Our People

The Chief of Staff Association is composed of a diverse, experienced group of global thought, business and academic leaders.

Operational Team

Trent Smyth AM
Chief Executive Officer

Trent Smyth served as the Honorary Consul for Malawi for nine years and held the position of Secretary of the Consular Corps Melbourne from 2014 to 2021. He is the founder of the Sports Diplomacy Foundation and a former Director of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation. Mr. Smyth holds a Bachelor of Commerce and an MBA from the University of Melbourne. In recognition of his contributions to international relations, motorsport, and business, he was awarded the Order of Australia in 2021.

Jeremy Costa
Chief of Staff to the CEO

A master’s graduate of international relations at the University of Melbourne, Jeremy is an experienced writer on Australian foreign policy, previously working for international affairs think tanks Asialink and the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA). Jeremy is passionate about connecting people and believes strongly in the power of diplomacy.

Polly Holtby
Financial Controller


Polly is a graduate of Manchester University, having studied Chemistry with Industrial Experience. She has worked and volunteered for a variety of organisations, including a US blue chip FMCG company, a UK Management Consultancy firm, a variety of UK, Estonian and Australian charities and an Australian NFP organisation.

Nicholas Langford
Events Manager

After reading Classics at the University of Cambridge, Nicholas worked as a political staffer and civil servant. He managed the office of an Australian parliamentarian before serving as Aide to the Governor of Victoria. Most recently Nicholas was an advisor on trade policy and diplomatic relations, focusing on the Middle East, Türkiye and Africa. He is passionate about the power of networks to support learning across disparate disciplines and cultures.

Saira Latif
Customer Success Manager

Saira has a diverse background that includes experience in administration, procurement, member services, and event management in both the private and public sectors. She has also worked for a women’s charity, where she played an active role in raising awareness about domestic violence,  FGM, and forced marriage. Saira is passionate about interacting with people and enjoys learning about their upcoming projects, organizational strategies, and personal interests. Saira’s curiosity and willingness to learn make her a valuable asset in any team.

Meena Vahabzadeh
Membership Engagement Manager

Meena is an International Development graduate who has worked in India and Sri Lanka, overseeing operations and communications across several development initiatives. She was chief of staff to an ultra-high-net-worth principal based in Austria and the Isle of Man before resuming work in communications strategy.

Richard Williams
Director of Education

Richard has built his career at the nexus of education, community and technology. An Australian native he was worked for global companies in New York, San Francisco, Accra and London. He has served as the chief of staff at Change.org, Operations Associate at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Startup Consultant at Harambeans and Senior Instructor Manager at General Assembly.

Erin Sanders
Intern – Learning and Development

Erin is currently in her gap year, planning on studying Social and Public Policy at the University of York next year. She has an interest in journalism, and one day hopes to be a political journalist or focus on diplomatic relations. Erin also participates in many charity events, one of the more recent being a skydive raising money for a local mental health charity. Erin is passionate about learning about other cultures and building global connections, whilst using these to make an abiding difference.

Caroline Scotter Mainprize
Chief Editor

Caroline is a writer, editor, and communications advisor, working mostly for organisations involved in research and education. Clients have included Oxford University Press, Saïd Business School, Bayes Business School, and the international development and publishing organisation CABI. She has edited a number of books, annual reports, and journals, and written practitioner-focused research reports, including Oxford’s The Museum Leaders Report and Understanding Chief Digital Officers.Before freelancing she was responsible for the corporate communications at Oxford University Press. She had previously worked for a London PR consultancy and as a journalist on a business newspaper.

Isolde Willats
Learning and Development Associate

Isolde is an Organisational Psychology master’s graduate with a keen interest in unveiling the factors that contribute to a healthy and productive workforce through quantitative and qualitative research. Isolde’s professional background has been centred around providing support to small businesses and entrepreneurs in the education sector. This has included project management, academic programme development, event coordination and DE&I assistance.

Aicha Daneliuc
Marketing Manager 

Aicha carries a blend of global insight and digital savvy to the CSA. Educated at the University of Manchester, she’s contributed to leadership development and the advancement of the UN’s SDGs through her global work with AIESEC. Her transition into tech startups has seen her apply this international perspective to marketing, driving brand stories with a clear eye on the digital future. At CSA, Aicha channels her experience into connecting leadership with current and future trends, ensuring our message is both grounded and forward-thinking.

Mike Jernigan
Director of Mentorship Programme

Mike has 30 years’ experience as a United States Marine. He has served as interim Chief of Staff for U. S. Forces Japan and as Chief of Staff for Marine Corps Installations East. He currently is the Director of the Mentorship Programme with The Chief of Staff Association.

Mike is passionate about the value productive Chiefs of Staff add to organizations and recognizes to be successful, a Chief of Staff must be an effective arbiter of competing priorities, a trusted agent for leaders of all levels in the organization, and a practitioner of lateral communication in order to understand its value in keeping organizations operating at peak efficiency.

The CSA is fortunate to have a network of Fellows who support our community with experience, influential connections and mentorship.