INTOUCH : Managers abroad

Caroline Meads is the global brand design manager for cement company Holcim. She is based in Zurich, Switzerland.

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
Originally I was content with living and working in New Zealand. I was doing well with local company considered ‘best in its class’ in brand strategy and I had busy social life. chance posting to Indonesia to work on rebranding local organisation under global brand opened my eyes to new world of culture and opportunities.

Can you provide sketch of your current role?
I work in Zurich for the Swiss cement multinational Holcim as the global brand design manager. I am responsible for the global ‘look and feel’ of the Holcim brand, and travel extensively worldwide implementing the global Holcim brand strategy, brand management, and the flux between the global outlook and the localisation of branding. I am also responsible for developing photographic imagery for Holcim. All of these brand assets are now being managed internationally and online.

How does it fit into your career path?
This is senior position within the Holcim organisation, yet there is still room for further personal development. Should I contemplate change, I would aim to develop my role within Holcim further or achieve another leadership role in another major company.

What are its main challenges?
Extensive international travel and life away from family can be disorientating and hard on health and personal relationships. I overcome this by keeping fit, eating well and maintaining regular contact with family and friends. I constantly strive for more fulfilling balance between work and life.

What are the learnings you will take
from it?
I’ve learned the world is big place with almost infinite variety in people, cultures and ideals of work and life. I’ve learned through my extensive travels, the truly global perspective of multinational business. I’ve learned there is lot of money and opportunity in the world, but finally personal happiness is more important and this revolves about the people with whom you work and come into contact. Work should not only be hard work but hard fun.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and an economic/business entity from where you stand now?
I think and write lot about New Zealand. New Zealand has narrowness of culture and the politics typical of small island nation. It is not rich economy, therefore salaries and opportunities are limited. However, New Zealand is yet to fully exploit its unique potential at both national and small-medium enterprise levels. It is still fine uncrowded country where it is possible to enjoy many outdoor sports, experiencing the clean air, water and natural scenic beauty.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you/would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
In the interim I would like to be involved in an advisory role. If I was to return to New Zealand it should be in senior role in economic development at national level. Alternatively, I would also like to collaborate with businesses to exploit their international brand potential with unique New Zealand angle.

What would induce/encourage you to return?
A suitable job or business opportunity that compares favourably with my present position at Holcim. Then, of course, there are my family and friends.

What is the most useful piece of advice you could give young executives who are contemplating career stretch offshore?
Go for it!

Caroline Meads is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community, www.keanewzealand.com

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