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​Telstra on hunt for new COO as Kate McKenzie retires

Telstra's Kate McKenzie will retire in coming weeks, but Brendon Riley, group executive global enterprises and services, has already been appointed as interim COO effective immediately.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor on

Telstra's chief operations officer Kate McKenzie has announced her retirement after 12 years with the organisation.

McKenzie, who has held the COO position since 2013, has been responsible for Telstra's field services, IT, and network architecture and operations.

She was also previously managing director for Telstra innovation, products and marketing group, in units including mobiles, fixed voice and broadband, network applications and services, data and IP, national broadband network, and chief technology office. Additionally, McKenzie was the deputy group managing director for public policy and communications and group managing director of strategic marketing and group managing director of Telstra Wholesale.

"Kate has been a positive force for Telstra, supporting four chief executive officers and working to build our technology and innovation capability. She has been a significant contributor to our customer-focused culture and a role model for women in the organisation," Telstra CEO Andrew Penn said of McKenzie's service with the company.

While McKenzie is not expected to leave Telstra for another few weeks, Brendon Riley, group executive global enterprises and services, will serve as the interim COO, effective immediately until a permanent replacement is found.

The news comes after Telstra suffered a series of network outages earlier this year. The company suffered its first major outage on February 9 that took down 2G, 3G, and 4G services across the country for several hours. The telco blamed the outage on "embarrassing human error", before gifting all customers with free unlimited data on February 14 as compensation.

Not long after, the company was offering another free data day after it suffered an hours-long national mobile data and voice outage on March 17; and on March 22, Telstra was hit with a smaller voice outage.

Telstra then experienced an NBN and ADSL outage in May that resulted in the telco having to send free modems to customers still affected several days later, and a mobile data services outage later that week.

In June, Telstra's broadband service outage affected 75,000 customers, before another outage affected enterprise and business customers across Victoria, including the National Australia Bank and Melbourne's public transport system myki.

The last outage came a day after Telstra CEO Andrew Penn announced the telco giant was investing AU$250 million in its network over the next six to 12 months in a wake of a series of outages this year.

According to McKenzie during the outages, Telstra's mobile network now carries 50 percent more data than it did a year ago, meaning it is under far greater strain. As a result of a network review in April, Telstra implemented various measures to deal with this and prevent future issues.

"We have increased the number of redundant links on the nodes which were involved in the 9 February disruption, and we have added new software features that limit the number of customers who would be required to re-register," she said.

"We have also added more capacity to the core network, as well as introducing additional checks and balances to key network element restarts.

"In addition, we now have more resilience in our international connectivity, and we have added another redundant link from Perth to Sydney.

"We have also made other network changes to reduce the impact of international IP traffic on domestic IP traffic that addresses the root cause of the 17 March incident."

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