Formerly EGM, Strategy - MTM Planning @ nbn™
Interview by Dominic Moore
Tom holds the position of Executive General Manager - Strategy and MTM Planning at the National Broadband Network (nbn™), which includes responsibility to deliver the annual Strategy and Corporate Plan. Tom and his team counsels the C-suite on a range of strategic and operational decision and planning matters for the company, which have a cumulative budget of ~$49 billion in net revenues and cost. Prior to nbn, Tom was the General Manager - Strategy, Business Development and Inter-Carrier at Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), where his responsibilities spanned Corporate Strategy & Planning, Market Research, Business Development & Innovation, and accountability for the InterCarrier P&L with annual gross trading balance of A$1B. Prior to VHA, Tom was an Associate Principal with McKinsey & Co., specialising in Strategy and Business Technology for Financial Services, Telecommunications and Retail clients, serving clients in Africa Europe, US and Australasia. Whilst at McKinsey, Tom took leave of absence to be Founder and Director of Mercateo.com, an Internet startup that specialises in online shopping and procurement services for small/medium sized enterprises in Germany (www.mercateo.com). Tom holds a B.Sc. HONS Computer Science cum laude from the University of Johannesburg. He is an Australian/South African dual-citizen and lives in Sydney.
Career related questions
What is the best thing about your job?
I love my job so much if doesn’t feel like work. It is not often that you have opportunity to drive social and macro-economic change at a national scale. Our work at nbn sits at the intersection of radical changes in technology, business, health, education, social equality and digital media/entertainment. We benefit from a visionary CEO that builds a culture of fearlessness, trust and ambition. Almost on a daily basis, the work we do lead to decisions with billion dollar impact for the company and touches the lives of every Australian.
What is the most challenging project/problem you have worked on either as an external consultant or an internal strategist?
There are so many different problems I have come across in my time at McKinsey, Vodafone and nbn, it is very hard to pick. The most exciting problem I came across recently is the application of big-data analytics to strategy, using a wide range of geo-data overlaid with technological parameters and demographics, to derive investment decisions at a micro-geographic level with accurate cost and revenue forecasts, and then be able to synthesize that back up to a macroeconomic level. The future of strategy is in using cutting edge tools to do analysis previously unimaginable. Still, there is nothing like fundamental logical problem solving, but the methods become more sophisticated.
What advice would you give someone transitioning from a consulting firm to a role in industry?
Rule number 1: don’t take yourself too seriously.
Rule number 2: fall in love with the people around you.
Rule number 3: take your time to form bonds, either friendships or at least, lasting professional relationships, with peers and bosses
Rule number 4: don’t try to be the smartest person in the room. It doesn’t matter that you’re right in the moment, but that 5 years down the line you can look the same people in the eye and they know you helped them get where they are.
Rule number 5: when you stop learning, it’s time to move on
Who has influenced your career the most and why?
I often think I’m one of the luckiest people alive, to have benefitted from several mentors over the years. My bosses at Vodafone and at nbn, who believe in me and make me feel that I can accomplish anything. The partners at McKinsey who took their time to teach me what must have seemed pitifully basic at the time. My team, whose feedback means everything. And finally, the unknown lady working in the university administration office who awarded me a scholarship that allowed me to study, I owe her the most!
What is the favourite piece of advice you have received and from whom?
One of my dearest friends, Marta Higuera, ex-McKinsey EM and now co-founder and co-CEO of OpenAgent, once taught me the precious art of “positive reinforcement”—it was an amazing gift.
As a child what did you want to be when you were older?
An architect! I think I did become an architect somehow, of organisations.
What are your three favourite books and what are you currently reading?
Thinking, Fast and Slow – David Kahneman
Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
Stand Out & Succeed – Christy Frank
Who is your personal or business hero/heroine and what quality do you most admire in them?
Donald Trump? Just kidding! Steve Jobs had many traits that I admire. Humans are flawed, nonetheless you can achieve greatness
Who would you like sitting next to you at a dinner party and why?
Hugh Jackman – despite his fame, he remains humble and inspiring. He would be loads of fun to hang out with.
What is your favourite quote or motto?
“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that you meet it.”, Albert Einstein