A two-way exchange of experience and knowledge

From left: David Vaughan (OM 1978) and Chris Okey (OM 2011)

Since July this year, 36 young Old Melburnians have been working with mentors to refine career goals, examine opportunities, tackle challenges, and prepare to take that next step through the Old Melburnians Career Masterclass.

“Our goal is to harness the Old Melburnian network of experienced professionals to provide support, career development and networking opportunities for young Old Melburnians,” says Andrew Tulloch, President of The Old Melburnians. “We are fortunate to have esteemed author and career consultant, Bill Cowan AM (OM 1962), on the Old Melburnians Council, and he has helped guide and grow this program.”

Here are the stories of two 2021 participants.


“If you’ve got a bit of community spirit, put your hand up and help someone.” That’s the advice David Vaughan (OM 1978) has for anyone considering being part of the Career Masterclass.

“I’m sure most mentors would agree that we don’t have all the answers, but we can lend a guiding hand,” he says. “If I’ve gathered a little bit of wisdom from my life experiences, and I can assist someone with their future, why not?”

A self-employed businessman and recently retired farmer, this program was David’s first point of reconnection with Melbourne Grammar since leaving school. He says the decision to participate was about paying it forward.

“I’ve been mentored for at least 20 years, and the person I work with is practical, has common sense, and gives me homework to reflect on,” he explains. “Of course, you never know how it’s going to go until you actually do it, but I’m so glad I did.”

David has been encouraging his mentee, Chris Okey (OM 2011), to think outside the box when considering his personal, career and community goals. “When you’re young and goal-driven, you can miss out on opportunities by focusing on a single career path,” he explains. “I’m trying to broaden the scope and vision for Chris, and to talk about life in general, not just professional success.”

Already, David is beginning to see the benefits of volunteering as a mentor in his own life. “I’ve learned to listen, which is very important— the role of the mentor is primarily to listen and ask questions,” he says. “It’s been a learning experience for me to hear about Chris’s life, and I’ve made sure to impress on him that once this program is finished, it doesn’t mean the relationship has to stop there.”

“Volunteering in any capacity is good for the brain and good for the soul. It’s part of the fabric of life.”


Chris Okey (OM 2011) came into the Career Masterclass at a point of transition. Matched with two mentors who both work in the agriculture industry, Chris has developed new skills and confidence, which helped him move moved from a role with an agricultural company into a new government position in policy and communications focused on climate change.

“This new role is something I wouldn’t have considered a few years ago,” says Chris. “Working with David has helped me see this as a possibility, and he’s been very reassuring as I’ve made the transition. He’s helped me look over job openings and talked me through pre-interview nerves.”

“It’s great to have someone encouraging you to put yourself first, and a second pair of eyes that are a bit more objective than those of friends and family members,” Chris adds. “David’s helped me understand how agriculture differs from other industries, and how much relationships and personal qualities make the difference.”

David has encouraged Chris to take a holistic approach when considering his future, rather than focusing solely on career goals.

“We’ve looked at where my career, personal ambitions, and my role in the community intersect,” Chris explains. “He’s prompting me to think about where I want to be as a person in five to ten years, not just as a worker.”

“I’ve also been fortunate to have a second mentor, Marius (Mac) Cuming (OM 1989), who works in the agriculture communications sector,” Chris says. “His advice has also been invaluable.”

To get the most out of a program like the Career Masterclass, Chris says mentees should approach the experience with two or three concrete outcomes in mind. “Having clear goals makes it easier on both sides,” he says. “It’s also important to be thankful and respectful, because these mentors are a great asset to you and your future.”

“I’ve had friends in my graduating year who wished they’d signed up in 2021, so I’d recommend all younger Old Melburnians stay connected and consider taking part when the Masterclass comes around next year,” Chris adds.

About the Old Melburnians Career Masterclass

The Old Melburnians Career Masterclass pairs experienced Old Melburnians with those just starting out, establishing a mentor-mentee relationship. With Melbourne Grammar’s 18,000 alumni including leaders in corporate, non-profit, and government organisations, as well as many other fields, participants gain access to a wealth of knowledge and experience across a huge range of professional areas.

Open to young Old Melburnians in the first five years of their career, the Career Masterclass supports regular meetings between mentors and mentees, facilitates discussions, and provides resources and networking events. Most mentees in the program are paired with two mentors, in order to give them different perspectives.

Participants find there are benefits on both sides. By taking part, mentors have the opportunity to develop their coaching skills, learn about the next generation of young leaders in their respective fields, and give back to the Melbourne Grammar community. For mentees, the program offers access to expert advice, perspective, and industry connections.

For more information visit here