Pathways — Rob Halliday, Netball Australia

Rob Halliday has built a fascinating career portfolio across the sport, finance and technology sector — from consulting at a Big4, to Co-Founding powerhouse medical scale-up, Seer — so it’s no surprise that Netball Australia came knocking post-COVID. 

The Head of Finance sat down with Atlas Director, Liam Killen to discuss career sliding door moments, personal strengths and how a love sport conquers all.


Liam: Rob Halliday, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you please walk us through your career to date?

Rob: Yeah, for sure. So, I am currently the Head of Finance here at Netball Australia. I’ve been here since early 2022, which has been a really interesting ride and a great company to work for. Obviously, sports and Covid didn’t mix too well, so it was a bit challenging to step into the role and rebuild the finances. The finance team was entirely new when I joined. It’s been really enjoyable, though. Prior to that, I’ve had a varied career and done quite a few different things. My background is in technology as well, with a double degree in accounting and computing. Throughout my career, I’ve worked in areas where I could utilize both the technology side and the accounting side.

I worked in consulting at Deloitte for a while. I started in forensic accounting for a few years and then moved into technology consulting, where we built bespoke solutions for data capture. That provided a fantastic grounding and a great place to learn the ropes in a big four environment. From there, I followed my passion into sports. I was at the Melbourne Footy Club for about four years, which was great. I worked in strategy for a while and then moved into the finance team. It was a grim time for the club, with very few wins during my four years there, but it provided a good grounding in the sports industry. I learned a lot in the strategy space and then moved into a business analyst role within the finance team. That role was excellent because I used my business analysis and consulting skills and applied them to finance, including reporting and month-end preparations.

I went back into technology consulting at an ERP company for about a year. They were based in Sydney, and I worked remotely, which I didn’t really enjoy. So, I moved to Blue Rock, a small business consulting firm with a fantastic environment and great culture. At the same time, a group of us started a company in the medical industry called Seer Medical, focusing on epilepsy monitoring and management. Initially, it was a side project, but it took off rapidly. By 2018, I had to choose between staying at Blue Rock or jumping full-time into the startup. I chose the startup and grew from managing finances and operations to becoming the CFO. We hired about 60-70 people in one year, growing to about 150 employees by the time Covid hit.

During Covid, I was wearing the CFO hat and managing finances, people, and IT. I decided to get my CA qualification during the lockdown, and as the business grew internationally, I handed over the CFO role to a family friend with more experience. After finishing my CA, I stayed with Seer Medical for another year before taking a few months off. I got the call for the Netball Australia role at the end of 2021 and started in 2022. I’ve been lucky to wear different hats and do various things, which helped me find my passion for being a specialist accountant and CFO.

Liam: How did working as a consultant prepare you for your founder journey at Seer?

Rob: The beauty of a consulting background is that you get to see various environments and ways of working, solving different challenges. This experience is invaluable in a startup environment where you wear many hats and handle varied tasks daily. The adaptability and problem-solving skills you develop as a consultant are crucial. Additionally, my background in both technology and finance allowed me to solve diverse problems, such as quickly learning and implementing new systems and managing finances effectively in a small team.

Liam: You’ve worn many hats getting to where you are today. Is there a sliding doors moment in your career that stands out?

Rob: Probably the big one was at the start when I was deciding between coding and accounting. I enjoyed coding more at university, but the accounting subjects were quite dry. My dad, an accountant, influenced my decision, and I realised that the way I worked with coding, often spending all night on projects, might not be sustainable. So, I chose accounting. This decision led me to the business side and eventually to where I am today, enjoying the roles of head of finance and CFO.

Liam: When did you decide to focus on finance?

Rob: The decision was somewhat gradual. I got the Deloitte role in forensic accounting, which steered me towards the consulting space rather than software engineering. Then, in the startup environment at Seer Medical, I realised I enjoyed the strategic and management aspects of finance more than the minutiae of general bookkeeping. As the business grew, I found the higher-level financial discussions and strategic planning very engaging, which solidified my decision to focus on finance.

Liam: Tell me about Netball Australia as an organisation.

Rob: It’s been a great journey. Both my role and the CFO role were new positions when we started, and we jumped straight into an audit, which was intense. Our net assets were thin following Covid, and we had to take on debt to finance operations. This experience taught me a lot quickly. Being able to put my imprint on the organisation from the beginning has been rewarding. The culture here is fantastic, despite challenges like the player disagreements over the collective bargaining agreement. We have a new chair and CEO, which is exciting, and the culture and environment here are excellent.

Liam: What do you love about working in sports?

Rob: I’ve always been a sports enthusiast, even though I wasn’t very good at playing. Working in sports allows me to follow my passion. The camaraderie and culture in sports organisations are great, even when operating on limited resources. I’ve been part of cultural shifts, like at Melbourne Footy Club, where we built the foundation for future success. Here at Netball Australia, being part of the Diamonds’ success and the organisation’s growth is very fulfilling.

Liam: How important has your network been in your career, and do you have any mentors?

Rob: My network has been incredibly important. Many opportunities have come through connections and friends, such as my manager at Deloitte who opened doors to other roles. Networking is critical to building a career. I don’t have a mentor currently, but at various points, I’ve leaned on past managers for guidance. I’d like to increase my mentoring relationships as I move back into the executive level space.

Liam: Lastly, do you have any advice for the CFOs of tomorrow?

Rob: There are two main pieces of advice: First, understand your strengths and be a generalist who can wear many hats. Hire a team that complements your weaknesses to build a functional team with minimal gaps. Second, don’t be afraid to try new things. Diverse experiences enrich your abilities and knowledge, which are invaluable when you reach higher levels. Experiencing different environments and cultures helps you build a solid foundation to deliver effectively as a CFO or executive.

Liam: Rob, thanks so much for joining us.

Rob: Thanks, Liam, appreciate it.