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Inside View: Optus Telecoms

AGSM MBA grad Geoff Baker shares his journey from one of the UK's most successful start-ups to the heart of an Australian telecoms giant

By  Rob Kirby

Mon Oct 31 2011

Geoff Baker’s path to product manager at a A$8.3 billion (£5.2b) revenue company started in a van decorated to look like a cow.

In 2001, Innocent Smoothies was still a small start-up run by a friend. On graduating from Oxford University with an MEng, Geoff decided to try his luck with a promising new business.

"I started on the bottom rung of the ladder and was out in a van (below) most of the week,” Geoff explains. “But I worked my way up through a few trade marketing roles as the company grew."


"I made the switch to brand marketing to be closer to the ideas that drove the company forward - new products, growth strategies and brand positioning."

The next stop for Geoff was beverages company Diageo, where he managed luxury spirit brands like Tanqueray No.10 gin, Don Julio tequila and (his favourite) Zacapa rum. But it wasn’t long before he felt the time had come to up his game by studying an MBA.

At this point Geoff also began to think global. He decided that going abroad for an MBA is “an unmissable opportunity that adds a great learning experience to your degree”, and put in an application to AGSM.

Australia was a decision in itself, but he’s now happiest about having studied in Sydney, which he thinks is “one of the best places in the world” for a short-term stay.

"Coming to study at AGSM was a great first step, and has given me a large and useful network in Sydney.” Geoff now hopes to stay in Australia with his wife.

“AGSM also has a great rugby history - MBA world champions a few years ago - but there was no current team when I arrived”, he says. “We were able to put together and train a scratch side to play a touring team from Wharton which was a great experience - despite the scoreline on the day!”

At 32, he now works as a product manager for Optus, which, at 10,000 employees, is Australia’s second largest telecoms company. His role is focussed on innovation and developing new products in a fast-moving field. He sees the MBA as instrumental to the successes and “broader view” he’s had since graduating last year.

“I think it was this breadth of knowledge and appreciation of the complexity and challenges that each area of the business faces that marked the difference in my post-MBA career.

“Perhaps even more importantly, the MBA gives you a very insightful view of yourself and your behavior,” he says. “This is invaluable when working with new teams and I think really gives you an edge in a pressure situation.”

Like many others, Geoff’s MBA also got him thinking in entrepreneurial terms. “Previously I had never seriously entertained the idea of running my own business, but now it's a realistic goal that I am keen to aim for within a few years.

“Being relatively new to Australia I think it's important to build a strong network of contacts here before taking the plunge with my own firm, so in the meantime I'm happy to keep working hard and learning as much as I can.”