Interview by Dominic Moore
Dhruv joined Sydney Airport as the GM of Strategy and Growth in January 2019. He leads a newly created function within Sydney Airport to support business strategy and deliver growth opportunities, including across digital and data. Sydney Airport is listed on the ASX with a market cap of approximately $17b.
Prior to Sydney Airport, Dhruv was most recently Group Director, Strategy and Corporate Development at Fairfax Media where he was a part of the team that led the transformation of Fairfax. Dhruv has also previously worked at Macquarie Capital as an investment banker, Boston Consulting Group and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited. He holds an MBA from Stanford University.
CAREER RELATED QUESTIONS
What is the best thing about your job?
Sydney Airport has been a big change of industry for me after spending most of my career in media. I’m currently loving learning a new industry that people are so passionate about.
It’s interesting exploring how much of my knowledge and skills are transferable versus having to adapt and rethink my approaches.
What is the most challenging project/problem you have worked on either as an external consultant or an internal strategist?
When I joined Fairfax, the business was facing significant disruption from the likes of Facebook and Google. The dual challenge was to find new growth while transforming the core publishing business.
We achieved the growth through investing in our existing Domain business and starting Stan with Nine. More difficult was a “clean sheet” rebuild of our metro publishing business, where we rethought what was needed to be a successful, sustainable publishing business; when we merged with Nine at the end of last year, we had taken a declining business to its first year of growth in a decade.
What advice would you give someone transitioning from a consulting firm to a role in industry?
Consulting provides a great foundation in analysing difficult problems. However, being effective in an organisation requires delivering change.
Without sacrificing the integrity of the analysis, it is important to understand all the internal and external stakeholders, what motivates them, and therefore how to plan any change so that it has traction. This means striking the right balance between pragmatism and theory.
Who has influenced your career the most and why?
My parents – they gave me the values that I try to live by, both in life and in my career: integrity, hard work, fairness.
What is the favourite piece of advice you have received and from whom?
Greg Hywood, my CEO at Fairfax who was previously the editor at the AFR, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, once told me “don’t bury the lede.”
Whilst the advice relates to writing, it’s equally applicable in any form of effective communication. Get your ideas across concisely and know your audience.
As a child what did you want to be when you were older?
I loved (and still love) science, so I wanted to be an inventor. Though I studied engineering in university, I moved into consulting when I graduated.
I’d like to think that I still have a few scientist / inventor traits: curiosity, thinking about problems differently, and coming up with new ideas.
What are your three favourite books and what are you currently reading?
It’s hard to narrow down to a list – at different times in my life, I’ve had different genres I’ve been interested in.
I remember reading George Orwell’s 1984 in high school, which started my love of the classics. I’ve gone through other phases where I’ve loved philosophy, science literature and popular fiction. Currently I’m enjoying social science non-fiction, such as Guns, Germs and Steel, and I’m currently reading Sapiens.
Who is your personal or business hero/heroine and what quality do you most admire in them?
I don’t have a particular hero, but I admire leaders who can question conventional wisdom and bring people along on difficult journeys.
Who would you like sitting next to you at a dinner party and why?
I’d love to have Leonardo Da Vinci, an artist and inventor, on one side and Mahatma Gandhi, an incredible leader, on the other.
What is your favourite quote or motto?
Having a couple of kids, including a six-year old, I quite like Einstein’s: “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”