CEDA member profile: Telstra



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Carmel Mulhern, Group General Counsel and Group Executive, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Telstra

What makes Telstra unique in the Australian telecommunications industry? 

Even more fundamental than our world leading network and global leadership in 5G, Telstra is unique in the telecommunications industry because of its long history of connecting people in this vast continent. Telstra is part of the fabric of Australia. Our history dates back to the 1850s when telegraph lines predated telephones. 

Is there something about Telstra that people would be surprised to learn? 

Telstra is always there for the community when they are needed most – fire, flood and any other national disaster. But what is probably lesser known is that Telstra is also there for the community when there is a day to day need  – there doesn’t need to be a natural disaster. It’s that positive impact we make to the community that I think most people are surprised about. A couple of examples include: we run classes to teach our older population how to navigate the complexities around the internet and a digital world, we provide the technology and support staff for the Good Friday Appeal each year, we’re one of the first organisations that goes into disaster areas to help people get back on their feet. These are things that make me particularly proud to work for Telstra. 

What are some of the top priorities for Telstra in the coming year or two? 

Our main priority for the next few years is delivering our T22 strategy, which was first announced to the market by our CEO, Andy Penn, in 2018. T22 involves a focus on a range of things including simplifying our products and services, improving the digital experience for our customers and leading the way in 5G. Change is happening so fast in our industry and we’re really focused on staying ahead of what our customers want. 

What is your role at Telstra and your main responsibilities?

I am Telstra's Group General Counsel and Group Executive, Legal & Corporate Affairs. I lead a team of approximately 300 people based across Australia and internationally (with offices in most capital cities in Australia as well as Hong Kong, Singapore, London and New York). In addition to providing legal counsel to the Telstra Board and CEO, I lead a team responsible for providing legal counsel, policy advice, stakeholder, reputation and media management, employee engagement and community initiatives across Legal, Government, Regional Affairs, Sustainability, Compliance, Regulatory Affairs and internal and external Communications.

What do you love about your job? 

I love leading a team and being able to develop and create opportunities for those in the team. I really enjoy watching the team grow. I also love making a difference for our customers – directly and indirectly – whether that is inputting into strategy development, advising on the right thing to do or giving back to the community as part of our Sustainability Strategy. I also enjoy being able to input into shaping the future of the industry through conversations with regulators and government.

How have you seen the industry change in your time with Telstra?

The telecommunications and technology sector is moving through a period of incredible change and innovation – the fastest I have seen in my 20 plus years within the industry. In order to keep up, our company must transform the ways we work and find new ways of creating value. This change won’t be delivered by a single breakthrough, it will be the result of a number of incredible technologies like 5G, cloud computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, software defined networks and quantum computing arriving at scale at nearly the same time. 

Why does Telstra choose to be a national member of CEDA?

Being part of CEDA gives us the opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from, a really wide group of business leaders and policy makers. The strong reputation and broad respect that CEDA has in the community makes it a great forum for putting forward ideas and progressing some of the issues that are important to Telstra.

What do you most enjoy about being a CEDA trustee?

It’s great to have access to rigorous, evidence-based research on important policy areas. And I’ve always enjoyed the diversity of experience and opinion you find at CEDA events.

How does Telstra engage with CEDA? 

Telstra has a very long relationships with CEDA and we’re engaged on a number of levels. Several of our senior leaders, including our CEO, have recently spoken at CEDA events, our Trustees participate in advisory councils, and we invite clients to join us at events.  

Is there a particular CEDA speaker/event/report that has resonated with you and why?

I think CEDA produces really compelling research, but I particularly like the overview that the annual State of Nation provides. The 2019 State of Nation has some fascinating speakers and I’m really looking forward to it.