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Meet Vanaja Thomas, who joined the IPEd board in October as our new Membership Director. Vanaja is currently the Membership Manager at the Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia, and has worked for a range of peak organisations for various professions including veterinarians, master plumbers, small business owners and company directors. Based in Melbourne, she has previously worked as an account manager for a publishing house in Malaysia and possesses cross-cultural insights into the editing and publishing professions.

Membership Director Vanaja Thomas at the Self Storage Association 2019 Cairns conference

Vanaja Thomas speaking at a 2019 Cairns conference for the Self Storage Association about their membership and member benefits.

What do you hope to achieve with IPEd?

I’m looking forward to strategically helping IPEd evolve and grow as an organisation, to exploring and adding value to the members’ experience and finding ways to communicate that value and opportunities as best as possible so that our editors can make the most of their memberships.

I’m hoping I can help IPEd grow its corporate membership base, as I’ve had success in this area in previous roles. As the membership and partnership officer for the Self Storage Association of Australasia, I helped the organisation retain all five of its major corporate customers during the pandemic and engaged a sixth client.

Why did you decide to apply to join the IPEd board?

I’ve been in membership positions for 15 years. I relish the prospect of growing a membership organisation strategically. I felt being able to contribute my skills as a board member for IPEd was a unique opportunity. I’m driven by the three core membership drivers  – attraction, retention and engagement. A focus on these three core drivers provide insights into how we can evolve and grow as an organisation.

What are your biggest strengths?

I have a creative streak and am able to intuitively put myself in the shoes of  members. I think being genuine with members is key. That’s where I believe my success has come through. For example, when I was the membership officer at the Self Storage Association during one of the toughest times for many businesses – the height of the pandemic – we achieved a member retention rate of 95%. I told the organisational leadership that we needed to support our clients and hold their hands, as they were struggling and had responsibilities to their own customers.

At the Society of Hospital Pharmacists, I suggested a tool to help members to maintain their health, post-lockdown. It was really well received and helped members to feel that the association is really there for them and their wellbeing. Members are people; they’re not just a number. Genuinely connecting with them and providing value are important.

One of Vanaja Thomas' dishesTell us a bit about your background

I’m originally from Kuala Lumpur. I moved to Melbourne in 2003. I’m a mother of two kids, aged 13 and 7. I’m into fitness, health and wellness.

I do love healthy cooking and plating dishes elegantly. I like to try different recipes and give friends and family something different to try. I have a scientific brain and like modifying recipes to suit everyone’s palate.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

After I had my second child, I became interested in health and wellbeing. Two months ago, I completed a certificate in Foundations of Health and Wellness Coaching with Wellness Coaching Australia. It was an intensive online course which I completed in three months. My next step is to get a professional certificate, which would give me the option of starting a coaching business if I have the time.

Another thing that most people don’t know about me is that I love doing visual art, especially patterns using oil paints. In my younger days, I won awards for art. I don’t have much time to do art nowadays, but still sometimes draw pictures for my kids. At first, they were like, “I didn’t know you could draw!” I also love photography.