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Growth Hacking, Use Your Digital Powers for Good


Posted on October 3, 2017

4 min read

People talk about automation and jobs changing and, well, for the most part, they are all doom and gloom. I see these changes as a positive. Our script for the future isn’t written. If we put new digital skills in the hands of everyone, that empowers us all to determine and shape our own future.

This is why I am passionate about the Tech4Good work of the Telstra Foundation. It brings together the best of the tech and startup worlds and introduces it to the non-profit sectors. We at Telstra can have that local impact by helping our communities and sharing new skills to tackle society’s problems.

The word ‘hacking’ can have negative connotations. But it simply means to ‘hack through’ a problem. All sorts of people get together, to use their unique skills and knowledge to create innovative, new solutions to everyday challenges. You can make a difference outside of your day-to-day work life.

Telstra Foundation is partnering with Academy Xi for a special hackathon, Growth Hack Idol, to help non-profits tackle growth and outreach goals through digital marketing.

This is a competition in two parts. On October 11th, we will meet our hackers and non-profits, and learn about their purpose and challenges. The audience gets involved by assigning teams with problems to solve over the coming month. These teams will meet with their organisation to establish a strategy to achieve their marketing growth goals.

Next month, the groups will return and see what worked and what didn’t. The organisations will present what they learned and what impact the new ideas had on their growth. The audience will be involved in deciding the winner over a series of categories, including the most creative use of data, the best metric and the audience prize.

And that’s the way using Tech4Good can deliver new outcomes. We can change the way that folks think about solving problems by applying the lean startup approach. Fail, try again, and learn from that failure. It’s about changing the way we tackle problems, the way we get stuff done and the way we do work.

Growth Hack Idol’s purpose is to use technology or people’s skills to move things forward for non-profits. These organisations are doing great work, however sometimes they don’t have the time or the resources to apply new digital skills. If we can contribute to that, that’s a great outcome.

One of the non-profit partners is eOrygen. They are reinventing youth mental health services through science, big data and technology. This is close to my heart because my daughter, a student at Melbourne University, is studying data science.

She told me she wants to use big data for good. She wants to use analytics to help people. And if people like my daughter, Telstra employees or myself get involved we can use our capabilities to drive a good outcome for their future.

Sign-ups are now open for the event here. I encourage you to sign up, bring friends and family to make a difference in the lives of young people.

The non-profit teams are The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, StartOut and eOrygen. Even if you aren’t in the tech scene you can sign up to be in the audience or for the bold; you could learn new ways of thinking. We all have skills that we undervalue. And it is often surprising how easy it is to learn and apply new digital skills.

We have so much knowledge inside of us, all we need is the right opportunity to learn, to exercise that muscle. If you are newbies to the concept of a hackathon, it is about opening your mind to other ways of getting stuff done. It will give you a chance to get outside of your world and deliver services in a way that is going to be impactful.

The time is now to sign up and see how you can use your Tech4Good powers to help create a future you didn’t know was possible!

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Telstra Careers Students

Posted on July 21, 2017

7 min read

I work in the CTO, the Chief Technology Office, here at Telstra. I’m part of the Innovation Team responsible for ecosystem engagement and technology evangelism.

Sounds pretty interesting, right? But you’re probably wondering what that actually means. Ecosystem engagement is all about how Telstra connects to a whole bunch of different parties outside the business, to find better ways they can take advantage of the latest technology and even bring new technologies to them that we enable through our network.

I get to work with start-ups, local communities, and universities. Not only can we share our knowledge but we can attract great talent while promoting our own skills in and outside Telstra.

Throughout my time here, I’ve been a mentor for Muru-d our startup accelerator. That forward thinking is part of the reason why I came to Telstra after years of working for some of the biggest technology companies in the world.

I joined Telstra after 30 years of experience and here, I really feel like I can make a difference both in a local community sense and on a national scale with what the company is doing.

There are a lot of industries here and I think we need to be a shining example for other Aussie companies who are looking to expand into the technology and innovation spaces as a clear leader. I think we are on the path to achieving just that with the tools we’ve got and the people we have.

Telstra Labs are leading innovation and there are amazing people doing amazing things behind the scenes to help make it happen.

I’ve been involved with graduates at Telstra since I started and it’s something I’m really passionate about. I know it’s cliché, but students are our future and they bring with them a fresh set of ideas that always challenge our thinking and that’s great.

As a parent of young adults in the twenties and late teens, working with grads is very similar and I feel like I know how to talk to them, know how to keep them engaged. I love being able to share my wisdom and after many years in the business, I’ve got a lot to say. I’ve always wanted to be an active mentor, which I’ve been fortunate to do but most recently I’ve directly managed two graduates as part of our Graduate Program.

You’ll find a range of things to work on that you probably wouldn’t elsewhere. Think of it like sliders or a tasting plate, you get a little bit of everything and that’s the best way to see what you like.

As an intern you’ll get industrial experience and get a feel for what it’s actually like to work in the area you’ve been studying for so long. It often comes as a shock but studying something and working in something are two very different experiences!

Grads and interns come in, they try something out and it’s not uncommon to come off the program with a completely different idea of where you want to take your career. The important thing to remember is that it is your career and no one else can tell you what you want but yourself.

If something has never been done before, there isn’t a template to follow. I can’t think of anything more exciting than that.

During your time here, you won’t just have a laundry list of “things to do”. The workplace of the future doesn’t work like that. Instead, imagine your career like a blank sheet of paper for you to paint and colour as you wish. You’ll get the opportunity to think in creative ways because that’s how we need to think in order to tackle the questions we’re trying to answer.

If something has never been done before, there isn’t a template to follow. I can’t think of anything more exciting than that and we’re looking for people who are equally inspired by this.

Grads and interns form a valuable part of my team. Sure they may have less experience than some of the others, but we don’t expect that here. In fact, that’s part of what makes them so unique. When you’re working on a project for long enough, it becomes all you know so having someone new come in adds a fresh perspective.

As an intern in the Engineering stream, you can expect to work on innovation projects like customer co-creation activities including a one day workshop, a one week sprint, or a multi-week accelerator. Regardless of how long you work on something, it’s the design thinking, the lean start up skills that we apply to projects that’s the real takeaway.

Students who start their careers with us are developing their transferable skills and that’s what helps them be better students and, in turn, help them be more employable. Again, speaking as a father, it’s something I often try to teach my own children as well. How can we make sure you’re job ready when things change so much? Embrace ambiguity, expect change, and be quick to adapt to it.

We focus on the outcome of what we want done rather than how many hours you devote to a particular task. That’s what the future of work looks like where you’re accountable for what you deliver and help make sure it’s delivered on time. Here you’ll get to work with and learn from a whole range of subject matter experts (SMEs) and innovation experts on design thinking, big data, and the like which you can tap into. The challenge, of course, is how you can corral those experts and piece their knowledge together to help you deliver on what you need to.


“How can we make sure you’re job ready when things change so much? Embrace ambiguity, expect change, and be quick to adapt to it.”


If you’re applying to an internship program, know that you’ll be coming to a safe environment. We’re not here to see you fail; we’re here to see our grads succeed. While there is a tightrope you’ve got to walk, there is a safety net too.

In a lot of ways, it’s about giving interns and grads alike a chance to shine, where they can get opportunities to shine. Whichever skills you bring, you’ll find a chance to refine them and whatever skills you want to learn, you might be able to develop those too. It’s about helping you create your own career and start it off right.

I want someone who can deal with ambiguity as I think that’s the mindset you’ve got to have. It’s okay if you don’t have one already, just come in knowing that your expectations may change and that’s okay.

Part of the reason why I like working at Telstra so much is having an impact on industry and the wider community. I can go have some fun conversations at local unis and that’s a good thing. I also get to take part in initiatives that Telstra endorses like the Telstra Foundation including Code Club and Hackathons, which we’ve hosted here in the Telstra Labs.

But for me what it all comes back to is how I can pass my knowledge on to the next generation of engineers, thinkers, and problem solvers. My career has taken me around the world, joining tech companies just as the internet was starting to take off. These experiences taught me lots of useful things, but useful things are useless unless you have someone to share them with.

If it’s one thing I’ll keep coming back to it’s this: I want to help ensure that young people have a future career in technology and innovation. We have so much to offer, such wonderful upcoming talent and I can’t wait to see what they go on to achieve. Bring your ideas and we can work together to do great things.

Applications for Telstra’s Summer Vacation Program are now open. Summer Vacation is a 12-week paid internship between November and February each year. Learn more about starting your career at Telstra here or more about our work in technology and engineering here.

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Hipsters, hustlers, hackers and humanitarians: the Techfugee hackathon

Tech and Innovation

Posted on May 3, 2016

5 min read

The usual recipe for a successful hackathon is to ensure a good representations of hackers, hustlers and hipsters. However, the recent Techfugees Melbourne hackathon added a fourth important element – the humanitarian, and in the process created a dream team inspired to co-create solutions for newly-arrived former refugees, as API Evangelist, Frank Arrigo discovered.

The hackers are the coders/developers, either front-end, back-end or full-stack, the hustlers are the entrepreneurial business types, and the hipsters are the creative designers folks – Forbes calls this the Dream Team and it’s been a successful pattern for most hackathons I’ve been involved in over the years.

I was part of the organising team, which was also a bit of a dream team, or as I now dub them the  “Magnificent Seven” : Lynda Ford, Shelli Trung, Lama Tayeh, Michael Coburn, Jieh-Yung Lo & Wesa Chau and of course little ol’me.

The Magnificent Seven, was able to track down a marvellous venue; get the word out to Hackers, Hustlers & Hipsters; recruit talented mentors; identify judges, attract great sponsors, partners & supporters; and basically get the ball rolling for a hackathon.

We were also were able to great support from 2 organisations that work with migrants and former refugees – Australian Red Cross & AMES Australia, and this is where we added the humanitarians. This is where the stories came from, the problems that needed to be addressed over the weekend, which gave us a baker’s dozen of areas to be tackled – disability access and support, employment, entrepreneurship, food security, health, housing, language, legal system, migration advice, migration hub, qualifications, tracing to family reunion, and translating and interpreting.

As part of the lead-up we ran a series of webinars to introduce people to the event. We used this to explain the basics – Why, Who, What, When, Where. We ran these at different times during the week of the event, so as to make sure folks were well prepared.

The structure of the event followed a typical hackathon pattern – Friday evening kick-off; Saturday develop solution; Sunday prepare pitch/wrap-up and then the presentation ceremony to close the event and celebrate all the hard work!

Friday evening (or day 0) kicked off at 7pm with registration, introductions, sponsor thanks, guest speakers and then team formation. We had a colour coded system to identify the respective roles of Hacker, Hipster, Hustler and Humanitarian. In retrospect, we also needed something for mentors, sponsors, observers, organisers and all the other roles we had – lesson learnt!  We also live-streamed the ceremony and it’s online!

Over the course of the weekend, we had great mentors come in to assist the team, and here’s where I want to do a shout-out to Jason Cormier and Jason Taylor who were there to help wrangle mentors, deal with tech challenges, and basically do what was needed. Thanks gents! And thanks to the marvellous mentors – Marina Paranetto, Steve Bennet, Alvaro Maz, Rita Arrigo, Guy Franklin, Grant Downie, Sandra Arico, Ren Butler, Hima Tk, Developer Steve, Tariq Hassanen, Alex Tanglao, Esther, Eliza Sorensen and the AWS gang –  Mark Brown, Con Emmanouil, Mark Teichtahl,Craig Lawton and Arden Packer. Your contribution was welcomed by all the teams, from answering technical questions to pitch preparation and everything in between.

We asked the teams to enter their projects via the hackathon site we set up. So when we asked everyone to stop at 1pm on Sunday, it was a mad rush to ensure all the bits and pieces were posted to Devpost, even though we had kept reminding everyone to do this over the course of the weekend. Lesson – pay attention people!

At around the same time, the judges slowly started arriving – Jackie Coates, Judy Slatyer, Will Richardson, Peter Kelly and Ian Gardiner.  They had a quick briefing on what’s what, who’s who and they were ready to do their bit.

The presentation kicked off at 2pm, we gave each time five minutes to present, with five minutes for Q&A and after a few technical glitches (sorry) we had our rhythm going and each team was able to tell their story, show their work, and answer their questions, and we got it all on video!

So after the marathon pitch session, the judges headed out to deliberate. It was a great discussion, with different perspectives, and to be honest, it didn’t take long to come up with the top three.  Plus, we had a people’s choice vote online on Devpost – this is where teams needed to hustle, get on social media and get votes! And that’s just what they did!

The Winners:

Interpreter central – Interpreter dialects preview platform

The Comets –  Picture dictionary. English audio & add translation

Friendfugees – Support network connecting young volunteers

People’s Choice Winner:

Ninja Seals / GAB  – Make new arrivals welcome with conversation

A lot has been written about the event – such as Melbourne tech community comes together to help refugees settle in Australia , How we organised a gender-diverse startup event and you can too, so no need to repeat what has already been said so well, plus there’s a documentary in the works!

I have collected tweets and photos from over the weekend and compiled a little social story. Enjoy!

So that’s my recap – it was a pretty inspiring, tiring, thrilling weekend.  Adding the humanitarian to the mix was a great contribution from Red Cross and this really ensured we were able to something relevant and helpful. It gave a sense of purpose to the teams which really united them and drove them over the weekend. Teams working together with a diverse group of folks in a pressure cooker environment to do something that matters. I’m glad to have helped make it happen.






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The Telstra API team knows the way to San Jose

Telstra News

Posted on October 28, 2015

2 min read

Telstra loves our APIs. We love them so much that we have a team dedicated to them. Members of the Telstra API team were recently in San Jose attending the Apigee “I love APIs” conference including Developer Evangelist and head API enthusiast Frank Arrigo. Here’s Frank’s travel diary:

The Apigee conference was the perfect place for people who ♥ APIs – three full days of learning, covering best practices, hands-on training and new innovations. In fact, Apigee claim it was the largest training and networking event dedicated to APIs and digital business in the world, with three forums for developers, technologists and strategists, with more than 12 tracks, featuring some 80-odd sessions.

The Telstra team wasn’t just attending the event, but participating as well — Miki Yarkoni was on two panels, one entitled “Dollars, Discovery, or Dominance? Value Creation Strategies for APIs” and the other “Taking it to the Top: How to speak Digital with the Board of Directors” and I was on the panel “Taking it to the Streets: How to Build Grassroots Support for Digital.”

Telstra was also nominated for three Digital Accelerator Awards: Best API Program; Digital Business Excellence- Retail, Finance, Telecom, Healthcare; and Top Digital Visionary. The Digital Accelerator Awards, sponsored by Apigee, are a global awards program recognising innovative organisations and individuals accelerating and transforming digital business with APIs.

We were delighted to see Charlotte Yarkoni, President Telstra Software Group named as the winner in the Top Digital Visionary, being recognised as a business leader who’s had a positive impact on their organisation by leading enterprise innovation and transforming digital assets into new value for customers, partners and/or employees using APIs and data.

Yes, on this trip, you can say Telstra had lots of friends in San Jose.


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#I ♥ APIs

Tech and Innovation

Posted on June 3, 2015

4 min read

Love APIs? Confused by them? Or, do you have absolutely no idea what APIs are? Read on and see why I love them, what they are, why we’re excited by them, and why you should be too.

Back in February at API Days Sydney, we announced a preview of Telstra’s new API, which is a public SMS API, limited to a small group of developers. The preview has been a huge success with more than 1,300 developers registering to use it in some really interesting ways, such as monitoring rabbit fences in the bush by sending an SMS notification to the owner if the system goes offline.


As a result of its huge popularity, yesterday, as part of Apigee’s I Love APIs event at the Telstra Customer Insight Centre in Sydney, we opened up access to the SMS API to all developers (you can register at our API Developer portal).

Telstra is one of Apigee’s first Australian customers and we’re delighted to have supported them in bringing this major event to Sydney – I Love API’s is the world’s largest conference and community shows dedicated to API strategies and digital business.

The conference featured two tracks specifically built for technologists, business leaders and developers, sharing knowledge to help attendees implement a successful API-centric digital strategy for their business. The day was packed with use cases, technology best practices and insightful business perspectives, with speakers including Apigee’s CTO Greg Brail, Telstra’s CTO Vish Nandlall, Apigee product specialists and members of the Telstra API Program team.

Not content with just one public API, we have now also introduced Mobile Connect, which allows a developer to provide a login and authentication to their application or service, via their mobile phone, doing away with conventional need to authenticate via a username and password.

Mobile Connect is actually an API facilitated by the GSMA, which simply matches you to your mobile phone, to let you log-in to websites and apps quickly without the need to remember passwords and usernames. Mobile Connect can be used by customers around the world on all participating mobile network operators – the relevant mobile operator is simply discovered via the Mobile Connect API Exchange.


Access for users is via the OpenID Connect standard, which is similar to other authentication and identity services often incorporated into applications and services. However, the big difference with Mobile Connect is that authentication is performed by the user of the mobile phone.

But this is just the beginning. In the coming months Telstra will be making more of our APIs public, providing the access to information and services, which we hope will help developers create cooler and more useful apps. To stay informed, make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed.

And if you do make something cool – please don’t forget to let us know what you have done! We’re always amazed by what developers can do with a few simple APIs.

In fact, it makes us very API!

APIs Explained

  •  An API is an Application Programming Interface. At its most basic level it allows apps to talk to each other. For example, it’s how our mobile device connects with Facebook. But there is so much more APIs can and are doing.
  • APIs power websites, widgets, mobile apps and even the devices we use. In fact, we’re all using APIs in our personal lives and at work, and often without even knowing. When commuting to work and reading our favourite news app, or checking the weather app, or simply tweeting, most of that activity is API driven.
  • The reality is APIs allow us to be mobile and have connectivity to our favourite apps and websites, and for business, they are enabling innovation and helping companies be more competitive.

If anyone asks, yes, APIs are really important.

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