Tim O’Leary joined Telstra in 2011 after 20 years in senior public affairs roles in the banking and oil industries. In his current role Tim is responsible for government and regional affairs, sustainability and corporate responsibility. Tim is a Member of Council at Newman College (University of Melbourne) as well as a Board member of the Telstra Foundation. He is also a former Chairman of eMotion 21, a small community arts organisation catering for the needs of young people with Down Syndrome. Humanities 21 speaks with Tim to find out how his humanities education has helped to shape him both personally and professionally. 






What did you study and what inspired you to pursue this path?

I studied a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. After working for a few years, I went back and did some post-graduate work in philosophy (ethics). I chose Arts because I didn’t get the marks to get into Arts/Law. My favourite subjects were English and History, and so I figured Arts would suit me; I also thought of myself as a bit of an intellectual gadfly at the time.


What is your current occupation?

I work for Telstra and am responsible for Government Relations, Regional Affairs & Sustainability.


What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the diversity of the issues that come across my desk as well as the fact that I am always engaging with external stakeholders on reasonably important topics.


Thinking back, what was a highlight of your time at university?

I spent four years residing at Newman College whilst I completed my degree. I loved College life…the community, the sport, the friendships and the fun.


Were there any co-curricular activities you found particularly valuable while at university?

I really enjoyed rowing, not least because we were only one of 4-5 Newman crews ever to win the inter-collegiate boatrace. I even have an oar to show my kids.


How do you think your humanities education has shaped you personally and professionally?

Profoundly. I have always been interested in ideas and public affairs. My university education nurtured these interests and provided the wherewithal to make a career out of them.


What career advice would you give to current students or recent graduates?

Follow what you love and what interests you.


Tell us about a book you read recently that truly captured your attention?

I am currently reading Greg Sheridan’s “God is Good for You.” It’s a really well-written book on an important subject.


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