Q. Tell us about your journey from St Margaret's to now.
Straight after school I completed a BA at UQ. Not quite sure what to do next, I started working in sales and then moved to marketing. My early marketing life was at Nestle, during which time I completed a postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Australian Graduate School of Management (UNSW).
I worked in marketing in a variety of industries, ultimately as Managing Director of Marketing at Telstra. I worked at Telstra through the 90s – a period of huge change. We introduced mobile phones and the internet to Australians; the industry was deregulated and Telstra was privatized. It was a great time!
After leaving Telstra I was CEO of AOL|7, then Executive Chairman of Orion Telecommunications, CEO of Commander Communications and now CEO of Lynas. These companies all had serious challenges when I joined and my job has been to turn them around. I seem to have created a reputation for turnarounds, and, whilst it can be very satisfying to see positive change and improved results the path is always very difficult.
From the early 90s I have also held various non-executive roles on government, public and private company boards.
Q. Can you reflect a little on your St Margaret's experience?
I loved school and I learned lessons at St Margaret’s that I use every day.
At St Margaret’s I learned the skills required to achieve the academic excellence which was so highly valued. The foundations of this excellence included approaching challenges with an open mind, gathering information from a variety of sources, critically analyzing this information, forming my own view and then presenting it in a carefully considered argument: all this whilst paying attention to detail in areas that are rather less fashionable these days like grammar, spelling and process. These are the same skills that are required to be successful in business. Creating successful business strategies is founded on diligent preparation and the ability to synthesize information from multiple sources. Executing business strategies successfully requires a disciplined approach and attention to detail at all stages.
At St Margaret’s, I learned the value of engagement and empathy from my teachers. They spent time with each of us individually and ensured we appreciated the lessons from each experience. The ability to engage with my staff and other stakeholders is a key part of my success in business.
At St Margaret’s I learned the value of teamwork and friendship and of ensuring you contributed to the team to the best of your ability – I learnt I could generate a lot more house points in debating than I could in athletics!
But finally, St Margaret’s is, at its core, a feminist institution. It is devoted to assisting girls to achieve their best, to preparing young women so they are able to address the world with confidence unencumbered by notions of gender. And this is the most important element of my experience at St Margaret’s. I left St Margaret’s confident I could do anything I chose if I applied myself diligently to the task. Of course I have since discovered there are always trade-offs in life, but the early lessons I learnt at school are as relevant and alive to me today as they were then.