About the speaker
Our speaker today is Mr Chris Gabriel.
Chris is the Chairman of the Australian mobile technology group, Alive. He has a unique leadership style that delivers extraordinary results, in the three years as CEO at the mobile telecommunications company Zain Africa, he doubled revenue and customer numbers and more than tripled its value to US$10.7 billion when it was sold.
He achieves growth through his inclusive management style, capturing hearts and minds by facilitating success of people across every level of the business and instilling company goals and values, and through his sense of empathy and intuition that is attuned to customer motivations across cultures and languages.
His results-driven success has been sought out by global business and sovereign leaders, this was recognised with his ranking in the global top 100 most influential people in the telecommunications industry, and is underpinned by extensive cross-disciplinary academic qualifications, technical expertise, a list of chief executive and senior directorial roles, and a strong sense of self-awareness and humility.
His personal highlights include a one-on-one meeting with Nelson Mandela, winning the Middle East and Africa 2010 Deal of the Year for the sale of Zain Africa, and driving the phenomenal success of Alive as it forges the frontier of mobile technology.
Chris is an angel investor, mentor, senior advisor to Macquarie Group, chairman of Alive, chairman of Talent Rise, director of Talent International, director of JCurve Solutions, and advisory board chairman of Clean Power Systems. He holds a Bachelor of Business, Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Business Administration from UTS.
It gives me great pleasure to invite Mr Chris Gabriel to deliver the occasional address.
The Presiding Chancellor, Vice Chancellor. Faculty Dean, staff, distinguished guests, but most importantly; graduates, their families and friends – welcome.
Having sat where you all are seated as a graduate of UTS on three occasions and having sat numerous exams in this “chamber of memories”, it is with passion and pride that I stand here today to congratulate you all on the achievement of your graduation milestone.
For the graduates, it is a time to stop and smell the roses; to pause to acknowledge your hard work and efforts; and to celebrate your success.
For family and friends, it’s a time to be proud and a time to pause and take a breath in anticipation of the next chapter – you, the unsung heroes who provided loads of encouragement and support in the background.
Collectively, this is your moment – sincerely, my heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of you!
So what’s next? Is this the end of the journey that will set you up for life, or is it just a new beginning?
As I look around the room I see a sea of faces all dressed in the same academic garb; but to me that is where the similarity ends. What lies beneath the garb is you – you as a human being; you as a graduate that has amassed a wealth of knowledge during your degree; you as an individual that has the gift of choice in determining your future.
Today is a foundation upon which you can realise your dreams and build your future – your opportunity to determine your success.
I was running three businesses at age 14 and very quickly worked out that everything came down to dollars and cents – immediately upon leaving school I therefore commenced a part-time Bachelor of Business Degree at UTS. So as not to be branded a “bean counter”, I then did an MBA in Marketing, also at UTS. And if that wasn’t enough punishment, so that I could close big M&A deals, I then did a Bachelor of Laws Degree, also at UTS. In addition, I did my CPA and various other courses at London Business School and other academic institutions along the way.
Some 22 years of part time study later, many of my friends told me how lucky I was – yes, real lucky! My response to them – luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
I see my academic achievements as merely tools in a tool box – I reach for the appropriate tool when needed – a means to an end, not the end itself.
In parallel to my studies, my career spans some thirty years in Information Technology and Telecommunications, having worked across five continents doing start-ups, turn arounds, acquisitions and divestments.
In 2007 I was fortunate enough to become the CEO of a Mobile Telecommunications organisation in Africa we acquired for $3.2bn dollars. I ran it for several years and then sold it for $10.7bn. Prior to that I grew businesses across the Middle East, and prior to that was one of the founding members that started Optus in Australia.
I recently returned to Australia to contemplate retirement – some three and half minutes later, I became bored and decided to become an Angel Investor, starting several businesses in the mobile technology space as well as taking several Chairman and Non-Executive Director roles. I am also building a Foundation aimed at assisting disadvantaged and unemployed youth in finding employment, and I also mentor at UTS as well as a few other National institutions.
Life for me is about having fun – doing what I love, and loving what I do.
I have survived a plane crash; been pronounced dead with blood poisoning; and broken just about every bone in my body – but I am here today to tell the tale.
Life has taught me some valuable lessons which I would love to share with you now – lessons so simple yet so powerful; lessons that caused me to dig deep and reflect; lessons that define who I am today and who I will continue to be tomorrow.
Always Think What’s Possible?
We are taught from a very early age in school that there is only one right answer – everything else is wrong. I beg to differ. As a result, people spend most of their lives searching for “the answer” and therefore they miss out on many opportunities.
In Nigeria when motor cycle helmets were mandated, an enterprising vendor hollowed out pumpkin skins and dried them in the sun providing a low cost helmet alternative. What’s possible indeed!
I urge you not to search for “the answer” but rather to live within the possibility of the question – be curious - always ask “what’s possible”. By exploring what’s possible you end up with multiple options and endless choice – creating an environment in which to build a compelling value proposition – to differentiate and thrive.
Nothings’ Impossible; Can’t Means Won’t Try; Fear Is Your Only Limitation
I ask you to look back on your life and think of a time when you were so worried about something that you stressed, chewed your finger nails, lost sleep and thought the world was going to end. Yet, you survived – you are here today and live to tell the tale.
By changing your mindset to be unconstrained of fear, you open up endless possibilities and opportunities to shine – you will always survive – cut out the middle man and focus your energy and passion on creating the future. Worrying will only give you wrinkles!
Be Bold; Be Daring; Be Different
We now operate in global markets – competition is fierce. You have the choice of being “just average” or to excel - differentiate yourself; see no boundaries; carve out a niche and build a unique personal brand that others will actively seek out.
I had the honour of meeting one on one with Nelson Mandela during my time in Africa – a legend who despite many setbacks in life, exemplified being bold, and being daring and being different beyond anything I have ever experienced.
He conquered fear and left a lasting legacy – why can’t you do the same?
Be Fiercely Competitive – But Only Compete With Yourself
I am one of the most fiercely competitive people there is, but I only compete with one person in life – myself. By setting the bar high, knocking it out of the park, and then setting the bar even higher, I derive an enormous self-motivation and sense of satisfaction – devoid of jealousy and negative emotion.
I always start with the end goal in mind, setting stretch milestones along the way – celebrating success as I achieve each one and always challenging myself to “be more”.
I urge you to change your mindset and always challenge yourself to “be more” – life becomes entertaining and fun that way – believe me.
Be Passionate; Be True To Yourself; Leave A Legacy
I recently attended a fancy dress event where the theme was to come dressed as “what you always wanted to be when you grew up”. I was the only person that came dressed as I normally do. I found this really strange and question why people do not follow their passion and their dreams.
What are your dreams; what do you want to be when you grow up; other than fear, what is stopping you from being awesome?
I firmly believe that attitude determines success. Short cuts are exactly that – short lived and usually resulting in being cut out of the action for good. Integrity is key – never compromise it. Reputation is everything and lives far beyond life itself.
When negotiating for a new mobile licence in an African country, I was asked to compromise my integrity. I politely got up from the meeting and walked away. My colleagues thought I was crazy but I knew I was being true to myself.
The legacy of that day lives on and the licence was subsequently secured, having been told later that I “passed the test”.
If you compromise your integrity once, you compromise it for life. Be true to yourself; treasure the gift of choice; and never compromise your integrity.
Do what you love and love what you do – the day you stop having fun, give it away and do something else.
I could go on for hours reflecting, but kindly allow me to conclude by reminding you that today is the start of a new beginning – the choice is yours as to where you take it from here.
Take ownership of your future; always think “what’s possible”; and remember - fear is your only limitation.
Again, please allow me to congratulate you and wish you every success in your future careers. May you have as much fun and share as much passion as I have enjoyed since launching from UTS.
Go forth and be awesome!