Business and Enterprise |

Delivering A-Grade connections to classrooms

By Michael Ebeid AM October 20, 2020

While the chalkboard, or whiteboard in most cases these days, will always have a place in our classrooms, the keyboard is a great educational equaliser for students. That’s why we are significantly boosting New South Wales schools’ internet speeds and connecting some of the state’s most remote students to high-speed fibre optic cable.

Connectivity and access to modern education tools are vital to ensuring the future of education is delivered to our students. It can open new educational possibilities, broaden horizons, open up a richer curriculum and enhance student collaboration to create modern learning environments.

Since 2009, we’ve been working hard with the NSW Department of Education to connect the state’s 2,200plus schools to fibre optic cable. Now, under an extended partnership with the NSW Government we will soon achieve a special milestone – the last 12 mainland schools, all in remote parts of the state, will be hooked up to this high-speed solution. All up, we will have rolled out more than 5,200km of fibre across the state once this project is complete. To put it into perspective, that’s equivalent to three round trips between Sydney and Tweed Heads, making it one of the largest fibre networks in the world.

In addition, we will also be boosting internet speeds 10-fold on average for all NSW schools through a massive capacity upgrade across the state’s education network.

The twelve schools are Naradhan, Colo Heights, Weilmoringle, Louth, Enngonia, Clare, Booligal, Wanaaring, North Star, Upper Coopers, Wattle and MacDonald.

We know that digital inclusion, particularly for students, is a lead indicator for future employment opportunities. With this partnership, all students across NSW will have access to the amazing learning opportunities that quality, high speed connectivity brings, whether they live in Neutral Bay or North Star.

With faster connectivity, students will not only download websites and videos much faster, they’ll be able to video conference and collaborate. It also sets them up for future digital education tools such as augmented or virtual reality applications in the classroom.

We’re proud to be continuing this work, particularly when we hear firsthand from the young people who are accessing a whole new world of education, like the kids at Conargo Public School, in the state’s south west. They enjoyed a tour of our worksite when we were in town laying fibre, and now they’re enjoying its benefits. We look forward to delivering an even faster future for them.

Advice | Inspiration | People | Telstra Careers |

Uni students step up to Telstra through industry partnerships

By Campbell Simpson September 15, 2020

It’s critically important to the future of Australia’s technology sector that we invest in creating career paths for students and graduates. Our partnership with the Melbourne School of Engineering is already producing results.

At the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE), students’ career paths are looking clearer than ever: Telstra’s strategic industry partnership is already helping students apply their academic expertise in the technology industry.

While undertaking his PhD, Dr Allan Feng was awarded a Telstra internship as part of the Australian Postgraduate Research Intern (APR.Intern) program. His work on smart Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions has already led to his internship transitioning into an extended contract with Telstra. It’s one of the first proof points of our ongoing partnership with several Australian universities, and highlights the opportunities for students and researchers to take their experiences from the classroom into the real world.

At MSE, Allan’s PhD investigated ways to shorten signalling delays or queuing delays in wireless technologies and the application of machine learning and advanced mathematics. Now, he’s looking to develop improved IoT devices that can tackle a range of telecommunications challenges using the skills he’s gained at the University of Melbourne.

Allan says that as well as a world-class technology education, his time at the Melbourne School of Engineering gave him soft skills that translate across disciplines. “My research at UniMelb was to apply mathematical analysis and machine learning techniques to shorten latency in wireless communication technologies such as WiFi and mobile cellular networks. I also did a bit of programming in different languages (Python, C, Matlab) for network simulation that was used to evaluate my work.

“Now, I’m currently doing embedded system development in the IoT (Internet of Things) department here at Telstra. Although there’s a lot to learn, the knowledge I gained from my research in communication networks helped me understand the basics of IoT networks. My programming skills are applied to firmware development and data analysis; in general, the research skills I learnt from PhD really boost my problem solving ability here.”

Noting how his own research career has been given a strong start through the internship, Dr Feng says bringing students and industry together delivers an enormous mutual benefit.

Creator space connections

Telstra Creator Space Render - Melbourne Connect - University of Melbourne

We collaborated with the University of Melbourne to design and build the Telstra Creator Space, a laboratory to be housed within the University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect multidisciplinary precinct nearing completion in Carlton.

The laboratory will provide a practical space for collaboration and skills building for students and industry partners. The partnership will also create several Telstra-funded scholarships for women and Indigenous Australian students from rural and regional areas in STEM subjects. In Dr Allan Feng’s case, he was undecided about whether to pursue a career in academia or industry until his supervisors encouraged him to apply for the internship through the APR.Intern program. Internships are supported by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment to connect PhD students with industry through short-term research projects.

Dr Feng says academia stills holds a strong interest for him, but in the meantime, he is enthusiastic about having a research position that is aimed at achieving tangible technological developments that advance how we live.

It is why he studied engineering (majoring in electronics engineering) in the first place: “I was always interested in technology and building my own devices … hands-on DIY,” he says. “I am interested in technology that improves people’s lives.”

For the next few years, Allan says his main aim is to keep improving his technical skills and knowledge in an industry environment. Beyond this he is anticipating further studies to complement his engineering skills with business management.

Amanthi R Thudugalage - Telstra Intern to Networks Engineer
Advice | Inspiration | People | Telstra Careers |

An internship with Telstra helped me discover my passion

By Amanthi Thudugalage July 20, 2020

A common question that plagues the mind of a PhD student is whether to stay ensconced in academia, or to leave the comforting ivory tower and venture out into the wild unknowns of industry.

Studying a PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, I had the same thoughts and doubts. I was afraid; I did not know what monsters lurked in the unknown, what dragons lived at the edge of the map. However, curiosity drove my desire to explore so I sought out opportunities.

One day, my PhD supervisor told me about an internship at Telstra offered through APR.Intern. This sounded like an excellent opportunity for me to test the waters, and to investigate a potential career path without committing.

When I read the project description, I found that it was in an area related to my studies including a strong practical component. This made me excited to get started on real-world practical problem-solving.

My internship experience was amazing – I gained new skills, had the opportunity to apply my mathematical and programming skills, and I worked with kind and encouraging people; it was all I could have hoped for and more.

My internship supervisors from both Telstra and University of Melbourne were friendly and encouraging and I learned many things from them. Most importantly, the experience transformed me from being a student to a professional.

Towards the end of my internship, I had my heart set on having a career at Telstra. The monsters of my fear were all slain and the dragons vanquished.

My hard work did not go unnoticed at Telstra. I was offered a position in the same team that I was working during the internship. After finishing my PhD, I have been working full-time as a Senior Networks Engineer.

These days, my work involves modelling wireless networks to analyse the customer impact of introducing new products or changing network configurations – giving me plenty of opportunity to spread my mathematical wings. I also get the chance to work with cutting-edge technologies such as 5G and Narrowband-IoT, which makes my work very interesting.

The work environment is welcoming and friendly, too, and Telstra invites interns and graduates with varying levels of experience every year. This not only helps young professionals to build up their careers but also allows the business to recruit fresh, innovative minds. In my opinion, it’s a win-win for both parties.

When I look back at my journey, I realise how extremely fortunate I have been. Every day at work I apply my skills and knowledge to solve problems in a professional environment, all while doing what I love.

During these unprecedented times, Telstra has made a massive effort to ensure the health and safety of its employees. Telstra has set an example by being one of the first Australian businesses to accommodate working from home for all office-based employees. Personally, I have struggled; I miss the pre-COVID-19 personal interaction with my colleagues. However, I am fortunate to be a part of a company that has made it possible to remain working through the uncertainty.

If you are a student and find such an opportunity presented to you, my advice is: jump in! You might not wind up where you think you’re going to, but you’ll certainly have an interesting adventure along the way.

Telstra Creator Space Render - Melbourne Connect - University of Melbourne
Tech and Innovation | Telstra News |

Building Australia’s technology future through education

By Alex Badenoch July 13, 2020

We’re committed to playing our part in building a pipeline of technology talent in Australia. So we’re partnering with a number of universities to equip graduates with the skills and adaptability they need to succeed in our rapidly changing global environment. Our latest partnership is a $5.14M investment in the Telstra Creator Space (fabrication lab) at University of Melbourne’s new Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct and 10 scholarships in STEM that focus on diversity and inclusion.

Having a highly-skilled, diverse and practically trained technology workforce is critical to the success of Telstra and of the nation. And yet, we have an estimated shortfall of 60,000 skilled ICT workers in Australia over the next five years. More of these skills must be developed locally.

As one of the country’s biggest employers and a major driver of the digital economy, we’re committed to playing a part in the solution. Investing in STEM is required to transform Australia into an innovation hub and support businesses that are themselves transforming. To that end, our partnership with the University of Melbourne is our next education investment and part of our ongoing collaboration with five Australian universities to build a strong foundation for STEM skills education for the future.

As part of our partnership with the University of Melbourne, a new Telstra Creator Space at the Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct will give students, start-ups and industry access to an onsite fabrication and prototyping facility, running workshops, events and industry-based projects. Our partnership will enable research and development between Telstra and the university focused on technology, engineering and innovation concepts. This laboratory will support open innovation using world-class equipment, letting students gain practical experience and a real-world understanding of highly technical concepts.

To further demonstrate our long-term commitment to boosting diversity in Australia’s digital economy, we will also offer 10 Technology and Innovation Scholarships for University of Melbourne students in a program that aims to increase the number of women and Indigenous Australians in STEM, particularly from rural and regional areas. We’re starting these scholarships with two awards in August 2020 to female students or students of Indigenous descent intending to become professionally qualified engineers or technology professionals.

Why developing technology talent is such an urgent issue

Technology skills shortages in Australia were already an urgent issue before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We now need to boost numbers at a much faster rate to support our nation’s transforming businesses and the digitisation of our economy. Fewer new students in Australia currently enter STEM degrees than in other OECD countries, and we need to change that.

We’re working with universities to enhance student learning, implement industry placement and work experience, research and career opportunities. This includes innovation in curriculum design and delivery, particularly to support the continuous learning or reskilling of those already in the workforce. Micro-credentials are a great example of this and it’s encouraging to see the government also recognise the importance of these qualifications.

So far we’ve partnered with RMIT Online and the University of Technology Sydney on new micro-credential programs covering software defined networking, data analytics and machine learning. These programs are helping to upskill our own teams, but are also open to anyone who is interested. Such partnerships are an example of how business and education providers can collaborate to jointly develop the critical technology skills Australia needs.

A new innovation precinct for Melbourne

This is an artist’s impression and does not represent health and safety standards of the Telstra Creator Space.

Melbourne Connect is the University of Melbourne’s new technology and innovation precinct. It will bring together world-class research, industry, government and higher-degree STEM students in a space that will foster engagement, collaboration and networking.

Our investment in this new precinct will help realise its potential, fostering Melbourne Connect as a hub of technology innovation. We and the University of Melbourne share an ambition for transformation and an appetite for collaboration – we both want to grow Australia’s technology talent pipeline and to equip graduates with the skills and practical experience they need to succeed.

Melbourne Connect is expected to be completed in late 2020 and open to students in 2021. We look forward to the opportunities it offers to Australia’s brightest science, engineering and technology students, and for our industry and education partners to bring innovation to life.

Professional woman working from home in living room on laptop with baby
Tech and Innovation |

Navigating our brave new virtual world

By Michael Ebeid AM July 7, 2020

Many sectors, from professional services to education and even the arts, have discovered a brave new virtual world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether working or learning from home for the first time, seeing your doctor, accountant, fitness instructor or vet on a video conference or attending a virtual performance. As restrictions begin to ease, how will people work, learn and live in this new world?

Since March 2020 organisations across Australia have realised that not only can their employees work from home but that productivity need not suffer as a result. In fact, many are finding the opposite is true.

The upsides of a flexible work policy are well-documented, particularly for an increase in employee attraction, retention and diversity but also to reduce congestion, strain on public transport infrastructure and pollution in the environment.

Virtual services, here to stay

Dad and child working from home on laptop

The video conferencing technology boom has heralded a new era for the services sector, where we saw a rate of digitisation in just a few weeks that we were expecting over the next five years.

Banks have transitioned to remote sales and service teams and launched digital outreach to customers to make flexible payment arrangements for loans and mortgages.

While telemedicine got a massive boost during the pandemic, we also saw the advent of virtual vet consultations and even virtual babysitters, to help Mum and Dad out when they needed an hour of peace and quiet to get some work done while school was out.

It’s not only professional workers who worked from home. Contact centre workers were set up with ‘agent at home’ solutions – spun up almost overnight – opening up employment opportunities all over Australia like never before. The implications of ‘work from anywhere’ are especially significant for urban planning and makes the dream of sea- and tree-changers much closer to a reality.

And while people are working from home, unable to pop to the bank at lunch, or worried about sitting in a GP’s waiting room, they’ve also wanted the convenience of accessing services from home.

This sizable shift in customer behaviour shows many prefer digital interactions when accessing services. KPMG’s recent research found that 75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.”

When we emerge post-COVID, the services industry will not instantly revert to pre-pandemic operations. For many, they will continue to operate dual operations – physical and virtual – and for others, physical services may never return to pre-pandemic levels.

Remote education for all ages

According to the World Economic Forum, 1.5 billion students across the world were unable to physically attend school as a result of the pandemic. Fortunately for most, it was not the end of learning, only the beginning of remote learning, thanks again to technology.

While home-schooling certainly wasn’t for everyone and has led to a renewed appreciation of teachers, the ability to continue learning despite the challenges, was critical.

Telstra worked with Education Departments all over Australia to rapidly upgrade their networks to establish remote learning hubs. In South Australia we helped create virtual classrooms via WebEx for all public schools, allowing teachers to create their own individual online learning space to deliver live video lessons and learning content for their classes.

In the Higher Education sector, where the sudden departure of International students wreaked havoc, we connected many Chinese and Korean students to Australian universities. We developed an online solution for approximately 4,000 Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) students who were stuck overseas due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowing them to access educational resources and course content material.

These digital environments need not disappear post-pandemic. If education institutions can harness the digital tools they implemented during COVID-19, they will reap benefits not only of international education but the coming boom in micro-credentialing.

A new ING Future Focus Report shows that 3.3 million Australian adults are rethinking their career path because of the COVID-19 pandemic impact. It’s made many Aussies re-think their work choice with some questioning whether their existing skills will always be needed, while others have spent time dreaming about a change in career direction. To address this internally, we announced last week that we’re partnering with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) to upskill a number of Telstra employees in the areas of data analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning to meet the demands of a rapidly changing jobs market and digitising economy.

Being able to upskill in this rapidly changing world is an economic imperative and education has an important role to play.

Ensuring inclusivity

For those without access to the right digital tools, devices and connectivity, life in lockdown would have been very difficult – creating a wider digital divide than ever before.

The 2019 Australian Digital Inclusion Index found that the affordability gap for internet access between high and low-income households is at the same level it was in 2014. The nbn™ network is making connectivity easier but there’s a long way to go to close this gap.

When COVID-19 forced the move to remote learning, it really highlighted just how critical digital inclusion is. Working with state, territory, independent and catholic education departments we provided 30,000 free sim cards to disadvantaged students – not so they could watch Netflix or access social media – but so they could attend school and learn with their peers.

The digital economy will be a boon for many industries but we must ensure no one is left behind.

Many businesses thought they could never work remotely, but have quickly discovered that with the right technology, anything is possible. We are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digitisation across almost every domain.