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The other side of the Coyne

11 Feb 2014

The other side of the Coyne Image

When book-publishing company Penguin decided to move from its Camberwell Junction office, CEO Gabrielle Coyne was firm with her instructions – she did not want to move to Docklands.

But the consultant working for the company managed to convince her to take the trip into Docklands to have a look at the heritage-listed Goods Shed South.

“It was a very cold Melbourne day, the weather was quite brutal, and we stood on the bridge at Collins St and looked down and I said: “OK, I think you’ve got me”.”

It was the building over the location that got Docklands over the line but the convenience also played a role.

“We were always looking for a location that was convenient, especially from a public transport point of view,” Ms Coyne said.

Penguin (now Penguin Random House after a merger mid-last year) moved into the building in September 2012 and, when asked last month if Docklands had won her over, Ms Coyne said: “It has”.

“Even in the short time that we’ve been here, I’m certainly seeing it develop in a very positive way,” she said.

According to Ms Coyne, the movement of creative organisations such as The Age to the corner of Spencer and Collins St and Penguin Random House to the Goods Shed has added “an element of colour”.

“It’s getting a sense of liveliness that I felt was absent,” Ms Coyne said.

Although a busy schedule means she hasn’t had time to fully explore the precinct, and wouldn’t yet describe herself as a “Docklands expert”, she says she is working on it.

One thing she might be considered an expert on is the publishing industry.

Having worked for Penguin for more than 20 years, she’s risen through the ranks after starting her career in marketing.

In 2003 she was appointed managing director of Penguin Australia, before New Zealand was also added to her responsibilities in 2006.

Three years later she was appointed CEO of Penguin Group Asia Pacific and last year became CEO of Penguin Random House Asia Pacific, after the companies merged.

“I was very fortunate to grow in a job from a young age and was given opportunities, which meant the job was always changing, and the challenges were changing,” Ms Coyne said.

“I feel very fortunate, quite blessed.”

There are a limited number of female CEOs in Australia’s larger companies, but Ms Coyne doesn’t feel gender has ever been an issue in her career.

“I think publishing is a much more even, in fact, a female dominated industry, so it is slightly different to the rest of corporate Australia or corporate anywhere,” Ms Coyne said.

She said she had been struck by the positive response of other women both within and outside the company as she progressed through it.

“It’s important that I remember how important it is to other women, especially younger women, to see women progress through organisations and their careers,” Ms Coyne said.

Considering her career in the publishing industry, one might assume Ms Coyne is an avid reader.

She confirms this is the case, but won’t mention her favourite book or author, saying in her line of work, it’s not the wisest move.

“Even as chief executive it’s really important for me to still be reading for pleasure as much as it is for work,” she said

“I loved going away on my Christmas holidays with a pile of books I hadn’t had the chance to read during the year.”

And, after more than 20 years in the industry, Ms Coyne said the pleasure of reading an author’s new work never dissipates.

“It’s a real joy to be one of the first people to read an author’s work.”

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