Telstra CEO: Who is David Thodey?

Telstra CEO: Who is David Thodey?

Summary: Calm, diplomatic and deep down a salesman. David Thodey, the meat in Telstra's Kaz sandwich, will be in familiar territory in his new role as Telstra's chief executive officer.


Calm, diplomatic and deep down a salesman. David Thodey, the meat in Telstra's Kaz sandwich, will be in familiar territory in his new role as Telstra's chief executive officer.

David Thodey (Credit: Telstra)

Thodey's time at IBM Australia, including as its managing director between 1999 and 2000, were defining years. But his move to a second tier position within Telstra was, according to Kaz founder, Peter Kazacos, a clear indication he had bigger plans.

"My view is that to move from being the head of IBM to a second tier role within Telstra wouldn't be enough. He's adapted and survived Sol, who was a tough guy," said Kazacos.

Kazacos worked closely with Thodey after Telstra's $333 million acquisition of Kaz in 2004 when the telco's chief was Ziggy Switkowski. While initially heading up Telstra's mobile division, by 2004 Thodey had taken on his most recent role as Telstra Business and Government Group managing director, as well as a spot as Kaz Group's chairman.

It's no secret the integration of Kaz was difficult, and ultimately never finished before being sold last month to Fujitsu Australia for $200 million. A source who worked with Thodey and Kaz's former CEO Mike Foster during that period said Thodey was most notably a "pragmatist" who was ultimately more constrained by Telstra than Kaz, which Thodey recognised had potential.

But it was his time at IBM, which Kazacos and others credit for his different approach to Sol: "Deep down, David's a salesman and he's gone through the IBM way of doing that," said Kazacos.

Thodey spent a total of 22 years at IBM in various sales, marketing and communications roles.

"The biggest thing he did — and I don't think it's been matched by any previous or subsequent IBM MD — was that he was always approachable and was very passionate about business partners. He has got a good way of getting things resolved," said Kazacos. "You'd rarely see David lose his cool, but you would know when he's upset."

A former Queensland government chief information officer said that during Thodey's stint as IBM's MD he brought about cultural change for the better at Big Blue with his focus on "business outcomes for customers" and ensuring projects were delivered on time in a period when IBM "wasn't in the best shape".

But Thodey's time at IBM didn't pass without blemish. Thodey headed up IBM during the era of enterprise-wide outsourcing deals, which were characterised by low margins and rewards that typically came in the latter part of the term.

A former staff member who worked at IBM Australia at the time recalled IBM's former US chief Lou Gerstner's visit to Sydney during the 2000 Olympics.

"He tore shreds off IBM because Services (at the time called IBM Global Services) was dragging down the company's performance," the source said. "Of course, that was done in a diplomatic fashion, but you can imagine the version that David got."

They added that while Thodey wasn't exactly an "inspiring" leader, he was well liked.

Topics: IBM, Outsourcing, Telcos, Telstra

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Thodey Who

    The last sentence of the article really sums up the outcome and what can be expected.
  • nonnsense

    I have worked with this guy and he was a man of complete integrity who managed to turn around TE&G through inspiring leadership. At a time when Telstra was full of the most revolting management I have ever seen, David Thodey stood out as someone who got the job done without being a complete ass*hole....
  • David Thodey

    No idea where the uninspiring comes from, I have worked for many CEO's and David Thodey has been the most inspiring I have ever worked for. He was well liked, a brilliant strategiest, and made sure things happened on time and were of the highest quality. He was extremely highly valued.
  • Looking forward to it

    Currently working for Telstra, and having worked close to David Thodey in previous years as he headed up Enterprise & Government... I am very much looking forward to his role as CEO of Telstra.

    Great leader, salesman at heart, and a man who knows how to get the job done while still caring about his employees.
  • Hope he has a better outlook...

    I hope David Thodey understands a bit more about keeping his staff happy. Some staff and management structures in Telstra could only be classed as "Train wrecks" and there are plenty of staff that are very unhappy with the way Telstra currently treats them. Ask anyone working in the terms of an expired Enterprise Agreement or along with the now Expired Redundancy Agreement and no sign of any pay rise for CPI or good performance.

    Now we know why Telstra has some large contracts with IBM. I wonder if it's just business - or business for friends?
  • I want that one

    Oh goodie...another one on the multi-million salary bracket. Let's see if the so-called 'service provider' Telstra's actual service (or lack of) improves at all.
  • baseless comments

    i'd give the guy a break mate, accusing people of insider trading is pretty rude at the best of times without some real proof.

    I completely agree however that it will be a nice change if he works towards making staff happy again.
  • multi-million salary bracket

    Unfortunately with how pay packets have been set for many years for execs and definately not just at telstra, your not going to get top talent without paying a lot of cash.

    Why would someone work for peanuts when someone else will pay them millions of dollars.

    It will be interesting to see how david runs the ship I think. And i believe in keeping a positive outlook.. perhaps things will improve? and if they do, perhaps he's earnt his multi million pay packet.
  • test case

    Please give him my details, tell him to call Telstra and pretend he is me ! He will be horrified at the contempt shown to customers. I am the Director os Silverleaf Sustainable Solutions Pty Ltd, our phone is not working, one qwould think this would be a simple case of asking for connection. LAW SUIT PENDING !!
    Robert Corry
    03 58592141
  • could i have david thodeys contact details.. need to contact him urgently...
    selina caruana
  • Good Morning David

    On Friday last I spent around 6 hours on the phone to Big Pond and although all staff were polite and helpful - I got no where. I have an I Phone (Telstra) 2 months ago I moved from Qld to NSW and had to change email address - no one at Telstra Big Pond can help me - I am pay for a service that I cannot use (cannot use email with I phone. I heard you talk on the phone some time ago and you said you would personally deal with all complains and as no one has phoned me back would you please find a staff member that can solve my problem Kind Regards Pam Daniel 0427 759 776.
  • Hi I am a new customer from n.z and I also am shocked at some of the service that have not been provided over the phone, like one of the other comments polite but still got no where for 13 days(without internet). They kept saying from their screens infront of them I was all connected but a technician hadnt even taken me through till 21.9.10 that only took him 10 mins. That guy gave me the most info and said it should have been done days before. Really not good service here in N.Z. Maybe the CEO should do that programme bossess undercover and go have a look into the customers calling centre, cause this is bad for business and customers will go elsewhere. Maybe its worth the hassel to send in undercover people for the ceo or manager or I mean 1 hour to sort something then get hung up in your face is shocking. Unsatisfied customer.
  • I do not have my case number with me as I am travelling, but my case manager's name is Jennifer in Melbourne. My no. is 0408 174 252. Can she or somebody call me with some degree of urgency.
    David Hill.
  • David Thodey

    To put it bluntly, David Thodey is chewing more than five million dollars that could be spent on people who actually do work. If he disappeared from the face of the earth, cables would continue to be laid, customers would continue to be served, and services installed. The only difference would be that there would be one less useless shiny-arsed oxygen thief wasting customer revenue. My phone and internet service is no better under Thodey than it was under Sol "Adios" Tujello. It's true that I don't get stuck on hold any longer than I used to, but that's mostly because I give up in frustration a lot more these days. Getting rid of AT LEAST THIRTY PERCENT of Telstra's upper management would free up many millions of dollars that could be better spent on actual productive activity.
    Snurd Gerbly
  • 7 no show appointments, 7 months, no emergency Satt phone

    David Thodey may be a genius to his employees who can non show for 7 separate appointments...but put him in the free market not Government appointment position and see how he fares...the Indian National Operator refuses to even negotiate the statutory compensation so the workers just never turn up, coz the law just isnt applied. I have to now go to Prosperpine Court to get a basic telephone service.