General Manager of devices, Telstra
Patrick Flanagan was one of the first students to graduate from ANU with an engineering degree. His studies led him to work for international mobile technology companies before returning to Australia where he joined Australian telecoms giant and leading provider of mobile phones and devices, home phones and broadband internet, Telstra.
He now manages Telstra’s home device portfolio and has developed and launched a range of world-first products. We caught up with Patrick after last years 25th anniversary of engineering to learn more about his journey and how his studies at ANU shaped his career.
“At 17, when I started university, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I knew what I was good at and that included problem solving, which translated into doing well in maths, physics and chemistry. I was attracted to studying engineering at ANU because it didn’t seem to cast the mould too early like, for example, studying to become a Lawyer, Doctor or Economist."
Patrick commenced at ANU in the 1990 cohort of engineering students. This group had immense passion for what and where they were studying.
“One thing that was great about being part of one of the first cohorts that went through the engineering degree was a sense that you were part of the formation of the program itself. We were all extremely motivated to make the program a success and the small class sizes meant that we were able to get to know each other very well."
Patrick, like most students took advantage of the wide range of opportunities on our vibrant campus but like many before him learnt that you must balance your time between work and play as a student.
“My time at ANU flipped between being completely carefree and utter panic. University was different, I was free to do whatever I wanted, at least until exams came along. An ideal week would include spending a lot of time with friends, a house party or two, a quick game of basketball or touch football, and a sleep in until midday on the weekend. A not-so-ideal week would involve realising you had missed several weeks of lectures and attending a single pre-exam session where an unknown professor was scribbling indecipherable notes on a clear plastic film on an overhead projector, at almost light speed. This would be closely followed by a couple of all night study sessions, and the exam, where the only questions you were semi-confident in answering was your name - fun. On balance, I have a fond memory of university days, and I still have a soft spot for Canberra.
“On returning to ANU recently for the 25th celebrations of the Bachelor of Engineering, a couple of things struck me. Seeing old classmates was easy, if you spend that long with a group of people it’s easy to say hi and get back to a good conversation. These days students have the advantage of better technology, the learning is more online based and the days of those plastic sheets on overhead projectors are long gone.
“My first job after graduating was working in a bar in Scotland and backpacking for a year in Europe. I flew back to Sydney and landed a job at a start-up, Lake Technologies, in Technical Sales. This new job meant a lot of travel internationally and stints running a one-man sales office in Los Angeles and London. I then moved to product management for audio in mobile, as Lake Technologies was being acquired by Dolby Labs. I then found myself in San Francisco helping Dolby get established in mobile.
“The systems engineering degree at ANU helped me retain versatility with my career options early in my career because of the multidiscipline nature of the programs, my first job was actually in sales.
“At the same time a technology background and my problem solving skills has helped me enormously in product management.
“Three years ago, I moved back to Sydney and joined Telstra where I manage the home device portfolio. Along the way I have managed to amass a great number of adventures, travel experiences, and a fantastic group of friends and colleagues.
“I like the idea of being “world first”. I'm proud of developing the strategy and product portfolio for Home Wi-Fi market leadership at Telstra, and delivering Telstra Air capability to millions of customers.
“I developed and launched Dolby’s strategy and product portfolio into an adjacent market; mobile, with significant revenue growth. I have also live launched world-first products including Telstra Gateway Max, Telstra Wi-Fi Maximiser App and Dolby mobile enabled Mobile Phones.”