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DDI and AFR BOSS Announce Australia’s Top Young Executives for 2020

June 19, 2020

For the 17th consecutive year, DDI’s Day in the Life Leadership Assessment identifies Australia’s brightest up-and-coming leaders.

Despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, the six recipients of the 2020 AFR BOSS Young Executives competition put their best foot forward as leaders in their communities.

The recipients, who are an accomplished, strategic and future-focused group, demonstrated outstanding leadership to win the prestigious Australian Financial Review (AFR) BOSS Young Executives Competition. Recipients are recognised as Australia’s most promising up-and-coming executives under 35. 

The 17th annual award marked the first time DDI, a leading global leadership consulting firm, and Australian business publication AFR BOSS partnered to provide an entirely virtual experience. The seamless experience used video-conferencing technology and DDI’s virtual leadership assessment solutions.

The competition consisted of 10 shortlisted applicants. They participated in DDI's executive simulation assessment and interviews with a panel of senior business leaders. It identified well-rounded young executives showing emotional intelligence, business aptitude, innovation and leadership skills to excel in an executive role. The panel selected six winners who showed a solid understanding of their company’s goals, and clear and effective leadership skills. They also demonstrated a strong commitment to the advancement of business and the wider community.

“We continue to receive such impressive applications for this award and the accomplishments of the top six across all aspects of the judging was phenomenal once again,” said Andrew Warren-Smith, managing director of DDI Australia. “The incredible contributions these young leaders are making stood out - not just to their organisations, but to the broader Australian community.”

This year’s winners are:

  • Stephen Bowen, Telstra's head of digital platforms and accelerators and head of digital products group
  • David Brennan, U Ethical Investors Limited's director of distribution
  • Louise Howard, Sydney Metro's head of health and safety
  • Jessica Mellor, Star Entertainment Group's chief operating officer
  • Mark Sacco, Light Project Pty Ltd's chief operating officer
  • Tiffany Slater, National Rugby League's general manager of the Women’s Elite Program

Each finalist demonstrated exceptional executive leadership skills during DDI’s challenging day-long virtual executive simulation. During the simulation, they stepped into the role of president of a fictional $28 billion artificial intelligence company operating in today’s agile world. The assessment analysed participants’ key business leadership skills. These skills included developing a strategic business plan, data analysis, establishing and sharing a vision, and influencing a key business partner. The finalists received extensive feedback on their strengths and development areas, creating a development path for higher success.

“As with many of the past winners, the platform on which these leaders now stand is one that thrusts them into a spotlight of attention, responsibility and accountability,” Warren-Smith said. “I encourage the Young Executives Class of 2020 to embrace this new status with confidence, courage and humility as they continue their journey of growth and service.”


About DDI

DDI is a global leadership consulting firm that helps organizations hire, promote and develop exceptional leaders. From first-time managers to C-suite executives, DDI is by leaders’ sides, supporting them in every critical moment of leadership. Built on five decades of research and experience in the science of leadership, DDI’s evidence-based assessment and development solutions enable millions of leaders around the world to succeed, propelling their organizations to new heights. For more information, visit