Catharine Payton (left) at the Mumbida wind farm in Western Australia

Cornish College “…definitely influenced me in terms of my gap year,” says Catharine Payton (CC2009). “I went to Vietnam for the Big Experience and we built a house in [rural] Vietnam. It was such a great experience – I really liked the idea of giving back. That’s why I did a volunteer role teaching English in China.

“I also really liked the idea of sustainability that Cornish promoted, and I think that’s indirectly linked to what I’m doing today.”

Following university studies, Catharine interned with General Electric and progressed to a role in the graduate program, gaining experience across a range of businesses throughout the organisation. She has worked in cities in Australia and the United States and currently works as the Projects Finance Manager in General Electric Renewables, overseeing wind farms throughout Australia.

“My role involves everything financial when it comes to wind farms,” Catharine says. “I manage project cash flows, project revenue recognition and assist with the project budgets at a high level.”

She is enjoying her role, which combines her interest in sustainability and accounting. She says her time at Cornish helped shape the choices she made after Year 12, with sustainability concepts and her service work through the Big Experience – now known as the Make a Difference Experience – playing an important role.

Catharine held leadership roles at Cornish, including House Captain, Swimming Captain and Deputy Head Girl. She believes these roles and Cornish’s learning environment helped her gain the confidence to pursue new challenges after Year 12. She took a gap year after Year 12 to travel and volunteer in China, before completing a Bachelor of Business and Commerce, majoring in Accounting and Human Resources.

“Cornish prepares you for being able to work independently and also to understand what you can achieve by broadening your horizons. I was very shy and it brought out my personality and allowed me to take bigger steps once I finished school.”

Catharine is yet to decide what the future holds, but is exploring the possibility of moving interstate or overseas. She hopes to continue working in the renewables sector – an area she is passionate about. Whatever happens, she says she will cherish her Cornish days and the connections she made with her Cornish friends and teachers.

“I really value my time at Cornish. I couldn’t speak more highly of Kerry Bolger and the teachers I had there. It’s an absolute credit to the school that, 12 years later, there are still those teachers around. It shows the environment that the school has managed to create.”

This story featured in the Summer 2020/2021 edition of The Difference

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