“I have been open to moving in a different direction from what might have been traditional and some people might look at that as taking a chance but, from my perspective, there isn’t much gain unless you take some risks.”
Her appointment as Executive Vice President and CFO of a multinational information technology company with revenue of $3.5 billion was ultimately the result of having achieved a masters degree in commerce at UNSW in 1999.
“It really did equip me - not just for the work I was doing at the time - but for moving on in life. It was a very good grounding.”
Edification at UNSW helped Robyn open her eyes to what was possible in the heady world of business planning and financial analysis but it also forged a link with like-minded individuals. The university connection still holds strong in spite of the distance between continents.
After her appointment to Juniper was announced by the American media in 2007, Robyn was approached by a small group of UNSW alumni, ex-patriots living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was surprised to discover a thriving alumni network with so many UNSW graduates ending up as company executives across all disciplines in the United States.
Encouraged by the collegial spirit of the alumni, the idea of a scholarship was born, and Robyn agreed to pledge $20,000 (over five years) to fund a disadvantaged student at the UNSW Australia Business School. She hopes the scholarship will help the student selected on merit to claim an education while taking some of the pressure off the financial imperatives.
“The main reason for the scholarship, from my point of view, is really just giving back to someone who is coming through the university and needs a bit of help to take advantage of university life,” she declares.
Robyn did not come to fully appreciate the value of her own university education in Australia until she moved to the United States. “I don’t know that I actually appreciated the opportunities that came at university but after moving overseas, being exposed to different education systems, I realized that what I had was very good.”
Her audacity to strive upwards (having obtained an economics degree from the University of Sydney in the first instance) has taken her from top jobs at Toyota Motor Corporation in Australia to Sun Microsystems in America and, eventually, Juniper Networks. She is now responsible for finance, planning, real estate, field operations, internal audits and investor relations in a global corporation.
“I’m grateful for my education because it was a great foundation for moving forward,” Robyn explains. “I’m probably naturally a bit of a risk taker, not that I’m going to jump out of a plane or anything, but from a career perspective I might do something off the beaten path. Education gave me that confidence to be able to do something that I might otherwise not have attempted.”
Author: Anabel Dean