Telstra's new CFO is leaving to become Tesla's chair

Youtube Screenshot – Light ReadingRobyn Denholm
  • Australian Robyn Denholm has been appointed the chair of Tesla in the US.
  • She is currently CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra.
  • She will leave that role to chair Tesla full-time.

Australian Robyn Denholm, who is taking over from Elon Musk as chair of Tesla in the US, believes that being courageous and being connected to people is the key to being a good leader.

Denholm, currently CFO and Head of Strategy at Telstra where she has been since January 2017, will be a full time head of the electric vehicle company once she has served out her six months notice at Australia’s biggest telco.

Tesla has been looking for a new chair since founder Elon Musk was forced to step down as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a tweet he made saying he had the funds to take the company private.

“I believe in this company, I believe in its mission and I look forward to helping Elon and the Tesla team achieve sustainable profitability and drive long-term shareholder value,” Denholm said in a statement.

She will get 8,000 in stock options each year on top of a $US300,000 retainer.

Denholm has both tech and auto industry experience, having worked at networking equipment and software security firm Juniper Networks, Sun Microsystems, and Toyota Australia.

She has been a director of Tesla since 2014. She will step down as Chair of Tesla’s Audit Committee during the transition to chair of the board of directors.

Denholm says leaders need to be courageous.

“Back yourself in terms of your thought processes and be prepared to take that big step to further your career or further advancement and believe in yourself,” she said in a 2014 interview on Sky News.

She says being genuinely curious about how things work is also important.

“I think it’s about being connected to people,” she says.

“I think that’s a very important part of leadership. Inspiring people, understanding people, getting people to do things they never thought they were capable of doping

“Also being creative and looking outside the box to solve problems.”

Elon Musk says she has extensive experience in both the tech and auto industries.

“She has made significant contributions as a Tesla Board member over the past four years in helping us become a profitable company,” Musk says.

“I look forward to working even more closely with Robyn as we continue accelerating the advent of sustainable energy.”

In a company statement, Tesla says Elon Musk will be a resource to Denholm and provide any support she requests in her role as chair.

“Robyn will continue to provide the necessary focus and time to Telstra during the remainder of her time there,” Tesla says.

Tesla says Denholm’s global experience in both Australia and Silicon Valley encompasses leadership roles across a range of technology companies, including Telstra, Juniper Networks, and Sun Microsystems.

“She is widely credited with leading a team that drove significant increases in Juniper’s revenues, overseeing Juniper’s corporate transformation during her nine-year tenure as Chief Financial and Operations Officer,” tesla says.

“Her experience also includes numerous finance management roles in the automotive industry while at Toyota.”

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said: “We are sorry to see Robyn leave Telstra. We know that it has become increasingly difficult to balance her responsibilities as Telstra CFO with the increased activity of the Tesla Board.”

The telco has started a search for a new Chief Financial Officer

NOW READ: 10 things you need to know about Australian Telstra director Robyn Denholm

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