Where were you raised and what influenced your career?
I was born and raised in Newcastle and had three siblings all born in Sydney, so I’m the only one in the family who can claim true ‘Novocastrian’ status and I’m very proud to do so. My grandfather was a concert pianist, Australian film industry pioneer and a creative thinker however it was his role as a journalist and contributor to the local paper that interested me as a child. He was an amazing individual, extremely generous with his time letting me loose in his office to use his typewriter, notebooks and pencils which started my interest in media and probably more so a lifelong curiosity in people.
What did you study?
Initially I studied the Social Sciences and then some years later when I was forging my management career at NBN Television I completed a Masters of Business Administration. I was keen to support my professional development and career aspirations for a senior executive role in media and decided an MBA would both support those professional objectives and would also be stimulating and personally fulfilling along the way. NBN was very supportive of my studies, both financially and with time off to attend Uni and exams. My MBA coincided with two major milestones in my life – the aggregation of regional television, affectionately known as ‘aggravation’ (NBN’s market expanded from Newcastle to Northern NSW) which saw my role expand commensurately. The other milestone was the most fulfilling personal project of my life called ‘Nicholas’ - our one and only beautiful son.
Your first job in media?
A sales executive with the NBN Television-owned newspaper The Newcastle Star. Four days after starting I was promoted to features manager, not through any sheer brilliance but more from an opportunity unexpectedly arising. Somehow I knew from my first day in media that I was destined to make it a lifetime career. Shortly after an opportunity arose at NBN Television which lead to 30 wonderful years and the most remarkable career with the last 10 years as CEO.
Did you covet an executive role?
Yes; I made it clear of my aspirations, that I was prepared to work hard, learn the broadcasting business and make sacrifices, not thinking at the time that 20 years later I’d be CEO, but yes, I did have my dreams. NBN was an icon in regional media during those days and I will always feel very privileged to have led it and worked with a great team.
In a blokey field, was it hard to excel as a female?
Broadcasting and media, whether you’re female or male, is a tough business but if you have passion and a single-minded focus on your goals it pays off in spades. Also, having a guardian ‘mentor’ to support you and give feedback along the way is important and I was lucky to have mentors.
"If you have passion and a single-minded focus on your goals it pays off in spades."Deborah Wright
In 2016 you were Director of Regional Strategy for Nine Entertainment Co. The outcome?
Another great opportunity to lead in shaping the regional strategy for Nine Entertainment Co when it was in the midst of transformational change and the much awaited changes to media laws had stalled. The strategy led to the landmark signing of a new regional television agreement between Nine Entertainment Co and Southern Cross Austereo, who previously had been the Ten affiliate. I then had a lead role transitioning Nine Entertainment Co and NBN to its new regional affiliate partner with very successful commercial and operational outcomes.
The biggest challenges in the TV and media arena?
The pace of change and remaining relevant. The media industry has undergone transformational change over the past decade, particularly from a consumer and technology perspective. Keeping pace with creating and delivering compelling content across legacy and new technology platforms places huge demands on the traditional business model. Those broadcasters who have scale and can respond to the changes and prioritise their investment in building digital assets, generate compelling new content and deliver it to consumers anywhere, anytime on any device are ahead of the pack.
Why did you take on the role of CEO of 2NURFM, the University of Newcastle’s community radio station?
As a member of Council for 11 years and Chair of the People and Culture Committee, a member of the Strategic Development Committee and Chair of 2NURFM I have a deep understanding of the University. Despite it being unexpected, the timing was right and it meant I could return to the region that I love, and work in a leadership role in an industry that I’m passionate about. My role aside from the day to day management of the radio station is to develop the strategic plan and lead the stronger alignment between the University, 2NURFM and community. 2NUR faces the same challenges and transformational changes that other media and broadcasters face, driven in large by advances in technology and massive digital disruption impacting on current and future business models. 2NUR will need to adapt to these changes and to do so requires a clear long term strategic plan to ensure it has a sustainable business model.