For Optus' commercial director the road came through audit

A path well travelled

After embracing a diverse working journey, Terence Koo is in a happy place with his career.

Terence Koo admits his résumé is “a bit eccentric”. Switching from a traditional auditing role at a Big Four firm to a dynamic start-up enterprise in China and later taking on acommercial role at a beer giant, he has not been afraid to stretch his skills.

Now in a leadership position – commercial director – with the Optus retail division that generates about A$2 billion worth of sales a year, Koo says roles encompassing auditing, finance, operations, retail and commercial have all aligned to assist his career.

“If you take the path less travelled then you do tend to have more fun and a different perspective,” he says. “From a CPA perspective, the ability to bring that alternative thinking is crucial.”

Early in his career at PwC, Koo discovered that an auditing role “didn’t appeal to me”, so he took his first big career risk, joining a start-up consulting company that advised on a major shopping centre redevelopment in Dalian, China. It gave him an understanding of retail, leasing and marketing – and sparked a passion for the region.

About two years later, with the sale of the consultancy, Koo had a brief stint with Colonial First State before getting risk and commercial roles with beer and wine multinational Lion, where he dealt with clients such as Coles and Woolworths. 

“[It was] an opportunity to really get good at my commercial acumen,” he says. “That was an area of weakness at that mid-stage of my career.”

In 2013, Koo joined Singapore-owned Optus, accepting a management job in the telco’s relatively smaller pre-paid products division to ensure he had a senior position. He then focused on building his management credentials and has been rewarded with his new job that “pulls together all the different experiences I’ve had”.

Professional Development: Corporate learning solutions

Of Chinese-Malaysian descent, Koo enjoys being part of the decision-making team that oversees about 370 Optus stores across Australia. On any given day, he could be analysing sales figures, handling leases, determining optimum labour structures, dealing with the franchise network or developing strategic plans.

Looking ahead, he envisages ongoing roles in which he combines his love of business with a passion for both the East and West. “For me, there’s a personal link, because of my heritage and being a proud Australian as well,” he says.

Already armed with a commerce degree and a master’s degree from The University of New South Wales, Koo has been awarded a scholarship to join the University of Sydney Business School’s CPA Australia Global Executive MBA program. He sees the course as the next step in his journey towards potential general manager or CEO roles. “I feel very honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to do such a degree.”

One piece of advice

Find mentors and follow their advice. “I’m quite deliberate in seeking out mentors who inspire me, who have career paths that I respect and getting their guidance. I would not have been able to move down the career path that I have without that support.”

This article is from the March issue of INTHEBLACK.

March 2016
March 2016

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