Graham Mason, Head of Media, Communications & Government Relations, Optus Stadium
She’s from the Goldy (that’s Queensland speak for the Gold Coast) and like so many people that have ended up working at Optus Stadium, came via either working interstate or overseas. Now Baldivis, in Perth’s southern suburbs is home. Lou Charlet is Optus Stadium’s new GM Finance. She’s been in the job more than a month and hasn’t met her whole team face-to-face yet. What a start.
First of all, what was it like growing up on the Gold Coast, what are your memories?
I love the beach. I still have family there and lots of friends. I went to both high school (All Saints) and University (Griffith) there. A lot of my friends have gone away overseas to work and then made their way back there. There’s something about the Goldy that always pulls you back.
Did you do schoolies on the Coast, or head somewhere else?
No, definitely on the Gold Coast. That was a very, very fun week. I wasn’t 18 but lucky I had a ‘you-beaut fake ID’ where I could get into most places.
You’re the new GM Finance at Optus Stadium and yet you have a Bachelor of Environmental Science – please explain?!
I went travelling around Europe with two girlfriends from university and I fell in love with London. I decided to stay there. I had done a Bachelor of Environmental Science and wanted to work in water quality or environmental assessments but there was no real call for that in London.
I managed to get a job at a water company as a business analyst in the leakage department doing data analysis. I was hoping to move into the water quality department but couldn’t get a transfer.
I didn’t initially want to get too involved with Finance, but I bagged an interview for a job at a telecoms company. My future boss and finance director gave me a chance but did say I was going to have to do some accountancy exams. I was initially, oh, no, I don’t want to, how boring, but ended up doing Chartered Management Accounting. Now I love working in finance and have never looked back.
And your Events credentials?
After the telecoms company, I worked at an advertising agency in Soho for a few years, and then moved over to an organisation called Emap – a Business to Business media company. I started as a Business Analyst and then got promoted to Head of Finance of the events division, when my daughter Amelie was only 4 weeks old.
What were some of the events?
We did festivals, awards and exhibitions. Spring Fair was one of the biggest, we did GBP 20M revenue in one week – it was one of the world’s biggest retail shows with 50,000 visitors. We were a very aggressive company – we wanted to be number 1 in whatever market we were in. So, if a competitor exhibition or event came up, we tried to take them out, or buy them out. One of my favourite events was Cannes Lions – the Oscars of the advertising world. I felt very fortunate to spend 3 weeks in the South of France every year, helping to run that amazing festival.
And eventually back to Australia?
We came back to Australia in 2011. I was exhausted. Perth was the choice. I needed a break from the stresses of London. I got a job at Western Power, then did consulting for a few years and ended up working full time for one of my clients, a not for Profit called Communicare. I then worked at a tech start-up called Evari and finally got the call about the job at Optus Stadium.
Between me and my partner Mick, we have 4 – Jess (15), Sophie (13), Amelie (10) and Riley (8). And two cats and a dog.
Favourite Sporting Event?
I watched Real Madrid v Barcelona at the Bernabeu in Madrid behind the goals and seeing Real win was incredible. And to be there with Spanish friends and then party around the city after was fantastic.
I saw The Killers at the O2 Arena in London in 2008. But I have to say, my favourite band Muse at the Hammersmith Odeon. The orchestra, the theatrics, the best live band.
Favourite holiday spots?
Working in London, we used to love driving to France, sometimes just for the day. Have lunch, go shopping, get lots of wine and dishwasher tablets, (for some reason they were half the price of the UK!). I also loved Sardinia. Most beautiful place ever. Stunning.
Any advice for parents out there in these COVID-19 times?
Don’t judge yourself. Working parents constantly have guilt. Be kind to yourself. Don’t worry what other people are doing. If your kids are happy and alive at the end of the day, then job done.
And finally, have you met your Finance team yet (Lou started on April 1)?
I’ve only met two members of the team face-to-face. It has been an odd start. I’m very much a relationship building person, so not being able to go and speak to people and chat and see what they do is very difficult. I’m really looking forward to meeting the whole of the VenuesLive team face to face soon – and can’t wait until we’re running events again!