This week on the Defence Connect Podcast, Leidos managing director Christine takes us through her passion for defence and the participation of women in the industry, how she came into the role of managing director of one of Australia’s largest primes and what worries her most about the future for the business.
Tune in as we discuss the fundamentals of people and culture in defence business, staying connected within the technology world and Leidos’ fundamental role in providing a backbone for Australia’s intelligence services.
Enjoy the podcast,
The Defence Connect team.
Listen to previous episodes of the Defence Connect podcast:
Episode 197: INSIGHT: Australia’s relationship with China – Andrew Hastie MP
Episode 196: PODCAST: The art of effective negotiation – Simon Kelland, Scotwork
Episode 195: PODCAST: ‘Until we have a reasonable parity, it’s not business as usual’ – Jennifer Wittwer
Episode 194: INSIGHT: National resilience – John Blackburn AO, Institute for Integrated Economic Research – Australia
Episode 193: PODCAST: The Useful Belief philosophy – Chris Helder
Episode 192: PODCAST: Transitioning from uniform into corporate life – Matthew Williams, Babcock Australia & New Zealand
Episode 191: PODCAST: Supporting Australian export strategies – Roland Stephens, Australian Trade and Investment Commission
Episode 190: PODCAST: Operating a growing defence SME – Warren Levin, Sydney City Marine
Episode 189: PODCAST: Year in review – Steve Kuper, Defence Connect
Episode 188: PODCAST: ‘Deftech’ and the counter-drone industry – Oleg Vornik, DroneShield
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Defence Connect podcast, with your host, Phil Tarrant.
Phil Tarrant: Good day everyone, it's Phil Tarrant here. I'm the host of the Defence Connect podcast. Thanks for joining us today. I have in the studio someone who I feel is going to give us a good representation of history or a career within defence and been part of a very changing dynamics of defence over a number of decades, Christine Zeitz. I hope I got that right. Welcome, how you going?
Christine Zeitz: Good and ... Thank you.
Phil Tarrant: So, you're the manager director of Leidos Australia, so, before we come on air, we had a good chat around what Leidos was and I was trying to dig down into what the meaning of it is, and you told me something to do with a kaleidoscope. Can you sort of explain this to me, please?
Christine Zeitz: That's right, yes, Leidos is a new brand, around four years old and the name comes from the word kaleidoscope, so if we think is it lay-dos, lie-dos, that's the way to remember it's lei-dos, and the concept is that kaleidoscope, you're looking at a problem from all different angles and that's what the brand is, that we're looking at complex problems.
Phil Tarrant: And are you happy with the name?
Christine Zeitz: I love it.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah?
Christine Zeitz: I love it. I must admit, when I first heard it, it was, coming into Lockheed, there was a very significant intelligence programme and it was given to three industry players. One was Boeing, one was Lockheed and one was Leidos and that was the first time I heard the name, so it is something you need to hear a few times to remember, but let me tell you, it's not very firm in my mind, leading company.
Phil Tarrant: I bet you it is. Well, hopefully today ... Thanks for coming in, I really want to just get you to share some insight into Leidos. So, I've done a bit of background research on your stuff, trying to understand the breadth of programmes that you work across and you seem to be quite active in many different areas within defence space but also commercial, so I'd really like to understand a little bit more about what you guys are doing and the sort of business that you're chasing, but I'd also like to reflect on your experience within the defence industry and what you've seen along the way, and that's how I'll hopefully bookend my initial comments around it. But, trying to understand what Leidos does, where you are today and where you're going, can you just give me a quick sort of 101 on the business and the sort of business that you're chasing right now?
Christine Zeitz: Sure. We are unique because we're a prime systems integrator. We don't make ships, we don't make vehicles or submarines, so we sit in a unique space, we really deal with information. So, with defence it's C4ISREW, and it's also with core ICT. So, we're in a position where we provide defence with solutions, integrated solutions for the war fighter. We provide a lot of the back end IT. So, we sweep across the whole of defence, and we also ... Which I can't really talk about, but we are the largest provider of intelligence services to the Australian intelligence community. And actually, in the US, our US parent company is the highest provider of intelligence services to the three-letter agencies. So, that's a space that takes up about a third of business to defence.
Phil Tarrant: Okay, and I know we can't go too much in to that particular domain of work, but how active are you guys in that space? Are you sort of providing the backbone for our intelligence services to go out and do what they need to do? When talking from a technology perspective.
Christine Zeitz: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: Okay. And that's about the extent of what you can talk about?
Christine Zeitz: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: Fair enough, but I guess-
Christine Zeitz: But we're brilliant at it.
Phil Tarrant: Well, you know, our intelligence ... It's a challenging space that we're in right now.
Christine Zeitz: It is.
Phil Tarrant: And our intelligence services is doing a lot of work that most Australians wouldn't be aware of or understand and that's just the nature of that type of work, but I guess the evolving geo-political landscape security environment, are you guys able to keep up with those changing demands and deliver these solutions into the intelligence services part of that?
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, look, we ... This is an incredibly, even though I laugh, it's an incredibly serious space and we do, I think, have credibility. Our longevity in that space, from the heritage of Lockheed back to RLM is testament that we are providing that leading edge and I can say that some of our support to the Australian intelligent services is permeated through the Five Eyes community, so we do stretch across and we play a role in that, so our longevity, I think, suggests that we can keep up with that technology edge.
Phil Tarrant: And yourself and your team, do you get a lot of satisfaction that you get to play a role in that as well?
Christine Zeitz: Oh, definitely. We'd recently held some workshops around our company. As you can imagine, changing from a heritage, Lockheed Martin and a heritage Leidos business, bringing it together, which is what we've done over the last year, the merger was August last year, so we've been spending time creating a new business, actually. It's like creating a startup, although it's got a thousand people. So, it's a really fantastic opportunity and what we want to do is really create a business where people know what it's like to work with Leidos.
So, what's different about Leidos compared to the other primes and SMAs, defence industry. Where I turn to that is because your question around, does that matter? What came through from our workshops is it really, really matters to our people that we're doing something for the security agencies across Australia and globally and also the defence side. So, we think that we affect every Australian person and there's not many companies that can say that. That the work they do affects every Australian. And that's certainly what our people believe and it's something that we're really going to build on.
Phil Tarrant: And would people within intelligence services have a relationship with Leidos, or they just know that they have systems and process that are powered by someone? So, how familiar would the Leidos name be to people within those spaces?
Christine Zeitz: I think very familiar. The people are incredibly important parts. Certainly, the software solutions, tools, are there, but really, we work in a very ... As you can imagine, in that space, it's a teamwork environment, so no, our people are fundamental.
Phil Tarrant: Is that environment changing in terms of the collaboration between people within intelligence services and people that support the intelligence services, is that nature of collaboration, is that evolving because of the nature of the world we live in today?
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, I think it is and when you look at the security strategy for Australia, it does show you that the skill base required in this area is very large, from Australia. So, that just triggers a change in the relationship. You know, the government needs to rely on industry and we need to really be a very secure partner for defence and security. So, companies like ours are very, incredibly important to meeting the mission of the security.
Phil Tarrant: Interesting. I've probably sort of drilled as far as I can down on that, so I'll move straight on. Let's talk about stuff that we can talk about. What sort of work are you working on right now, outside of the intelligence work you're doing?
Christine Zeitz: One of our largest programmes is the centralised processing programme for defence, the CIOG department, and we're about to move in to the final stages of final operating capability for that programme of quarter four this year, so that's been a tremendous programme. We've built new data centres right around Australia for defence, and we're migrating their old environment to the new environment, so that's been a challenging and enjoyable programme. And really, what that gives us is the ability to support defence from the core information layer down. So, while we look at mission systems right through CIOG is the underpinning architecture for defence and it's incredibly important to understand that space. Aside from that, we've been successful in winning the Command and Control System for Headquarters JOC, Joint Operations Command, and we've been transferring that into the support system this year and now we're working with them to further enhance that command and control system, so that's another programme we're very proud of.
Phil Tarrant: How did you end up doing what you're doing today? So, at some, it's obviously a senior role within defence, being MD of Leidos and the nature of the work that Leidos is involved in, from intel stuff all the way through to supporting boots on the ground, what's the backstory? How did you end up where you are today?
Christine Zeitz: Well, I didn't mean to is the real ...
Phil Tarrant: Most of us don't mean to end up where we are, no offence.
Christine Zeitz: I graduated from Flinders University with an accounting economics degree, landed as a graduate in BAE Systems, at the time it was called British Aerospace, and at the time it was about 300 people in Adelaide and so I worked with BAE over 25 years and left them when they were 6000 people, right around Australia. So, that was a fantastic journey. In that time, I was just so privileged to see very different environments. So, I worked in the Middle East, at 26 I went across to sell military vehicles to Kuwait. It was actually the vehicle that was ... We were competing against Bushmaster, so this is far I go back, with ADI, was competing our Thales, and we had was called the s500. So, we sold that to Kuwait, and just getting out ... Once you're in a different environment like that on the ground, you really do understand the security dimension of the Middle East, for example, and I've worked in ...
My last post before this one was looking after Northeast Asia for BAE Systems, based in Tokyo. And again, when you're there, one understands the US presence in our region and the importance of that as an ally, but when you're actually on the ground ... I had Tokyo, I had Japan and South Korea as my portfolio, you really understand the influence of the US and the way in which they operate in the region and Australia, being an ally to the US, that's an incredibly important alliance.
So, as years went by, I learned more, I saw more and now I'm a very, very passionate ... I would say I'm a defence and security industry for life, and I'm on the board of the Institute of Regional Security, because I'm very passionate about that whole space.
Phil Tarrant: How do you keep connected with the world that we live in today? So, you're leading a company which, obviously, has its commercial ambitions and obviously needs to deliver value to shareholders et cetera, et cetera.
Christine Zeitz: Yes, indeed.
Phil Tarrant: And you sort of balance that against the types of service or support that this company provides in to defence and security. How do you keep connected so you can understand the needs of the business based on the other needs of what we're trying to work out here? How do you do that?
Christine Zeitz: It's interesting because the relationships that I have across our customer community are very deep and I think when you look at the ... You said it before, it's small but big but small. We do know each other, a lot of is, in the defence industry and in the customer community and you have a reputation of being either interested and deeply motivated by their mission or not. And so, over time, I spent a lot of time talking to the customer community. I have a lot of friends in there and understand their drivers and motivations. I think you have to have that as your prime driver and then the rest follows, you know? How can we support that mission, how can we shape ourselves to be agile to deliver to what they need? We see that information superiority is something that defence needs to move to as a technology edge.
I would say, having the best air frame or ship frame or submarine frame is important, but really, the senses and the information that you collect, disseminate, use, is going to be absolutely fundamental and so we need to position ourselves in a way in which we're advising, supporting defence. You know, they're very ... Got some really intelligent minds in there working this through. So, how I stay connected is through the people.
Phil Tarrant: So, let's have a chat on people and I just wrote down "people," just right then. As a business, I think you have 900 plus people within the Australian marketplace right now and it's growing rapidly, in tune with increased government spending in defence and the nature of the world that we live in today. How do you keep connected with those 900 people? What's the sort of structure you have within your business and your leaders within your business so you can ensure that you can fulfil the mission, but also ensure that commercial connectivity?
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, it's a great question and we're having a lot of fun with that right now, because we want to be quite different and innovative, not only in how we relate to our people but how we recruit them and the diversity aspect of them, as well. So, we've grown a lot. Since Christmas, we've recruited over 250 people, so we're now over 1000, and I still talk to ... I still go around the sites, we have all hands town halls where talk directly and hear from the people. I spoke just about the workshops we've held around the sites, to hear their views.
We've just launched something called Leidoscope, which is asking for their views of what's really important to them and what we're working, because it's absolutely clear people are our priority, because we don't build the products, our business is our people. So, the more that they're connected, the more they're intelligent, the more we grow them, educate them, give them experiences, the more solid our solutions will be to our customers. The more relationships they have with our customers is really important.
So, a lot of touch points of communication. My team, we're all Australian. We've all been in this space for ... I'm 28 years now. And my team, I have an ex-Air Force man, I have an ex ... Air Force man? Airman. An ex-Navy man, shipman. And so we have, obviously, people from ex-defense are very passionate about it. So, I have a fabulous team of nine that are all 25 year plus experienced in the Australian market, four women, six men and we've all got a mission. Our strategy's very clear.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. And I would say that four women, six men's a pretty good balance. That is probably a benchmark that a lot of large defence business should be trying to aspire towards. Has that been a deliberate strategy on your behalf to ensure diversity at that top level?
Christine Zeitz: Yes, yes.
Phil Tarrant: Is that hard to achieve?
Christine Zeitz: But I must say that before anyone speaks of quotas or targets or merit, three of the four are operationally driven. One runs our Australian tax account and the other is our ops director. One's me, and then we have our HR director. So, they're all incredibly talented people with deep experience. But my view is, and I speak a lot to the male leaders in defence around increasing their participation of women and I always say that the women are there. So, if the question is "I put an ad out and I can't get any women responding." Then you have to rewrite the ad, so it appeals to a woman. And that's what we're doing, at the moment. We actually work on our recruitment advertisements that go to market. We actually bring in a consultant, we write them in a way in which they'll appeal to both women and men.
Phil Tarrant: It's a hard balance, because I think, traditionally it's been an industry which has been tough to recruit women in to and I know our defence force has done a lot of good work trying to get a deep underpin of women within all ranks of the military and I think it's a very good thing on a global perspective that I feel our defence force is quick to look to promote women who show talent and it all needs to come down to talent.
Christine Zeitz: Absolutely.
Phil Tarrant: That's the benchmark of all this. But that said, there is, I feel, and we speak about it a little bit on the podcast, a real under-representation of women within all levels of defence industry. So, that tip that you've just given, that you actually need to create job advertisements to attract the right type of people and be, I guess, gender neutral, but show the prospects for women to attract them into defence. So, let's just chat about that really quickly. What do you need to say within an advert so it doesn't sort of position women outside of a potential job within defence?
Christine Zeitz: Well, it's interesting. And I'm not a psychologist. We have an organisational psychologist that helps us with this, so I can't answer that question. But what I would say is that in all aspects, we can't just expect this to happen. So, for people that are looking to increase the gender participation in their executive levels as well as the feeder graduates, and we did this for our graduate ads as well, I have to say, and increased 23% the number of females applying at graduate level. So, I think what I would say is it's not just going to happen, because it hasn't happened for the last 20 years, so I'm not sure why anyone would think it'd happen in the next 20. You do actually have to focus on recruitment, retention, training, all through the organisation to attract and retain really clever women.
One thing that I would say is, moving from BAE, I never really worked for Lockheed. When I arrived on this job to run their sector that was acquired by Leidos and merged in to Leidos, before I arrived I was advised it was up for sale so we were always separated, but I did have a glimpse of the environment within Lockheed and what I can say is that the amount of senior operational women, I mean, a female runs the JSF global programme, a female runs their engineering. I sat in a room with 500 talented Lockheed Martin women in the US, of which there were scientists, engineers, ops directors, and I don't think it's any coincidence that that's occurred over the last eight years, having Marillyn Hewson at the helm, running that.
So, it doesn't just happen. It has to be ... It's like anything that you want to do in your organisation, when you want to move a culture, you have to put the-
Phil Tarrant: It needs to be orchestrated, yeah.
Christine Zeitz: Enabling pieces in place to have that culture move.
Phil Tarrant: And just before we move on from this topic, what is it, do you think, makes defence industry attractive for female participants? Why?
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, well, look, I think it's exactly the same as men. I spoke before about our people being credibly energised by a company that affects every Australian. You know, the work we do is so incredibly important. I mean, that's attractive for all of our people. And also, when we look at what we do, because we don't have a product that we sell, and when we integrate a solution, we actually review the different products every time. So, every solution we provide is actually different. And so, we've got to kind of redefining the possibility every time. And so, for women as well as men that are creative, that's really attractive.
So, it's not saying "Okay, we're going to sell you this product." We're going to actually create what you need and we're going to create it and a lot of women are very creative, so it's a matter of advertising those areas that we think are very special, and women just haven't, perhaps, been exposed to what defence can offer.
Phil Tarrant: I guess the message to the defence industry in there is "Let's all work together."
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, absolutely.
Phil Tarrant: To make this an attractive sector and it's a topic of conversation that comes up quite often when I chat with CEOs of primes and large SMEs and by and large, everyone's very conscious about it and everyone understands the motherhood issue for defence and defence industry in terms of delivering capabilities and security and capabilities for our war fighters that is such an untapped resource, so let's all work on it. But, 200 people hired on the last sort of, immediate period. I know what it's like to run a fast-growing business and it's good fun, but it comes with a lot of headaches, challenges.
The rigour of your recruitment process must be pretty tight right now, because to pull 200 people out of the market, it's probably come from other people, so you're having to attract them from other spaces and also people from other industry sectors into defence. Tell us about that process.
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, it's been amazing and I have to say, we've been doing that while we've been not taking our eye off the deliveries for the customer, which is so important. So, as we've moved from Lockheed and the existing Leidos business to the new company, we've had to not only recruit that amount of people, but we've had a new recruitment system, a new payroll system, we've had to transfer people across, new IT system, email, et cetera. So, there's been a lot going on but it's back to the people, again. How do we focus on how they perceive coming in to the company, how we enable them to do their job.
So, it has been a challenge and I would like to say we are improving all the time in our recruitment and our ... Certainly, induction's incredibly important and our communication with those people. But it's going pretty well, there's a real, a buzz and an excitement around the company, there's absolutely no doubt. And the other thing that we've done, is we wanted to create an underpinning culture, as I said before.
So, whilst all that's going on, the technical platforms being merged and the companies being created and all of the transformation that has to happen when you merge companies, we put as a priority finding a charitable partner to partner with. And the reason we did that as a priority is we wanted to make a statement to our people about what we were about. So, it wasn't just about getting things in place and, as you say, delivering programmes and making money. It's actually about creating a business where our people feel like we're really delivering the customer's mission and we have a real integrity.
And so, the Bravery Trust partnership was very purposefully done and we had the CEO, Shawn Ferrell, come and visit all our staff at the town halls in June. He spoke to them, he spoke about the work Bravery Trust does, and I'm not sure whether you're familiar with them, but what-
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, If you could explain what Bravery Trust does.
Christine Zeitz: Yeah, what they do is they fill the hole that other charities miss with financial services. So, they provide, really crisis financial support to veterans. So, and it's something that if it occurs, and it might be paying a bill, they'll pay a bill for them. So, it's people leaving defence and not really settling in very well. Finding it quite tough. And they're behind in their rent or they haven't paid their phone and within a few hours, Bravery Trust can help them and pay those bills and most, unfortunately, some of the other support is around funeral costs when there is suicide.
So, Bravery Trust fill an amazing void where just the paperwork of getting through Veteran Affairs or something like that just takes time, and so they're able to respond. And our people have responded just so positively to this. They really resonate that that's ... We have an affinity with defence, it's one of our core customers. A lot of ex-defence personnel work with us and they knew Bravery Trust is a new charity and Leidos is a new company.
Phil Tarrant: Sounds like a good partnership.
Christine Zeitz: It's a really good partnership.
Phil Tarrant: It's very practical charity, as well, you know, that's when people are doing it tough and someone can actually step in and just help out with those couple of ... they might be simple things, but it can really change how someone feels about themselves and the prospects for them moving forward. So, that's commendable. And one of the good things that I see within defence industry and navigating my way through and chatting with large and small is that there seems to be that philanthropic attitude to supporting veterans, but also other external markets and I think that really helps in today's world, in terms of attracting new talent. Millennials, for example, they like to see some sort of social connectivity or social enterprise that is bigger than the corporate goal of making money, whatever. So, it's something you can hang your hat on and it's good to see businesses like yours doing this sort of stuff.
Christine Zeitz: That's right. I think what occurred to me is, you know, you have a sense that that's a good thing to do, but can I share with you-
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, sure.
Christine Zeitz: A note that one of our employees sent to me, which, really, I had a very big smile at the end of it. So, it's quite short, but I'll read it to you.
Phil Tarrant: Is this a senior person or a sort of ...
Christine Zeitz: I shall explain.
Phil Tarrant: Okay.
Christine Zeitz: So, he says "Good morning, Christine. I'm writing to you with regards to the new partnership between Bravery Trust and Leidos Australia. I recently discharged from the Royal Australian Navy in January after 13 years service and commenced employment with Leidos. I joined the Navy at 17. I'm glad to say that with the support of my team here at JP 2030, the transition has been fairly easy. I was informed by my line manager that Leidos was entering into a partnership with Bravery Trust roughly a month ago. Since that time, my family has had to move twice this year in total, due to the financial burden of moving, we were left short of funds for a short period.
I recalled our partnership with Bravery Trust and I gave them a call. Bravery Trust took my call and they assisted me in paying some vital expenses and significantly eased the burden of transition. This was completed within four hours. The purpose of this email is to say thank you to those who thought that the welfare of ex-servicemen who work within Leidos is important and the additional reason is to let you know the system actually works.
In kind regards, Shawn." Who's our systems integration technician on HQ JOC.
Phil Tarrant: Okay.
Christine Zeitz: So, you just, it's real.
Phil Tarrant: And your support, are you part of the funding mechanism for Bravery Trust? Where do these ... I don't know, I know nothing about them, so, you contribute-
Christine Zeitz: They need funds, we contribute. But also, there's two things that we do. We contribute and we're having a year anniversary on Thursday, where we have a gold coin donation, a raffle to Bravery Trust. So, we wrap around our activities fundraising. The second important thing, and this is what was highlighted to me by Shawn, is actually it's getting the word out that Bravery Trust exists. So, just like that, this chap here wouldn't have known that there was any help to be had to help him through what he thought was a few thousand dollars issue and was really tough and then he was made, you know, the exposure was there. He knew that Bravery Trust was there.
So, one thing that our mission is to really publicise that, through our thousand employees and their multiplier effect is that the charity is actually there and we want people to access it. So, there's two areas of which we are working on.
Phil Tarrant: Oh, that's great. And we have people listening defence circles but also defence industry, so I'm happy to give Bravery Trust a leg up. Go and find them and if you can contribute, contribute. It's a good cause. I can see that this is something that you really enjoy about your job.
Christine Zeitz: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: It's obviously a passion to have the support ... The fact that you can support something like this. But I'm quite intrigued in your role, because speaking with defence leaders, you have a thousand people who are reliant on you making good decisions with your team. Let's have a quick chat about your day. Like, if I met you at a barbecue and I didn't know who you are and what you did, what do you do? What's your job? How would you describe it?
Christine Zeitz: We work through challenging issues. So, everyone has a job to do. Really, at the lowest level, it's delivering a deliverable to our customer and through that, challenges come up. And whether it's resources they need, whether it's some support from supporting functions they need, whether it's working out through the procurement supply chain, how we work with other companies, all of that goes on and what I say I do and my team does is we kind of enable the organisation. All of the challenges ... So, my day's full of working through the challenges so that ...
That's why I love the emails like that, because it's a result of something we've put in place. But really, what I'm here to do is enable our 900 people to 1000 people to work and deliver to the customer. So, it is working through and making sure I've got relationships with the customer, relationships with our other defence industry, so that we can, when we hit a bit of a brick wall we can talk through it and work out how to go forward. So, I'd say that's what I'm doing.
Phil Tarrant: That's your job. And I think, irrespective of what your job is, every job has two jobs. There is the job of doing what you do, but then there's also the job of finding people to do that for. So, how much of your time will be spent on winning work versus delivering that work?
Christine Zeitz: It's a good question, and I would say it's half-half. We're in the middle, now, of six major proposals. So, we probably resourced up for a surge of three, and we talk about major proposals, of course, we're talking about three month to six month defence RFTs. So, you're talking a team of 40 to 60 people.
With the supply chain. They're big proposals and we've got six going on at the moment. So, we're very fortunate that we are growing. We've got enormous opportunities, with our teams are working very hard to prosecute those opportunities. On the flip side, it's no use winning that business if we can't deliver it. So, I would say 50-50, because some of the track record of programmes in Australia haven't gone particularly well and with our company, Leidos, we're a year in, it's extremely important that we deliver our commitments. The performance is incredibly important. So, my team are seeing a very strong focus on meeting commitments, making sure we've got the resources in place, which, hence the more people, and making sure we will deliver for our customers is very, very important.
And look, if we do that, grow and deliver for our customers, it's not that complicated. Then the US are very happy with us and they'll continue to invest.
Phil Tarrant: You probably only ever get questions like this when you're going for a job interview, but I get to ask these questions. How would you explain your management style? So, how do you get the best out of your leaders, through your leadership? What is it that makes you unique or nice to work for or work with?
Christine Zeitz: That is a really tricky question. It's one that ... It's hard to answer yourself. We actually went through recently, a 360 degree team review. I'm really pleased with the team we've pulled together with our strategy. We feel, with the growth going forward, I just wanted to check in that our team was equipped to take us to the next level. And through that process, 360, you do get feedback.
Phil Tarrant: You do.
Christine Zeitz: And so, where I think we've done well in the last, so, two years for me, coming up, is really bringing in talent and enabling them. So, so I'm not really one to tell people what to do. It is really about having really clever people come in. Like the organisation psychologist, I'm not sure what she does with those advertisements, but let's get the right person and please, do your thing. And that's really what I do across the board, so I've got very, very experienced ops directors and functional directors that are working and doing that. I make decisions extremely quickly and we don't hold up. We've got through enormous amount in 12 months since the merger and I'd rather make a decision and go than rather wait and hesitate and see what happens, so.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah, how do you balance that? Because I'm very familiar. I work the same way, I, we, our leadership team make decisions very quickly, and you say quickly, but they're well thought through and debated and looked at from every angle, but downstream from there, a lot of people just think "Oh, they just make decisions too quickly and how does it affect me?" So, how do you get your communication right, sort of through your organisation, because it's very, very difficult, particularly when it gets a lot bigger?
Christine Zeitz: It is difficult. And look, I do do a weekly comms to all staff and it's something that we're looking at now, is how do we make the communication more relevant for people. People don't particularly like reading things all the time and it is-
Phil Tarrant: They do love podcasts, by the way.
Christine Zeitz: Oh, they do?
Phil Tarrant: They're a great way to communicate.
Christine Zeitz: And so ... Thank you, and this is fabulous, we'll put this link on my weekly comms. But to make it real for people, you can only communicate as much as you possibly can. "This is why we did this decision, this is why we did that." I think people are very clear why we partnered with Bravery Trust, they're very clear about why we bid for programmes and why we don't bid for programmes.
But you're right, as we get bigger and bigger and that was one of the feedback around the 360 exec team is that we have an obligation for our next level of leadership to really step up and that's 68 people. So, then you get a multiplier effect, clearly. So, it can't all be me. It's got to be-
Phil Tarrant: Everyone else.
Christine Zeitz: The leadership team across the organisation.
Phil Tarrant: And that's the culture that you can cultivate over time. If you have those next level down feel like they can communicate up, which is brilliant-
Christine Zeitz: Absolutely.
Phil Tarrant: Communicating up is excellent, but a lot of people feel like they can't do that but it comes down to a good leadership and make sure people know they can do that.
Christine Zeitz: Absolutely.
Phil Tarrant: So, is it a good time to be in defence? You've been in this space now for 20 plus years. You've seen numerous cycles, numerous governments coming through, numerous Defence Ministers, we're in a situation now where we have a Defence Industry Minister, which is great, Chris Pine, he's doing a great job, I think. Is it a good time to be in defence?
Christine Zeitz: Absolutely. And look, I can't say enough about the role that Christopher Pine's doing, not just because he's a key significant stakeholder of ours, but those that have been around for a long time understand that although we used to have industry policies released every year, I would purposely advise headquarters not to read them because they actually thought that the government was really genuine in what it was saying in there.
I'm probably saying that not particularly well, but the intent may have been there from the government but they, again, it's just like the diversity. If you don't have all of the enabling factors, it's the same thing. You have to have the enabling factors in place to deliver the industry policy and what I saw for many years was an industry policy that made sense, that was released, but there was no enabling factors.
And I think with Christopher Pine and that position being established, you're now putting in place the enabling factors that can actually deliver that industry policy. That's the difference. It's not so much the industry policy was so brilliant, I think. If you read back 10 years, Bronwyn Bishop's five point industry policy was actually very sound, but there was never any enactment of that policy that was a priority for the government.
And what you see now is people are actually talking about, again, people I know in defence, are talking about the priority of having defence industry as a capability. Even the discussion about exports, which is something that I have to say I do know quite a lot about, having exported to the Middle East, into Asia and then sitting in Tokyo for two years where that was my role. The way in which a country exports is not just having the best capable product. There is a lot more to it. And one of the underpinning enable points is having the government to government relationship. So, without those embassies in the countries feeling like it's part of the Australian embassy role to enact exports, my view, Christine's view is that it's not going to happen.
And that's something that I see Christopher's taken up with his engagement with the defence people, defence attaches in embassies across the world. He's s starting to ask the question of what are the defence industry capabilities that are trying to be sold in to that country. And so, I see some really good signs, but when you look at someone like the French, the British, the American, the government effort into exports and the credibility and track record, Australia's on a nice journey to that, but they're still a fair way off.
Phil Tarrant: And the government's releasing its defence export strategy soon. What would you like to see in there? What would you ... What should be those one or two sort of central pillars of that?
Christine Zeitz: Definitely Ministerial government support.
Phil Tarrant: Okay.
Christine Zeitz: We absolutely need the defence attache, the ambassadors in the countries understanding that this is a role that they have to play. I would put that equal to the level of capability that we're trying to sell. From my experience of working with those embassies-
Phil Tarrant: So, we need good salesman on the ground, flying the flag for Aussie businesses?
Christine Zeitz: We need very much. We need probably more salesmen, we need very deep relationships.
Phil Tarrant: Yeah. And do you think that the current defence strategy, the backbone of the defence strategy is robust to weather a change of government? Do you think it would be business as usual if we had Labour coming in and leading the country?
Christine Zeitz: That's interesting, I haven't thought about it. You know, the First Principles review clearly was a secretary, Minister but secretary driven, change and I think that will continue to go through regardless, I would think. It would be interesting whether Labour would fill a Minister for Defence Industry post. I'm not sure whether they've actually said they will or will not. I haven't seen that. But I do think it's been a fundamental improvement from that position being in place, so I would like to see Labour support that as a key Minister position.
Phil Tarrant: Okay, that's fair enough. It seems to be working.
Christine Zeitz: It's very good.
Phil Tarrant: We seem to be covering more ground as a nation, internally and externally, on the export from. Christine, I've really enjoyed the chat. We could keep going at this all day, but one year in, after the merger, and things seem to be going okay.
Christine Zeitz: It's fun.
Phil Tarrant: What worries you the most about the future for the business?
Christine Zeitz: Finding enough good people.
Phil Tarrant: And that's what it is.
Christine Zeitz: Without a doubt.
Phil Tarrant: And where do you go fishing for those? Outside of defence?
Christine Zeitz: Yes.
Phil Tarrant: In commercial spaces? Yeah?
Christine Zeitz: At the moment, we're broadening out to any complex programmes that would require project management, scheduling, controls, procurement, supply, all of that. We are currently recruiting from defence and from outside defence. So, it's finding those people and getting security clearances through.
Phil Tarrant: It's quite challenging. And how do you feel about the work going into STEM at the moment within junior schools, high schools and into universities? The next generation, are they going to be capable enough to do what we need to get done?
Christine Zeitz: It's really worrying, isn't it? When you look at the statistics of the STEM Australian standards against the world standards, we are falling behind. And I know that there's been a strong push from government, from industry around this space. It is something I guess I'll just say that we have to continue to really push. I think more resources in that area are required because we're currently lagging and our efforts are strong, but perhaps not enough to get us to catch up, so it is a really key area to focus on.
Phil Tarrant: And the next big announcement for you guys, what will it be? Give us something to finish up on, that's newsworthy.
Christine Zeitz: If only I could tell you.
Phil Tarrant: I know. As long as we're the first to know, we like to…
Christine Zeitz: We'll guarantee that the press release will come to you, number one, okay?
Phil Tarrant: I've got to fish for these things. The most popular stuff on DefenceConnect.com.au is typically big contract wins, so people, defence being defence, like to know how people are tracking and competitive tension in this space is an interesting dynamic.
Christine Zeitz: I can say that our sales this year have grown 25% more than last year.
Phil Tarrant: Okay.
Christine Zeitz: And we expect next year to be at least 10% more. So, we're growing to over 400 million this year in revenue. So, we're winning the programmes to bring us that revenue forward and we don't expect that to slow down any time soon, so once we are able to announce them, we will definitely tell you.
Phil Tarrant: Watch this space, is what it is. Christine, thanks for your time, I do appreciate it.
Christine Zeitz: Pleasure.
Phil Tarrant: Keep connected, keep in touch, let us know what you're up to and we'll keep reporting it. Remember to check out DefenceConnect.com.au. If you're not subscribing to the Defence Connect newsletter every morning, news and market intelligence, DefenceConnect.com.au/subscribe and we'll make sure you're the first to know about everything that's happening on, particularly form Leidos. So, we'll be back again next week. Until then, we'll catch you, see you, bye.