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Leadership lessons I learnt early on in my career

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on October 9, 2017

4 min read

For some people leadership skills come naturally, while for others it’s learnt through mentorship or management programs at work.

Our Executive Director of Global Products, Michelle Bendschneider, became a leader early on in her career and had to learn pretty quickly what it takes to lead a team.

So we asked about her leadership journey and the things she learnt along the way that could help others.

Here is what she told us:

When did you first become a leader?

I first became a people leader at a young age. I was 22 and I had a team of roughly 15. I had just started in the world of SAP, which was taking off in the mid-90s in the rate of knots and we were, at the time, deploying one of the largest solutions for that product in the world.

What I had carriage over was the leadership of a team that focused on financial transformation strategy in that business. It was a big change for me; previously I was an individual contributor without a team and had to learn how to become a leader, virtually overnight.

This role was my first bridge into leadership, transitioning from purely technology to business technology, and I never lost that straddle between a strong technology background but with a focus on business leadership, business strategy and eventually sales and P&L related roles.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young leader?

My biggest challenge was the team that worked for me was significantly older in age and older in tenure in the organisation.

It was a big cultural learning for me in terms of how to deal with a new team dynamic, so I had to lead with a big dose of empathy and being able to see it from their perspective, which was a really hard skill to come to terms with at a young age.

Did you have mentors along the way?

Absolutely.  I had several coaches and I still do. I look to a variety of leaders that I admire for a variety of reasons. The way they communicate, the way they focus on the financial hygiene of their business, the way they handle problems and situations etc.

I find that my learnings are strongest in motion and alongside great leaders. At the time I had two or three leaders in the business that I looked up to and I would bounce ideas off. I had a great relationship with my mentors and they helped shaped my leadership to this day.

Which current leader do you look up to and why?

I have a great relationship with an industry leader who I have known for a long period of time. What I love is their balance between strong humanistic style of leadership where you can engage and connect with hearts and minds, but balance the needs of the business.

The ability to make tough decisions with cadence and speed, but be authentic and human in doing so.

What advice would you give to your younger-self when you first became a leader?

I would tell myself to slow down a little; that is, not to respond in the moment.

I would give myself the permission to balance the passion and energy and pace with a moment of mindfulness, and to enjoy the ride.


– Find a good mentor who you can learn from
– Gain insights from leaders in your business
– Be authentic

If you’re interested in learning more about where a career at Telstra could take you, you’re already in the right place.

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Advice: What to expect on your first day

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on September 11, 2017

3 min read

Anticipation, curiosity, excitement and nerves are common emotions you’re likely to feel on your first day on the job. The last time you felt this way may have been during your interview. And now, the weeks have flown by and you’re getting ready to walk through those doors to start your new job.

Welcome to Telstra, where you’ll be a valued member of our 32,000+ strong global team, inspired to deliver a brilliant customer experiences as we transform our business into a world-class technology company.

Upon your arrival, you can expect to be greeted by your immediate team members and shown to your new working space. Depending on your business unit, you may be sitting in one of our Future Ways of Working areas.

You’ll be introduced to your colleagues, and shown around your new office area. Part of what makes Telstra a great place to work is the technology that allows us to work flexibly and that means that your manager may be based in an entirely different city! If you’re not sharing an office with your manager, you’ll likely meet them in a VC or virtual conference where you’ll meet face to face through technology instead.

It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed by all the different names and roles, and acronyms – and you might start to think that there’s no way you’ll ever be able to learn it all. But trust us, you will get the hang of things and no one is expecting you to on your first day, week or longer even – we’ve all been there.

Get to know us

One of your first meetings might be with your immediate team or the people who you’ll be working with the most. You might be paired up with a buddy to help show you around or explore some of our digital services to get you work ready. There’s a lot of information to take in, but go at your own pace and ask as many questions as come to mind – it’s the fastest way to learn.

You’ll get to know who the senior leadership team is, the different functions and what they look after, where the team is based nationally and globally, the various tools as well as the resources that will help you along the way and more. Whether you’re already well versed or a complete novice, the friendly team will be more than happy to personalise your learning experience.

Empowered to deliver

To help you get started, you’ll receive access to our ‘Get Started portal’ – this is made up of modules for you to go through at your own pace, and is a great resource to learn about Telstra – including its different Business Units, our strategy, employee benefits (of which there are many!) and more.

Rest assured that your manager and team will be there to support you, along with the rest of the wider team.

Tips for your first day on the new job:

  1. Ask as many questions as you can
  2. Have a positive attitude
  3. Be yourself

Good luck – we’re looking forward to getting to know you soon!

Interested in a career at Telstra. You’re already looking in the right place.

International Day of People With Disability 2010

International Day of People With Disability 2010

young woman in a wheel chair visiting Beach

Message from Dr Rhonda Galbally AO

My proudest Telstra moment

Fatherly Advice: Career lessons we learned from fathers and father-figures alike

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on September 1, 2017

5 min read

Father’s Day is only three days away and is a time for us to celebrate fathers and father-figures alike for the contribution they’ve made to our lives. Before we take them out to brunch or kick a ball around, we thought we’d ask some of our people what they’d learned from their fathers that they’ve applied to their careers.

Here’s what they had to say:

Take the time to appreciate the journey

Sarah’s father taught her to live in the moment and take the time to enjoy the journey, advice that’s applied to her role as a Project Manager at Telstra.

“My Dad is a self-made businessman that came from extremely humble beginnings.”

“As I grew up I watched him sacrifice a lot to be successful, and in the end one of the most valuable lessons he shared with me was the importance of finding balance between ambition and gratitude.”

“You obviously need ambition to drive success, but just as importantly, you need to take time to stop and be grateful for where you are and what you have. Quite often successful people are so focused on the goal that they don’t take the time to appreciate the journey, and my Dad told me that you must take time to appreciate the journey because before you know it, that journey has been your life.”


Baby Sarah (right) with her older sister Penny, and father Matthew as he reads them a story.

Find your courage, it’s ok to take risks

Lee Westlake, Reporting and Billing Specialist, said his dad taught him about the rewards to be gained from taking risks.

“My Dad moved us from the small suburb of Dagenham, East London, to the big city of Wellington New Zealand when I was about seven. He worked in the elevator engineering business, and literally had the opportunity to take his career to the next level. He took a risk in the hope that it would give us a better quality of life and open up more opportunities for us.

Four years ago, my now wife, and I moved from Wellington to Melbourne to do the same thing.

When I think back about it he showed me that it’s ok to take risks. He knew he could be successful and backed himself to make that happen. He showed me how to find my courage, and that even if making a change is scary, that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to.”

Success takes hard work, but it’s worth it

Working as a Foxtel from Telstra Product Specialist, Zach Page said his dad taught him about the values of hard work while still finding the time for the things that mattered most.

“Growing up, I’d know that at 4:00 am each morning I’d hear the soothing sound of Dad’s truck chugging down the drive (friends sleeping over would dispute the ‘soothing’ part). Working long days and arriving home after me each night, he’d still find the time to head down to the park to kick a ball around, or head to the golf course for a late night swing. A harder working man I am yet to find, nor a man with so much energy.

He demonstrated to me the type of work ethic required to succeed in business, but also instilled in me the value of family and balance. I hold these values dear and put them into practice each and every day – striving to achieve excellence in all aspects of my life. I am proud to work for a company which aligns to these values, and am so thankful for my dad for showing me what success looks like and what’s required to achieve it.”

From L to R: Luke, father Phil, Isabelle, Kelly and Zach celebrate a night out.

Aim high to hit the bullseye

Head of Global People Services, Ex Magno’s father taught her the importance of trying to improve everything you do and to always aim higher.

“My father is a firm believer of the Archer’s Paradox – Aim high to hit the bullseye,” she said.

“He believes in excellence and drives to exceed standards. As a young man, he dreamt big and achieved what most people thought was impossible. He is the reason why I look at each role we’re looking to fill at Telstra with excitement and imagine the many opportunities for me to grow.”

Ex has even passed her dad’s advice onto her team.

He taught me to commit to do better every day. As a leader, I share this philosophy with my team, looking at continuously improving processes to avoid the challenges our employees’ experience. When I look at the future of Telstra, I consider what value I can contribute to our transformation versus what limits us.”

Ex and her father smile for the camera.

Want to use this advice to take your future in a new direction? Explore our Careers website and connect to a future created by you.

International Day of People With Disability 2010

International Day of People With Disability 2010

young woman in a wheel chair visiting Beach

Message from Dr Rhonda Galbally AO

My proudest Telstra moment

What gets measured matters in leadership

featured Business and Enterprise

Posted on July 24, 2017

4 min read

To transform organisational culture great leadership is not optional. It’s not just about ‘what’ is being transformed but ‘how’.

That’s why in FY17 we hardcoded leadership performance metrics into our top 350 executive leaders’ performance reviews, and elevated leadership metrics to now sit alongside customer and financial results at the company’s regular business operations reviews as well as part of individuals’ performance.

In implementing this new leadership accountability, we found that there are five important factors to ensure success.

1) Defining what great looks like

Before leadership can be accurately measured, the standard needs to be set.

Values are a powerful way to guide decisions and behaviours, providing a true north so employees can be clear and consistent on what they expect of each other.

Over the past year we have embedded a common language and clear standards of behaviour aligned to each of our values, so that every leader, and every individual, knows exactly what’s expected of them.

It is from this values starting point that leadership performance can most accurately be measured.

2) Choosing metrics that matter

Leaders play a critical role in role modelling and building commitment to a company’s values – and values are core to business success, so aligning leadership performance to the values makes sense.

For leaders, measuring performance needs to include both self-assessment and feedback from team members, on how the values are showing up in key leadership areas including:

  • Ability to communicate frequently and effectively
  • Capacity to balance the needs of both people and business performance
  • Delivers what they say they will
  • Raises difficult issues with integrity
  • Articulates the company vision clearly and regularly, and how each individual contributes to that.

That last one is critical. An ability to create a sense of purpose is vital for leaders to create trust, to engage their team members and to lead through periods of change.

3) Scorecards

To drive change quickly, we have aligned executive business priorities through leadership scorecards. For us scorecards capture a leader’s big goals, desired behavioural shifts and a traffic light rating system, all on a single page.

In practice, this meant having the CEOLT and his team’s direct reports, all up around 100 leaders, in a room together to align Q1 goals before 1 July 2017.

We have just rolled this out to require all 1,800 of our senior leaders to create a quarterly scorecard and we run alignment sessions to sync up priorities across business units.

Embedding the simple discipline of leadership scorecards facilitates greater focus and momentum towards fewer performance goals, providing a clear and simple tool to measure individual performance each quarter.

4) Courageous conversations

As important though, is what leaders actually do with the feedback they get. No matter what the results, there is always the opportunity to learn and keep improving and as leaders, we need to actively engage to keep making positive change.

Having direct feedback supports leaders to sit down and engage in valuable conversations both up and down – with their own leader and also with the people they manage. The results create a clear basis for discussion about what’s working well and what needs improvement.

Data is one thing, but these conversations are where the richest input and leadership growth comes from. As part of that, leaders then need to agree on and commit to development plans based on the results.

5) Assessing progress

Given that people need time to make change, and then time for that change to be seen by others, leaders should make sure they take the time to assess their progress and discuss not only how they are going against their performance goals but also addressing leadership development opportunities every quarter.  Relying solely on the annual review is not frequent enough.

But these check-ins don’t always need to be via formal feedback – just checking in with your team and manager and taking the time to personally reflect on how you are progressing is important.

A company’s values and standards of behaviour once set, are constant. A leaders’ performance against these is the variable, and a self-aware leader will check in with themselves, and their teams, frequently to ensure that they are making constant progress on the metrics that matter.

At Telstra, great leadership is a key ingredient to us becoming a world class technology company that empowers people to connect.

Measuring our leaders against our values is how we are holding ourselves and each other to account.

There are many great things about our culture and our people, however we know that great leadership must be real, it must be personal – and it must be measured.

Interested in a leadership career at Telstra? Find out what career paths are available to you. 


International Day of People With Disability 2010

International Day of People With Disability 2010

young woman in a wheel chair visiting Beach

Message from Dr Rhonda Galbally AO

My proudest Telstra moment

A financial whiz, HR specialist and online guru return from the trip of a lifetime

Telstra News

Posted on April 9, 2014

3 min read

Three Telstra employees were given the opportunity of a lifetime as part of our involvement in the Jawun partnerships program; Telstra has been partnering with Jawun since 2013, with secondees across three regions.

Michael Reilly, People Capability Lead, has spent the past six weeks in Yolngu country, in North East Arnhem Land. He has been working for the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, assisting them in achieving their mission of supporting, developing and promoting local Yolngu tourism businesses. (more…)

International Day of People With Disability 2010

International Day of People With Disability 2010

young woman in a wheel chair visiting Beach

Message from Dr Rhonda Galbally AO

My proudest Telstra moment