Climbing up the corporate ladder was the last thing on Alison Watkins’ mind as a teen growing up in rural Tasmania. The CEO of Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) was quite content to simply marry a farmer and live a life on the land; however, fate had a different idea.

“My mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you keep your options open, dear’, and those words were very wise words,” Alison recalls. “I ended up going to university and doing a commerce degree, then ultimately moving to Sydney and going into a career path that’s created many more options for me than I ever would have imagined—options that I never would have even thought about if it wasn’t for that early encouragement.”

Today, Alison is a prominent leader in the business world and has a proven track record across a diverse range of industries. She has previously held positions as a non-executive director of ANZ, the chair of Allied Mills Australia, the managing director and CEO of GrainCorp, and the CEO of Berri Limited, before being appointed to the helm of CCA in March 2014.

A mentor and role model to other female executives and women in general, Alison says she received significant guidance of her own while navigating her personal career path. “When I look back, I’ve been very fortunate,” she says. “There has been absolutely no doubt that I’ve had a lot of people who have helped me along the way, really opened my eyes to what’s possible, and also helped me to gain the confidence that I could actually lead and play a role, learn new things, and aspire to the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate to be able to go on and be successful in.