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.
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.