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Tennealle O’Shannessy, IDP’s Chief Executive Officer, commenced her new role in February this year.  

An established leader in global education, digital platforms and e-commerce sectors, Tennealle has a proven track record of building successful global businesses with a customer-centric approach, making her the ideal leader for IDP’s next chapter. 

We sat down with Tennealle to learn about her career journey, passion for empowering people through education and vision for IDP to reinvent the international education sector.

Can you share some background on your career before IDP? I would like to start by saying I am delighted to return to the international education sector where I have spent a significant part of my career.  

For 10 years I led global teams in the higher education space. During this time, I partnered with IDP university clients to launch new ways to deliver quality education services on a global scale. It's incredibly exciting to be returning to a sector made up of people passionate about transforming lives through education.  

More recently, I led the growth of a popular online marketplace with a deep focus on customer experience. I'm looking forward to collaborating with our teams and institution partners to prioritise the customer at IDP.  

What attracted you to IDP? IDP’s human-first approach attracted my attention. Working together with education institutions, IDP is using technology to enhance its human connections, not replace them.     As a strategist at heart, I was also drawn to IDP’s sharp focus on supporting students at every step of their journey. There is real power in having someone you can trust in your corner when making a decision as big as studying overseas.  

I see great potential in the next phase of IDP’s strategy roll out. At its core, it focuses on embracing data to create closer, more personal customer connections, at scale, around the world.   

What have you experienced in your short time at IDP?

The first three months for me have been about learning and absorbing. I have been fortunate to meet several IDP clients and understand what drives and matters to them.  

Together with our clients, IDP has an important role to transform the sector.  

I had the opportunity to champion the role of international education in forging strong diplomatic ties when I attended the Boao Forum in China in late March.   As China reopens, I am excited to see institutions around the world welcome back our ambitious students from this key market.  

I will spend the next three months learning from our expert global teams and valued clients to identify opportunities, with a particular focus on delivering an exceptional student and customer experience. This will inform how I lead the next phase of IDP’s strategy implementation.

Where do you see opportunities for the wider sector? There is a real and urgent opportunity for us to engage our broader communities on the cultural, academic and diplomatic benefits international students bring to our societies.  

As a sector, we need to be bolder and braver in our asks of policymakers and champion the role of our students within our broader communities. In Australia, we can do more to shift the international student narrative away from their economic discussions, and more towards the rich cultural and social contributions they make in our towns and cities.  The UK focused campaign #Weareinternational was a brilliant demonstration of this in action.  

Our world is a dynamic, diverse and more united place to live thanks to our ambitious customers who embark on a global education and career. In order to protect this, we need to commit to clear, welcoming and supportive policies for our global citizens.   

Connected to this is the need to support students once they arrive in their new country. IDP’s recent research highlighted the mental health challenges students face when they are not connected into important wellbeing services.  

I look forward to speaking with more clients about this over the coming months to see how we can work together on programs like Thrive around the globe.  

Finally, can you share some insights into life outside of work? When I am not at work, you will often find me out on my bike or for a run with one (or all) of my three kids. We like to stay active, and for me, exercise is my form of meditation.  

I am also an avid reader and learner. I am usually tuned in to Masters of Scale with Reid Hoffman or other podcasts that help challenge my thinking. I welcome any recommendations if any IDP clients have some great suggestions.   

How can clients stay in touch? I will be meeting IDP clients at upcoming events including IDP Connect Advisory Boards, and the Australian International Education Conference in Adelaide in October. To get in touch before then, please feel free to contact me through IDP Education’s page on LinkedIn.  

Aimee Gilbert18 May 2023