Swinburne IT alum Tristan Sternson always had a passion for technology. That passion has sparked an incredible business journey, and established Tristan as an Australian tech industry pioneer and CEO of multi-award-winning company, ARQ Group.
Since assuming the role of ARQ Group CEO in December 2019, Tristan’s leadership has played a pivotal role in transforming the company from an underperforming entity into one of Australia’s most remarkable turnaround successes within just three years.
ARQ Group is a digital technology solutions business, providing advisory, experience and design, engineering, and managed services. More than half of Australia’s top 20 ASX-listed companies are clients.
They have been behind many notable apps, including myGovID, Service Victoria and Fire Near Me.
Last year, ARQ was acquired by Singtel subsidiary NCS for $290 million. Since its acquisition, he has become the Global Co-Lead of global digital, data, and cloud services consultancy NCS NEXT.
ARQ CEO Tristan Sternson (left) and CEO of NCS Mr Ng Kuo Pin (right) at the acquisition announcement. Image: NCS
Beginning his journey
When Tristan was studying at Swinburne, it was during the infancy of the internet and right in the middle of the dot com boom. Being an entrepreneur at heart, he was excited about broadening his business education with technology.
He also took on two six-month work placements with two industry partners while at Swinburne, which extended his business network.
“My time at Swinburne led to the start of some amazing connections in business, many of whom I either still work with today in my own businesses or who are friends and peers I can call for advice and work on opportunities with.”
Tristan is proud of being recognised for the turn-around of ARQ Group, however he acknowledges that it was a team effort. Through his time in leadership positions, he has learnt what it means to be an effective leader.
“Effective leadership requires discipline, authenticity and a genuine interest in helping your people succeed.
“Transparency and honesty are key, as in helping your team feel comfortable to learn and maybe even fail before they achieve success”, he says.
He also recognises the importance of balance, dedicating time to his own health and wellbeing by doing things he enjoys outside of business.
Making the most out of university
As a Swinburne IT graduate, Tristan understands the importance of university not only for learning, but to connect with like-minded individuals.
For those undertaking tech-related courses, his advice covers three key things.
“Find a course with industry placements and the right mix of business and technology education.
“Make sure you’re enrolled in a course where you have the opportunity to interact with people and don’t limit the networking to students in your year level. One of the best aspects of studying my Bachelor of Information Technology was the people I met.
“And finally, learn the fundamentals of real coding. If you understand the foundations, everything will make sense forever”, he says.
The future of Australia’s tech industry
Like many in the tech industry, Tristan believes that artificial intelligence will play a key role in the industry’s future.
“It’s like being back in 1996 and learning how to use the internet, except now it’s about using computer-generated intelligence.”
Reflecting on his career beginnings, the key topics of the industry in the nineties have drastically changed compared to today.
“The words ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘robots’ are now as common as ‘dial-up internet’ and ‘ISPs’ were in the late 90s.
“But the pace of this change is faster than we have ever experienced.”
On Thursday 2 November, Tristan Sternson spoke at the annual AGSE Oration hosted by the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship.