step on the path to their dream career. For Shawn Wilkey, completing a Bachelor of Business, Sport and Leisure Management was about something more.

Shawn attended La Trobe from 2004 until 2006 before returning in 2009 to complete a MBA (Masters of Business Administration) and the boy from Frankston admits that enrolling to La Trobe was about getting on the straight and narrow.

“When I was looking for courses I was searching for one that would take me as far away from my home as possible because I was kind of heading down the wrong path and the change of lifestyle was really beneficial for me,” Shawn said.

Shawn also believes that the focus La Trobe places on sport also made the decision very easy.

Shawn spent the first year of his degree at the Mount Buller campus before completing the final two years of his studies at Bundoora.

“Mount Buller was great but when I made the move (to Bundoora) I was pretty keen to lock down and spend more time on my studies, and while I was travelling from Frankston most days, it was always enjoyable to come to uni.”

Throughout his time at La Trobe, Shawn was a member of the Student Leadership Council and also sat on the committee of Surfing at La Trobe.

“We’d basically do surf trips for students up the Bellarine Peninsula throughout the year which was always a great way to do something outside of the lecture theatres,” Shawn said.

Shawn was also able to travel to Beijing on study exchange before getting an opportunity to gain some work-ready experience a little closer to home.

“I actually wasn’t aware just how many jobs there were on the administration and business side of sport,” Shawn said.

“As soon as I found that out I did a placement subject and managed to secure a placement through Football Victoria – now AFL Victoria – which led me to a future full-time role.”

That role came a lot sooner than Shawn expected with an offer to return to AFL Victoria coming right around the time of his final exams.

“I got my first job out of uni with AFL Victoria as a Community Development Coordinator. I had my last exam on November 7 and three days later I stepped into the role. I was incredibly lucky with my timing but I guess that was also a result of impressing on my placement,” Shawn said.

With Shawn being able to gain experience in a number of roles throughout his career, he feels that the building ground at La Trobe was crucial for his success.

“It prepared me extremely well. I think the combination of subjects were really good but also a lot of the extracurricular activities was crucial with the placement subject being key for me,” Shawn said.

“Having the staff there to support building those industry partnerships was massive and since I have left I’ve noticed that La Trobe has a key focus on this area for their students.”

Shawn stayed in the role for eleven months and has since held positions at AFL Queensland before returning to AFL Victoria as the Community Development Manager.

Shawn’s time at AFL Victoria came to an end in 2012 when a role at the Carlton Football Club was too good to pass up.

“I was the Head of Community, Diversity and Strategic Projects at Carlton,” Shawn describes.

Shawn headed up Community, Diversity and Strategic Projects at Carlton where his department oversaw a range of La Trobe students.

“It was a very dynamic role. My major points of focus were around whole of club strategies for diversity and inclusion with the women’s team and multi-cultural academies being a major part of my work.”

“The community and diversity aspect was more about reaching into refugee, migrant and new arrival communities, and using sport as a vehicle for engagement through participation and social change.”

“It was challenging but it was also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding and while it was a high stress job at times it was something I thoroughly enjoyed and I loved my time at the club,” Shawn said.

After a career inside the sports bubble, Shawn decided to step outside his comfort zone and leave Carlton for a career in the political industry.

“An opportunity opened up in November of last year within the Department of Premier and Cabinet as the Director of Strategy and Development,” Shawn said.

“It was a unique opportunity and my passion has always been community engagement and social change; so not just being in the community but making a difference and being able to measure that.”

“There’s no doubt that the bulk of social change comes through government policy and funding and I saw the role as a big step up and an opportunity for me to make somewhat of a change in the world on a positive level.”

Shawn says that while the change has been a challenge it has also had positive effects.

“My growth curve has been massive in the short time I’ve been in the role so I don’t look back with any regret at all.”

Now with over ten years of experience in the industry, Shawn’s advice to today’s La Trobe students is to be as ready for the workforce as possible.

“Be as experienced and prepared as you can be. Take volunteer roles outside of your degree and build your CV with real-world experience beyond the university placement.”

The La Trobe Bachelor of Business, Sport and Leisure Management is now offered as the Bachelor of Business (Sport Management).