INTOUCH : Managers abroad

David Hawtin, market strategist, Ericsson, Sweden

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I met and eventually married Swede and we have moved back and forth between New Zealand and Sweden number of times. We have lived here in Sweden (Stockholm) now for seven years and I have been working for Ericsson for all of that time.

Can you provide sketch of your current role?
I am market strategist working within the services business unit (called Global Services) at Ericsson head office in Stockholm. My role involves developing long-range forecasts of the global market for telecom services as well as monitoring, analysing, and developing competitive and market intelligence. The outputs from this work are primarily used by top management in their strategy work and for high level market communications. I am also involved in cross-Ericsson work groups on regular basis that feed into the long-term strategy process of the company.

How does it fit into your career path?
I worked as business analyst at Telecom in Auckland for three and half years so this was natural progression for me. Between 2001 and 2003 Ericsson reduced its workforce by more than 50 percent globally which were tough times and difficult for career advancement but over the past two to three years things have opened up again lot more.

What are its main challenges?
Forecasting six years forward in rapidly developing global telecommunications industry while working with virtual teams internally and taking into account various external sources is definite challenge. Keeping continuously up-to-date with industry trends and players – customers, competitors, partners, regulation, trends – is pretty demanding. Overall working within different culture always has it challenges but you adapt over time. The Swedish love of the consultative approach to decision making and the number of meetings this generally leads to is something I am still adjusting to even after seven years.

What are the learnings you will take from it?
Obviously lot of experience of the telecoms market and the forecasting and strategy process of large international company. Over the past three to four years Ericsson has transformed into world best-in-class company on number of dimensions and is always striving for improved operational excellence which has been great learning experience for me to be part of as well.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?
New Zealand has lot of natural advantages and disadvantages to do with its geography, climate, isolation, scenery. I think New Zealand has done well for small economy but companies have difficulties in establishing global leadership in technology areas due to its isolation and small domestic market. However there are many examples of very innovative niche companies that have done very well. I think New Zealand needs to learn to leverage the Green NZ brand more fully in the future as there is huge ‘green consumerism’ movement taking off now in Europe. Again the distance factor is challenge but not insurmountable in my opinion.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you/would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
I would love to come back to New Zealand and work in the strategy area in one of the telecom players there, however, just now for family reasons I will be based here for at least another two to three years. I am part of the mentor programme through KEA and am more than willing to give advice to anyone with ideas in the areas I work with as well as those looking to move to, or explore business opportunities in, this part of the world.

What would induce/encourage you to return?
If I was headhunted and offered challenging position with the right company I would definitely consider it with great interest.

What is the most useful piece of advice you could give young executives who are contemplating career stretch offshore?
Back yourself and go for it! There is shortage of bright talent in the world and native English speakers are always in demand. New Zealanders have good reputation in most countries and the experience you gain offshore will increase your market value when you return.

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

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