Leading the equality charge from the top – nbn

April 25, 2021

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Brendan Donohoe attributes some of his success to having a career where his passion aligns with nbn’s purpose. He leads up a male-dominated tech sales function as the EGM of SME Business, but has managed to build a team that is 50-50 men and women, and uses his position to empower all voices to be heard.

Aligning passion and purpose

Brendan started his career in electrical engineering, but soon realized he was less passionate about how technology worked but more passionate about what technology could do, especially for business customers.

“To bring this to life I wanted to work closer with customers and my passion has always been bringing technology to life to help businesses be better businesses. There’s so much tech out there for business and what I’ve been most excited by is bringing this to life for customers to help their business be the best it can be.”

Brendan thrives at nbn because his purpose and passion are so aligned, and his career advice is to do the same.

“Follow your passion and align yourself with the right mix of people to bring it to life. Our purpose is helping lift the digital capability of Australia, which is entirely aligned with my passion. The Internet has created so much technology to help businesses: cloud computing, software-as-a-service, video conferencing, eCommerce and many other internet enabled technologies. As every one of these technologies is internet based, having the right internet access is crucial for accessing these game changing tools. I like to say that as nbn we are the ‘boring bit’ but the truth is we are a critical enabler for these exciting technologies.”

His top career tips are:

  • Follow your passion. “Find what you’re passionate about. I love the saying that if you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.” 
  • Be clear on your purpose. “be clear on what you are trying to achieve and when things get tough or unclear use this as your guide.” 
  • Think big picture and take a step back to see the bigger picture. “When you are passionate and are clear on what you want to achieve, make sure you are stepping back and looking at the bigger picture rather than the immediate issue or challenge.” 
  • Bring your work to life through true connection and networking with people. Make sure your network is as diverse as possible if you really want the best outcome, leverage people you know are going to challenge your thinking, not just concur with it.

At the moment, Brendan believes nbn is poised to change the business industry forever. “We have great technology available to small and medium businesses that was previously limited to enterprise customers, this technology is now more available, more affordable and readily available through many providers in the market.”

“The biggest constraint we have is how we get businesses that are time poor and often scared by the complexity of technology to really understand the true benefits these technologies could bring to their business. The technology is actually the easy part, but how a business brings these technologies to life and make the necessary culture change in using the technology to realize the true benefits is what businesses struggle with. There are so many success stories in the market if people are prepared to spend the time researching and looking at businesses that have successfully adapted and engaged technology.”

Embedding diversity and inclusion

Brendan has been quite deliberate in striving to build a diverse team in a male dominated industry, and with this focus has achieved a team that is balanced 50:50 male to female. representing his diverse team environment and approach.

“What’s really important is diversity of thought. If everyone thinks in the same way then you’re far less likely to generate anything different, or challenge the status quo. Diversity of thought is critical in creating new ideas, finding new ways of doing things and thinking outside the square. In this industry we don’t do that enough.”

“In order to generate diversity and fresh thinking, think from a broader perspective and aim to broaden the pool of suitable candidates you’re willing to consider” says Brendan. “If I am only looking for people with telecommunications backgrounds for example, I am likely to be missing some people who could bring something different to the table.”

Brendan approaches it from the view of understanding what we are trying to achieve, and acknowledging that there could be different ways to achieve that. “If you keep using the old approach you’re going to get what you always got” he notes.

It’s important too to recognize that the way in which roles are articulated in the recruitment process can be off-putting for candidates. “In my last round of job advertisements I made sure we removed all of the technical references and focused on what we were trying to achieve. As a result we attracted a far wider range of people from different industries, with diverse backgrounds and experience to offer.”

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Brendan was after something different, because he believes nbn has an opportunity to completely change the industry. Nbn is an enabler both at home and at work, enabling entertainment, fully connected homes, supporting people with disabilities, helping businesses become more efficient, grow, and enter new markets and expand internationally.

Brendan’s top suggestions for someone wanting to really embed diversity and inclusion in their company and hiring practices are:

  • Look forward. “Think about where you’re going, not where you’ve been. Pull apart what skill set and attributes, behaviors you need for the future and how that’s different to the current approach.” 
  • Challenge your thinking and approach. “Challenge yourself around where you seek people. Where does that skill set exist, what different industries have made the changes you need to make and what are the industries that are a step ahead of what you want to achieve.” 
  • Be open and embrace being challenged. “If you truly want diversity of thought you need to be open to being challenged”

Effective leadership empowers all voices

Despite the inspiring changes Brendan has made in his own teams, he’s quick to point out that he is continuing to work on creating space for all voices and embedding diversity and inclusion practices.

“I always look at what’s still to be done. I’m not a diversity expert, but I’m much better than I used to be. It’s a journey and I still feel like I’ve got a long way to go. I’m making some inroads but have learned lots of lessons and will continue to learn.”

Brendan admits he is very much an extrovert, which means he needs to be conscious of stepping back to make space for those with a different style to leverage the diversity of thought he is keen to achieve.

“I might have diversity in the room, but do I hear from everyone? Not everyone thinks or shares their thinking in the same way; and it’s important to acknowledge that and ensure I foster an inclusive environment in which everyone can speak up. All opinions count and in that space is where gold normally appears.”

Brendan leaves us with a closing thought: “The biggest tip I would give to people is to back yourself and share your ideas. I’d encourage people to draw on what they have done and what they have achieved (and how) to find solutions. Try to be positive in presenting ideas rather than barriers – what can’t be done or why things won’t work.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.