FROM THE TOP

Joe Pol­lard, Tel­stra’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer, who is speak­ing at Vogue Codes, talks fe­male lead­er­ship. Styled by Monique San­tos. Pho­tographed by Jake Ter­rey.

VOGUE Australia - - News -

Tel­stra chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer Joe Pol­lard talks fe­male lead­er­ship.

Vogue: Your first job was work­ing as a re­cep­tion­ist in an ad­ver­tis­ing firm and you quickly rose up the ranks. Did you have a long-term goal at that stage? JP: “I never planned more than two or three years ahead but then I’d be like: ‘Okay, what’s the next job? Give me more, give me more, give me more!’ When I was 25 and newly mar­ried, there was an op­por­tu­nity to work in Asia. We thought we’d go to Asia for two years but ended up be­ing away for 16 years: five years in Hong Kong, then Port­land, Ore­gon for nine with Nike, and Ja­pan for two years.” Vogue: Who did you learn from along the way? JP: “I had great bosses who taught me and re­ally in­stilled the work ethic I have now. Most of the bosses I had in my 20s and 30s pushed me to get pro­moted.” Vogue: Dur­ing your ca­reer, what bar­ri­ers have you en­coun­tered as a fe­male in high-pow­ered po­si­tions? JP: “Aged 25 to 30, in Asia, it was less about be­ing a woman and more about be­ing a for­eigner; you had to fit in and un­der­stand the cul­ture. Then in the US, Nike was the kind of com­pany that you ei­ther fit­ted into or you didn’t. So I think in my 30s and 40s the bar­ri­ers there were more ‘can you push your­self?’ The first bar­rier as a fe­male I hit was com­ing home in 2006. It felt like noth­ing had changed since I left. It was just very male dom­i­nated. In gen­eral, you were the only fe­male in that world a lot of the time.” Vogue: Did you have to fight to have your voice heard? JP: “No, I never fight to have my voice heard! (Laughs). I pas­sion­ately be­lieve that when you get to a se­nior po­si­tion you have a duty to help change things. So when I be­came the CEO of NineMSN, I was: ‘Okay, we have to have diver­sity, we have to push part-time, we have to take a re­spon­si­bil­ity to change it.’” Vogue: So what kind of poli­cies did you im­ple­ment? JP: “Job share, part-time, and push­ing women into jobs … A lot of what I do is say­ing: ‘You can do this job! Why aren’t you ap­ply­ing?’” Vogue: Have things changed for women in busi­ness? JP: “It’s got a lot bet­ter for women, I’d say, in the last five years. It feels like there’s more aware­ness for fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion and that the in­dus­try’s try­ing to do some­thing. Sta­tis­tics aren’t great yet, but I think there is a move­ment, and that’s what we need.” Vogue: What ex­cites you about tech­nol­ogy? JP: “The thing I love from the fe­male side of things is that it gives you flex­i­bil­ity. Ev­ery screen here has video con­fer­ence, so if you adopt the tech­nol­ogy, the bar­ri­ers to have women work­ing from any­where are gone. Then I think just what pure tech­nol­ogy is en­abling. You think about the next gen­er­a­tion where you can con­nect ev­ery­thing: you can put chips in your kids’ blaz­ers so they’re never lost; a tracker on your dog; have a ‘smart home’.” Vogue: Do women bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to lead­er­ship? JP: “Def­i­nitely. I think women are re­ally good at prob­lem-solv­ing, con­sen­sus-build­ing and we have more of an em­pa­thy for: ‘What do you think?’ ‘How do you think that way?’ I find be­ing in a team that’s bal­anced with women, with men, is a lot more col­lab­o­ra­tive.” Vogue: Tell us about your thoughts on men­tor­ing. JP: “I men­tor a lot of women at Tel­stra and they’ll al­ways ask me: ‘How do you find the courage to talk in a meet­ing and how do you know what you’ll say is right?’ I say: ‘Well, I don’t, but I’m go­ing to say it. I’ve got to be­lieve that if I’m go­ing to open my mouth and have an opin­ion I’ve thought about it, but no-one knows they’re right.’ Most women want to get women as men­tors, but some­times what I’d say is get a man. You can have a fe­male as a ‘how have you done this?’, as a learn­ing thing, but re­ally, a lot of women need men as men­tors be­cause they can help you get some­where. If you want to get on a board get a male men­tor, be­cause a lot of the time there’s only one or two fe­males on a board of 10.” Vogue: What ad­vice would you give work­ing women? JP: “I read Madeleine Al­bright’s bi­og­ra­phy and my favourite quote of hers is: ‘Women can have it all, just not at the same time.’ That is so true. I’d say to my late-30s self: ‘Just be eas­ier on your­self.’ This whole work/life thing: ‘I’ve got to be a great wife, a great mother, I’ve got to be great at work, thin, beau­ti­ful …’ some­thing’s got to give. You just have to pick stages that you’re go­ing to be great at, then, on re­flec­tion, you do look back and think: ‘I do have it all, I just didn’t have it all at once.’” Vogue: What are you look­ing for­ward to at Vogue Codes? JP: “When­ever some­body asks me to talk about how I got to where I am, I al­ways say yes. I think a lot of peo­ple see where you get in your ca­reer and think: ‘How have they done it?’ But the amount of mis­takes I’ve made, the strug­gles … I’ll al­ways share the good, the bad and the ugly. I also think that we’ve got to get more women into tech­nol­ogy; we’ve got to get peo­ple to choose that as a ca­reer, be­cause we need diver­sity of thought.”

Joe Pol­lard wears a Ni­cola Waite coat. Ge­org Jensen neck­lace.

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