Tech management bloodbath hits Internode


news Citing “very difficult times” in the past 12 months, national broadband provider Internode has conducted an extensive restructure of its leadership team which has seen four of its most senior technical managers leave the company and managing director Simon Hackett appointed as chief technical officer.

In an email to staff this morning seen by Delimiter, the company’s chief executive Patrick Tapper noted the company’s chief information officer Frank Falco, IT systems and network operations centre project manager Andrew Walton, peering, commercial and DSLAM team lead Matthew Moyle-Croft and well-known core and infrastructure team leader (network operations) Mark Newton had left the company.

“Each of these individuals have made important contributions to Internode during their years with the company,” wrote Tapper. “We’ve carefully re-assessed a number of roles within the group, some of which have now become redundant. It’s become necessary to make those critical changes within that team – none of which has been an easy decision to make.”

“Simon Hackett has always been the Technical Director of Internode, but will take over a new title of CTO (Chief Technical Officer). The CIO role held by Frank will not be replaced, as Simon will have a greater “hands on” role within the Technology Team.”

Among the four executives to leave Internode, Newton was the most high-profile, with the executive having taken a strong public stand on issues such as the Federal Government’s Internet filtering initiative. At several points, Newton has engaged in controversial face-offs with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on the issue.

In addition, Newton had been with Internode the longest, joining the ISP in 1998 and remaining employed with the company since. Falco had only been appointed CIO at Internode in December 2009, while Walton had been with the company since mid-2008, and Moyle-Croft had joined Internode in March 2005 as a network engineer.

Tapper noted that the company would be recruiting for one newly created management role, which would have responsibility spanning its technical operations area. While that recruitment effort goes ahead, the company’s general manager of regulatory and corporate affairs John Lindsay will take responsibility for that area “for an interim period only”, working with Hackett.

Tapper also noted in the email that Internode had been through “some very difficult times, especially over the last 12 months”, although he didn’t elaborate on what those problems might have been.

” … we need to, and will continue to change and improve the way we do business,” he wrote. “Over the last couple of months, I am happy to say we’ve seen a significant improvement in our financial performance because of the hard work that many of you have put into the business. Right now, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels – The future remains very bright for Internode, despite some difficult times experienced in the past.”

Tapper hasn’t returned a call requesting comment this morning, and Hackett didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue.

It looks like all is not well in the land of Internode. When four senior technical managers leave a technology company in one go (voluntarily or not, as it’s not quite clear in this case), there is usually a story underpinning such an event.

To my mind, this restructure looks like a combination of a few things. Firstly, I would guess that Internode has recently suffered a few financial issues, and Tapper wants to exert a bit of cost control over the company. It is pretty likely that if there is fat to be cut in Internode, it would be on the technical side, as I doubt the company has a surfeit of administration staff, given its strong technical history.

It may be that the restructure revealed this morning is only part of a wider restructure within Internode; with today’s email just covering the portion affecting the ISP’s technical leadership. Tapper also noted the following in his email, which would seem to support the case for a wider restructure: “The team has been in transition into its new structure and is nearing the final stages of completion.”

Secondly, it also looks as though Hackett, whose position as managing director, company founder and chief shareholder has long overshadowed Tapper’s, might finally be stepping down a bit from the Internode heights and leaving his CEO to … be the CEO. Focusing on technical leadership might be Hackett’s way of getting out of Tapper’s way, and it’s where Hackett’s strengths lie, after all.

With regards to the departure of Mark Newton: Newton has long been one of Internode’s longest-serving and highest-profile technology staff members. I’m sure his split with the company is something that is taking place with no hard feelings on either side — odds are Newton is just looking for a bit of a change after more than a decade with one company, and this was a good chance for that to take place.

Image credit: ka_tate, Creative Commons


  1. I would say it’s all downhill for Internode from here on in. First the massive loss of customers per the bandwidth situation, and now the voluntary termination of many of it’s most senior employees. Unless it can pull a magic trick out of the bag, hmm, it doesn’t look good.

    • Every business goes through change – without it you cannot grow and adapt to a changing market. With big change or growth, it’s inevitable that the new company direction won’t align with the career objectives of its employees and vice-versa.

      I agree with Renai – I don’t think Node’s future is that bleak. Taking decisive action can make a company stronger.

    • Technical people in management roles generally handle re-structures much like their last project; with little to no regard for the people (i.e. complete mismanagement from a people perspective).

      Lack of consultation, refusal to take onboard staff suggestions, failure to address staff concerns, etc, all lead to a lack of buy-in from staff, a lack of ownership by staff and staff that no longer feel in control of their own destiny.

      That is until they realise they are in control of their own destiny and they find a new employer.

      Lots of technology companies are the same – why should Internode be any different…

  2. When or if you see them start off-shoring their customer service then you know there is something really serious there.

  3. Mark might have to cut down on his opinionated industry twitters if stays working in telco, Internode has more or less given him free rein but other employers might be more stringent

  4. Alignment ready for moving to an acquisition phase. I don’t think the NBN is going to be all rosy for Internode, they will just be another player and not be able to differentiate itself. With a small subset of users compared to the Bigponds and iiNets, they will not have the cash flow to continue.

    Simon probably wants to cash the business in while it is still worth something.

  5. Although business restructuring is a normal thing now days and its mainly to survive in this insane world.

  6. I’ve wondered whether Internode has grown a bit too fast for its own good – call center wait times have been a continuing theme over the past few years, and there seems to be a renewed emphasis on retaining margins given Telstra price squeezes. I suspect the less aggressive pace of their DSLAM rollout is starting to bite – is chasing off-net business really worth it these days?

    • Yes and no

      Staff from all departments and including those from 0 day have steadyly left the company since 2008. When the company changed direction.and management restuctured

      Nothing changed with the company restucture. In most cases people in current roles took on additional responsibility and changed titles

      Also internode are loose on there hiring and promotion of their staff. You can start under call centre role and almost be promoted to Team Leader in a year without any prior management experience. This providing you befriend someone in management to “Put in a good word for you”

      Suddernly your responsible for team of 12 people and only being paid 3-4k extra in salary.

      Management started a performance management program in 2009. They wanted a way to monitor the individual team members performance and find various techiciality to fire people from you job. Meaning you might be techically savvy/experienced and fix any internet problem under 15 mins

      But the average call handing time/benchmark is under 10 mins and your team leader upset because he didnt get first place in the overall teams stats

      At begining of 2010 another change occur. Helpdesk staff took on both Helpdesk and Account related calls full time AT THIS SAME TIME, Meaning you could be spending 30 mins fixing a account issue. When 50 people are in Helpdesk queue

      To sum it up. This been brewing for sometime and this the first largest publicly announced exit from the company

      Staff morals have been low for sometime

      • Adam you got fired at the end of 2009, as I recall avg call handling was around the 30 minute mark for a simple password reset.

        We loved your calls in training, Scott really did enjoy bashing you down some what.

        I left because management become too top heavy and with the account merge and pending sales merge my desktop tag was cc_tech_voice_bill_bus I was in 8 queues, it was nuts!

        Anyway, it is going down hill there, from the ones that leak info, which a lot do, Gavin and Riddle are fighting in out, while the TLs are really trying to prove who is the best.

        Shall be an interesting ride.

        • Oh they they have a really large staff turn over right now.
          When I was there it was over 500 staff, now the company admits to only 450 staff.
          You can do the math with high staff turn over and call queues :).

    • Oh and dont get me started on Internode customer management system.

      Its one of the bottlenecks of the company

    • Oh and dont get me started on Internode customer management system.

      Its one of the bottlenecks of the company

  7. Internode has been shedding talented staff for a while now, and the word is that its because some of the management were kindof… not good. My bet is that this is an attempt to refocus and shore up staff morale.

  8. Their weird see-sawing on plan charges over the past few weeks as well this latest happening certainly give one to cause to wonder about the business as a whole. Certainly a lot of damage to their brand-name must be occurring.

  9. Unless we know what really is happening behind the scenes all everyone is doing is playing what ifs and the guessing game.
    Only kidding ourselves thinking we know what is really going on.

  10. Special props to Mark Newton – he has been instrumental in the battle against Internet censorship and it’s always been really encouraging for me to know that Internode has (indirectly) supported him in that work. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet but his contribution to the cause should be remembered as a Big Deal.

  11. Special props to Mark Newton – he has been instrumental in the battle against Internet censorship and it’s always been really encouraging for me to know that Internode has (indirectly) supported him in that work. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet but his contribution to the cause should be remembered as a Big Deal.

  12. “It looks like all is not well in the land of Internode”

    * You have no idea … and it isn’t new. Morale at Grenfell Street has been in the basement for years now, it’s just getting worse. Good technical people are being churned (a haha see what I did there) out and those brave souls who are left … well … god speed.
    * Hackett’s always been moments away from being the real CIO/CTO, his influence in SoftDev was always strong.
    * Falco talked the talk, but never walked the walk. He was pulled in when the slide began, and couldn’t/didn’t do anything to stop it.
    * It’s not a restructure to sell: if Hackett was going to sell ‘Node it would’ve happened a long time ago, the offers have been there.
    * Newton and Moyle-Croft are *huge* departures, massive influence and close to Hackett. If they’re going then shit’s hitting the fan

    and Renai, from my perspective, the future could be just as bleak as the first poster made it out to be.

    • The last time pepole spoke truth about the company the blog posts started disappearing… If/when the company fails, there’s only one person to blame.

      • Lol I think I know who you are.
        It went to shits creek at the HD call centre as well.

        As I recall our little contract states we cannot leak details about the internal systems in detail or post on “External forums” while employed. Never stopped me though.

  13. hey everyone,

    please be careful about commenting about specific people in this article. I’ve just had to remove one post and edit another for legal reasons. It’s fine to comment about companies in general, or even the leaders of those companies (eg Simon Hackett or Pat Tapper), but when you start to comment about the skills and so on of people who have left those companies, you start to get me onto legally shaky ground.

    I’m shortly going to the pub. I can moderate from there, but I’d rather be drinking beer, so don’t make me have to watch this thread!!



  14. Most of the comments here are speculative bollocks. There are plenty of talented and awesome people left at Internode and they keep the ship steering quite well.

      • The final arbiter will be the public. If Internode has been the home of the more or less geeky customer, has the brand name become damaged for a while to come? Even a few of the “Internode fanbois” on WhirlPool appear to have lost faith.

    • Internode is just trimming the fat, sometimes you just lose some good people in that process. Not the first time has happened and definately won’t be the last.

      This is one of the reasons why I’ve avoided working in middle management, they are typically first to go.

    • I wouldn’t say ‘plenty’. There used to be, sure, but now, who knows. That is the real question. Do they have enough talent left? Let’s watch and see shall we.

  15. Would it be the case that they have less need for network engineers with the NBN on the horizon? Less investment needed for installing DSLAMs and the like?

  16. I predicted the start of the end for the Node Dog and Pony show a couple months ago when Hacket had yet another sook about pricing (I believe this was against NBNco this time and not Telstra).

    It might have even been on this website.

    Their failure to match other competitors DSLAM roll-outs despite being the first to start has left them in a shockingly bad position. They are too small to be big, and too big to be small. The NBN will wipe out the last trace of the “superior network” garbage their fanbois on Whirlpool trot out, and their customer service has become shambolic, as anyone can plainly see from the posts here, morale must be at an all time low, their wait times are astronomical.

    They will be the Ozemail of the early NBN era. If they are lucky Hackett will sell up and make a profit. If I were working at Node, I’d be checking in with iiNet or NBNco or TPG or Optus or the Big T and seeing if they have any jobs available.

    • Maybe I’m alone, but I personally think the NBN will emphasize on the differences between ISP’s networks.

      Right now we all have pretty slow connections, so a ISP having congested upstream does not matter too much, generally you can get it around it with a download meter and only the pedantic will even notice it – however when we are talking about 25, 50, 100Mbps connections being common place – the difference between ISP’s really stand out.

      I think the #1 problem with Internode is they bite the hand that feeds them; note I never said the hand was feeding them more than gruel but the point is Internode’s Telstra plans absolutely suck and it’s not helping Internode that Simon complains about Telstra very often, combined with the fact Telstra essentially draws wholesale access prices up on the spot depending on how much they hate you. I am on TPG right now, but would happily switch to Internode if I had access to a Optus or Agile DSLAM, their ‘Easy’ plans are fairly attractive considering their network, unfortunately hardly anyone has Easy available to them, particularly in my home state of WA.

      If Internode can hold out until the NBN is in full swing I think it will be good times for them, Internode is, in my opinion, alot more attractive when everyone has extremely fast pipes that need super low contended networks to function properly, and everyone has access to pricing that mirrors their Easy plans.

      • Considering NBN CVC is contended at 250:1 for commercial viability I’d suggest what you are saying here wont make much difference ;) Your 100Mbps pipe is only 100Mbps to the pon, then it’s 100 divided amongst 250 subs from there back to the ISP (unless your ISP chooses to buy more CVC from NBN but that would make them very expensive).

          • NBN documentation available on their website

            Take a look at the use cases for AVC and CVC provisioning and the $ values associated with them. To meet the current price point of the market the contention ratio of the CVC is 250:1

          • Those are case studies, they’re not a definitive “this is what the contention ratio is going to be”.

            And Service Providers can buy as large a CVC as they want, it is quite viable (and will happen) that there are 1:1 ratio services.

  17. As a senior long term employee who left Internode for greener pastures several months ago I can tell you this is a 100% positive move. Hats off to Pat for showing some leadership. No disrespect to the guys involved. Much of their blood, sweat and tears went into the Network. However times change and you can’t be the loose disciplined start up of Yorke st days. You need a new round of talent to address today’s challenges. With Simon on deck everyday the indecision should disappear and the Node will be a leaner, fitter and stronger outfit. I only wish such a strong lead was displayed 12 months ago. Several of us old timers would still be there.

    • Come back Matt! They all miss you! You were the best dancer on the floor, and the best Chomsky reader.

    • Maybe if Simon had spent less time playing around with his electric car and his aircraft and more time running Internode they wouldn’t be having the issues they are having now.

        • Yeah, read my comment further down regarding ChinaPool ;)
          Seems anything remotely negative towards Internode and your dragged to the dungeons.
          Plenty of negativity in Exetel or TPG but seems the same censorship rules don’t apply there :)

    • Maybe if Simon had spent less time playing around with his electric car and his aircraft and more time running Internode they wouldn’t be having the issues they are having now.

    • Lol leave Gavin out of it.
      He was an awesome TL, but not 100% sure about CCTL.
      I think Bobbie should have gotten that role.
      PS this has really become an ex staff member trolling thread.

  18. FYI I have received the following statement from Internode:

    National broadband company Internode today announced a restructure that sees the company’s managing director Simon Hackett add on the role of Chief Technical Officer (CTO).

    The position of CTO formalises the role that Simon has consistently performed in the business during its 20-year history. Simon will also retain the role of managing director.

    As a result of the restructure, which was announced to staff at Internode this morning, four positions were made redundant including the role of Chief Information Officer.

    Despite these departures, Internode is still actively hiring people for its 100-strong Technology division, with 13 positions currently open.

    Internode CEO Patrick Tapper said the change was driven by the need to get Internode “match fit” in terms of its internal structure, so the company could realise the opportunities created by the NBN. “A major focus for us is to make it easier for our customers to deal with us online,” he said.

    “Simon is taking on the role of CTO in order to provide additional ‘hands-on’ leadership of this process. The four people who have left each played a great role at Internode, but there would have been too much overlap if those positions remained unchanged.

    “We have a vast amount of technical skill and knowledge at Internode, with many long-standing employees. It is very much full steam ahead at Internode.”

    Internode has about 450 employees nationally with offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It has about 200,000 customers connected to its national network, with the majority being connected to its own network of more than 200 DSLAM installations nationwide.

    Internode is a leader in NBN engagement, with trial customer connections operational in every NBN rollout area around Australia. Internode has already announced its launch NBN pricing propositions to the market and stands ready to take retail signups in earnest when the NBN becomes fully commercial later in this calendar year.

  19. I wonder if Whirlpool are going to add it to “Industry News” any day now :)
    Seems WP at times tends to leave out the real important news, like 4 Senior Executives at Internode being made redundant. I hope WP doesn’t have it’s own agenda – I’d hate to see it becomes Chinapool where we sensor what we want :P

    • I don’t it. The slightest criticism of Internode and your comment is deleted very smartly. Even faster if you’re not an Internode customer.

      And whatever you do, do not criticise Node Fanbois – that leads not only to deletion but quite often a ban.

    • I hope WP doesn’t have it’s own agenda – I’d hate to see it becomes Chinapool where we sensor what we want :P

      Whirlpool is one of the most heavily (and often poorly) moderated forums out there.

      Though it is privately owned (by Simon Wright), so really he can do whatever he wants with it, that is in no way censorship.

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