INTOUCH : Managers abroad – Ashley Dando: UK Support Manager, Telstra, London

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
When I left New Zealand in 1997, aged 23, it was all about doing the typical Kiwi OE. I took six-month leave of absence from my job at Tait Electronics without any definite plans. I did contracts before settling into more serious IT roles at Visa, BT Radianz and now Telstra Europe.

Can you provide sketch of your current role?
Telstra Europe provides voice, data and hosting services. This all runs over several nationwide networks and if any of that infrastructure breaks, we start losing revenue. So I see my role as protecting my employer’s revenue stream, by a) ensuring that backbone, transmission and voice networks and equipment are protected from any threats to downtime and b) managing team of highly skilled and motivated network engineers who are able to quickly respond to and mitigate those threats.
The technical side mostly manages itself; the managerial side is lot harder, because there are always other departments whose goals may negatively impact mine. Between us we need to navigate the best path for the business and not get sucked into silo-management. It requires the ability to see several moves ahead and make some difficult decisions as to where your limited resource is best placed.

How does it fit into your career path?
To be honest, I’ve not done good job of actually having deliberate career path. Some career moves happened because I realised it was time to move on to role where I could grow. I have typically stayed in roles for around 18-26 months, which is becoming much more commonplace in the permanent market in the UK. I’ve always found myself being placed into roles of increasing responsibility and have always accepted because I enjoy having the power to bring my ideas to fruition, to change things for the better, and to make work an enjoyable and rewarding experience for my staff. I love what I do at Telstra because it’s taken me to new level.

What are its main challenges?
There are always more issues than you have resource to deal with, so you have to be very good at risk assessment and decision making – knowing how to pick which problems are going to blow up out of control. The biggest challenge for me was learning to think about the whole company picture, to think strategically and proactively.

What are the learnings you will take from it?
Don’t let your fear of being wrong prevent you from acting. Make your decision based on what you know; if it turns out you were wrong, learn from it. Know your role, and don’t be afraid to stand up to your superiors in the course of performing it. Lastly – and this is more important than it at first sounds – email is evil! Pick up the phone, build relationships, get to know the key people in the organisation that you have to deal with.
How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?
Over my 10 years here, I’ve developed strong admiration and love for Aotearoa, and I don’t know if this would have happened had I never left. It’s allowed me to be both critical and objective. I have never seen country so small with so many great achievements. Economically and business-wise I have felt disappointed when comparing New Zealand’s telecomms market with others such as the UK.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you/would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
I have recently joined KEA and am keen to get more involved there. My brother Edwin runs community of IT professionals called Clarus from Christchurch, and one of its key objectives is to attract IT talent back to New Zealand. I’m hoping to help.

•Ashley Dando is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community – www.keanewzealand.com

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