Aaliah says agile has helped to grow her team
Inspiration | Telstra Careers |

Going agile: why it’s helped my team to grow

By Aaliah Eggins-Bryson November 23, 2020

For my commercial marketing team here at Telstra, agile working has become an incredibly important part of our daily working lives.

Agility has improved our workflow, increased the quality of our output and enabled us to better understand and deliver on our customers’ needs

I think it’s interesting to look at ‘why’ it’s been so beneficial, as well as ‘what’ the benefits have actually been. To me, agile leads to great results because it brings out a new leadership style, a completely different way for people in organisations to work with one another and a change in mindset. Everyone who is required to deliver the outcome is in the team – it’s such a simple change but has unlocked so much in terms of efficiency for us.

Here’s what my experience leading an agile team has taught me.

My team’s experience with agile working

When I compare our pre-agile and post-agile processes, my team’s workflows have improved substantially. It’s changed the way we work with each other, for the better.

Part of agile is that the team is fully autonomous, with limited handovers and reduced input from external areas. Everyone simply being together and inputting into the planning and design process has significantly improved how we deliver to customer needs. The problem-solving, design and execution process is relatively straightforward: when presented with a problem, the whole team plays a role in brainstorming and designing the solution and then we execute the agreed change.

Aaliah with her team at Telstra

The benefit of an entire team’s contribution and a multitude of different perspectives is game-changing. Because we are all aligned on executing to the same outcome, we get a natural speed to delivery without having to brief multiple teams and groups to deliver.

A new way to lead, a new way to work together

One of the biggest changes for newly agile leaders is learning to ‘let go’. The whole model is predicated on the team being able to collectively form and prioritise the work they focus on. This is not a comfortable position for new agile leaders to be in initially, but I can assure you that it does get better and is entirely worth the investment.

The truth is the first few months of going agile can be hard. You need to get your head around the tools, vocabulary and change in how you work. Agile’s power comes through people embracing this shift in mindset and allowing it to create what is a more effective way of working.

The shift has taught me how to be a more effective leader, and I’m lucky to be leading an incredibly high-performing, motivated and customer-focused team: data scientists who provide the customer insight, product marketers who design the customer treatment, marketers who build and execute the customer communications and channel team members who ensure our frontline teams are fully equipped to respond to change.

These people make each other better through teaching one another new skills, thinking differently and most importantly, helping each other when needed. Agility genuinely empowers them to prioritise their own work based on their capacity and as a result, the quality of output has improved.

Getting started with agile

My advice when first making the move to agile is to persevere. Once you start getting used to the change, the benefits are profound. You’ll see tangible improvements in the way you work and your outcomes, and realise the true importance of the collective team.

I think Telstra has managed the move to agile successfully because our people have adapted to the change so well. Agile is all about teams coming together and being willing and able to work in a new way. Our leaders throughout the organisation have facilitated that change and then been able to demonstrate improvements in all our metrics. It’s also improved our ability to respond to unforeseen impacts (with COVID-19 being an obvious recent example).

We are 18 months into ‘going agile’ and still learning. Of course, there have been some bumps along the way, but the benefits truly outweigh the setbacks. Going back to the way we worked before is not even a consideration.

Are you interested in joining us? Head to our careers page where you’ll find our job openings.

Tech and Innovation |

Engineering innovations for the future

By Kate Stewart November 16, 2020

It’s vital we continue to foster and highlight breakthrough innovations. The University of Melbourne’s Endeavour Awards serves to identify and reward the brilliant minds of tomorrow, today, and this year’s winners are incredible.

Having a highly-skilled, diverse and practically trained technology workforce is critical to the success of Telstra and the nation. We’re playing our part in building Australia’s technology talent pipeline to help grow these skills. That’s why we’ve partnered with the University of Melbourne on a range of initiatives, including a pledge to help build the new Telstra Creator Space at Melbourne Connect, and also to sponsor the Endeavour Awards (Engineering focused awards) for the first time.

This year we sponsored three Endeavour Awards covering Digital Innovation, Customer and Community Impact and Learning and Application, and were thoroughly impressed with the calibre of entries.

Teams demonstrated their work to help decarbonise the environment to fight climate change, help prevent infant mortality, and the creation of a new electric race car standard.

Decarbonising the environment with better tech

The Telstra Digital Innovation Award recognises students able to put digital skills into practice to solve a problem.

The winners of this award created a system to visualize and model alternative energy sources and how they interact with the grid. The system can visualise different energy networks and support the injection of new fuel alternatives to simulate and enable their use.

Giving infants a fighting chance

The Telstra Customer and Community Impact Award recognises projects that aim to make a meaningful impact to the community.

The winners of this year’s award focussed on the early detection of sepsis in premature newborns, giving health practitioners up to 24 extra hours to detect such problems. The winning team created a temperature gradient algorithm to detect even the most subtle signs of sepsis in newborns, allowing health practitioners to detect it on their monitors.

Racing towards a greener tomorrow

The Telstra Excellence in Learning and Application Award recognises projects with a focus on making a meaningful impact to both customers and the community.

The winning solution from Melbourne University Racing created a full-spec electric race car, and the technical management layer that goes into supporting it.

Growing skills for the future

We’re doing everything we can to help develop students with the technology nous and critical thinking needed to help solve the world’s complex problems. And that means ensuring students pursuing STEAM skills have a place to hone their craft. Our partnership with University of Melbourne will sponsor the Melbourne Connect technology and innovation precinct. This will see us sponsor an onsite fabrication lab, also known as the Telstra Creator Space, designed to help bring these exciting new projects to life for STEAM students.

We’re proud to celebrate and support Australia’s brightest science, engineering and technology students, and for our industry and education partners to bring innovation to life.

Justin Dolman speaking at a conference
Community | Telstra Careers |

Compassion, Telstra, and carving my own path as an Indigenous employee

By Justin Dolman November 13, 2020

I grew up seeing racism and prejudice all around me, faced by myself, my siblings, friends and family. But I quickly learned that as a fairer-skinned Indigenous person, I didn’t face the same level or types of prejudice that darker family members and friends did.

I’ve struggled throughout my life with what it means to be Indigenous, and I don’t always know whether to introduce myself as Aboriginal or not. It’s common for people to lump Indigenous people together, but the differences between us can be vast.

My experience as a Telstra employee has been great though. I think there’s a good balance here between supporting Indigenous employees, while also treating them to the same as other employees.

Being myself, and not “that Indigenous employee”

What being an Indigenous-friendly organisation means to me is being able to work in a place where “diverse” employees don’t have their background in the spotlight. I’ve also seen the passion of employees across the organisation when discussing issues faced by marginalised groups of people.

I believe that creating a space like this is only possible when an organisation is committed to hiring diversely, and puts it into effect, rather than just pledging to do it.

I’ve seen Telstra make a concerted effort to reach out to Indigenous employees in an effort to combat long-term discrimination. I’ve particularly appreciated that they’ve managed to do this without making Indigenous staff feel tokenised. There’s a genuine desire to instill a diverse workforce for the benefits that this brings, not just to tick the box for diversity.

Embracing Indigenous culture with compassion and energy

We have an Employee Representative Group (ERG) called Dharrang, that represents Indigenous employees and helps coordinate events like Reconciliation Week. I was relieved to find that this wasn’t token representation – the energy levels around these events are high, and both colleagues and my leaders are very supportive and eager to learn.

Justin says Telstra makes a concerted effort to reach out to Indigenous employees in an effort to combat long-term discrimination.

The general attitude of the people around me in the office is very comfortable. Recently I was talking with a group of non-indigenous friends and the topic transitioned to Indigenous communities in rural areas. It was rewarding to see the compassion they had for Indigenous people, and that they were respectful of the many challenges Indigenous people have faced throughout our recent history. The amount of intentional and unintentional discrimination we’ve experienced means that even simple compassion like this is a breath of fresh air.

My past experiences with Indigenous stereotypes

Over the years, I’ve noticed that when someone learns I’m Aboriginal, they will almost certainly ask all about my family history. I can tell that people are usually trying to figure out what ‘percentage’ Aboriginal I am.

The less compassionate people tend to lead the conversation to support services. It’s the age-old stereotype that extends into a wide misperception that Indigenous people receive a free car, house, education, everything. Because of this, I have often foregone government support like Centrelink that my friends of all races receive. It’s almost to prove a point (mostly to myself) that my successes are truly my own.

More dangerously, I’ve faced profiling by the police and other authorities. Even when I know I’ve done nothing wrong; these situations are an uneasy experience. I’ve been pulled for “random” drug tests despite being innocent and there being zero evidence. I’ve been pulled over by police when carrying Indigenous passengers and am always given a harder time than with non-Indigenous ones.

Carving a space for myself as an Indigenous employee does mean championing inclusivity as an institution – but at other times, it’s meant knowing when to pick my battles, finding a place that will recognise me without caveats, and letting me be. It’s in this way that my time with Telstra has been consistently positive.

You can learn more about Telstra’s focus on diversity and inclusion on the Telstra Careers website.

Kyah Burke in the Telstra building
Community | Telstra Careers |

My experience as an Indigenous employee: Diversity and Inclusion at Telstra

By Kyah Burke November 9, 2020

I am an Indigenous woman and joined Telstra in 2018 through the Telstra Graduate Program, along with people from a variety of backgrounds. Today, I work in the Telstra Digital Channel team.

I have had a very positive experience with inclusion at Telstra. I have always felt comfortable and supported.

So how is Telstra doing it?

My experience with Telstra

What Telstra does so well, is ensure Indigenous employees are supported, without making us feel singled out.

Everyone was extremely supportive of me here from the start. Even during the process of applying, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion team called me, just to check how I was doing with the application.

Some Indigenous employees start their careers at Telstra through the CareerTrackers Program, which gives university students work experience over the summer. This program can then lead into the Grad Program and full-time employment thereafter.

Indigenous employees and the Dharrang Program

One of the ways Telstra is helping create an inclusive environment is through Dharrang, our Indigenous employee representative group (ERG). In Wiradjuri, Dharrang means “message stick”. The group aims to represent Indigenous voices at Telstra and give us a platform to share our knowledge, ideas, culture and heritage.

For Reconciliation Week this year (27 May – 3 June), I was lucky enough to be one of the organisers for Telstra’s online event, along with 2 other Dharrang members. We were just aiming for 50 attendees but ended up with 267! It was amazing to see the support and engagement from people across the organisation.

Forming a great Indigenous community within Telstra

Telstra has been amazing in connecting me with teams and groups across the country and being part of Dharrang has really meant a lot. Our ERG is set up to include both Indigenous people and Allies, which allows everyone to get involved in cultural and community events.

The creation of a community for Indigenous people within the workplace means building links both within and beyond Indigenous spheres – and I love how it connects us to one another, regardless of where we work within the company. I’ve also had the opportunity to deepen my own knowledge and learn about other languages and cultural practices.

Having a strong Indigenous presence throughout Telstra ensures that we’re celebrated for our skills and innovation.

At the end of the day, I’m grateful for how the Telstra community respects different cultures and lifestyles. I feel confident I made the right decision to start my career at a company that values diversity and work-life balance.

Interested in the Telstra Graduate Program? Head to the Telstra Careers website for information.

Sakshi Banerjee home set up
Inspiration | Telstra Careers |

How to lead, drive engagement and create culture for remote workers

By Sakshi Banerjee November 2, 2020

When employees work full-time from home, it can seem harder to build the relationships, trust and sense of community that’s normally associated with working together in one location. But while there’s an element of connection lost when you communicate online versus in person, it’s not an insurmountable problem. You can create a remote team that bonds well, stays engaged and keeps up productivity – it just requires a deliberate focus.

It’s all about working out your team’s individual needs, and how they each best operate. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to keep the connection open. Keep having honest conversations about how productive everyone is feeling, and then work together to help overcome the challenges anyone may be facing.

Here’s how it’s worked for me and my teams, and the best ways I’ve found to keep them happy, engaged and motivated when working remotely.

Remote working may be your secret weapon

Flexible working policies have a lot of benefits and these can be harnessed to build up your team’s motivation and output. This can make the days a lot more pleasant for employees who have caring duties or other interests that don’t fall neatly outside of the nine to five. For instance, some of my team have been doing a bike ride in the middle of the day and that’s been fantastic for maintaining energy and motivation throughout the week.

Flexible working has plenty of benefits from a business perspective as well. It helps us attract and retain great talent, including more women as they often shoulder the majority of caring responsibilities. It also just generally creates a deeper and more authentic connection between organisations and their employees, which leads to better results for the business.

Leaders can drive motivation and productivity from afar with the right approach

I have found that the key to motivating my team remotely lies in really understanding them and what is going on in their lives. When some of my team members have begun working remotely, I’ve made sure to ask questions about their home environment and how they like to work.

This helps me to understand how people sustain their energy and I use this information to motivate them from afar. For example, on my current team, I have some real night owls and others are sharpest and most productive in the morning. By allowing everyone to work at the time they’re at their best, I keep energy levels high.

As a leader, it can also help to show your own vulnerability at times. Being upfront when you’re lacking motivation or aren’t feeling productive yourself creates a safe environment for people to share when they feel the same. Sometimes just acknowledging a lack of motivation helps people become more motivated, almost as an inverse reaction.

I also believe it’s important to dedicate time to specific team-bonding activities. In my team, we’ve been doing quizzes, which are about both our products and what’s going on in the world. I’ve heard of other teams here doing activities like dress-up days where everyone dresses up as Harry Potter, which is a great way to lighten the atmosphere.

Finally, it can be beneficial to set up a coffee with someone once a week to just chat. In my team, that’s actually had the most positive response of all. Everyone tells me how much they’re missing those casual conversations in the kitchen or in the lift, and our weekly coffee catchups have really helped bridge that gap.

Company support makes a huge difference

Our organisation has done an extraordinary job of helping people work flexibly. Flexible working is nothing new here: we’ve had it for years and it’s embedded in our culture. We trust our teams to achieve their best, no matter where they’re working from.

Are you interesting in learning more about what it’s like to work at Telstra? Head to the Telstra Careers website.