Managers Abroad

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I have been part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the past 16 years and diplomatic work requires taking up regular offshore assignments (our last posting was to Washington DC from 1996 to 2001). I was attracted to MFAT out of university as I enjoy international public policy and I was keen to help represent New Zealand abroad. My decision to move to the private sector here in the US was driven by family decision – my husband’s business is in New York City and our boys (8 and 6) are now quite settled in their life here.

How are your experiences overseas shaping your understanding of New Zealand?
Despite being away from New Zealand I read the NZ Herald every day and I’m in regular contact with many of my friends especially those in New Zealand politics and MFAT. I still feel enormous attachment to home (evinced by houseful of Kiwis for the Rugby World Cup final and the pride in watching Bret McKenzie win an Oscar). My experiences both in the UN and now in corporate America make me reflect on New Zealand often: we are nation of do-ers and we are very egalitarian in our outlook. I think we come up with great ideas but we still need to recognise the importance of implementation and quality follow-through if those ideas are going to go anywhere.
In an international setting, I sometimes think we can be too casual in our approach. This can be part of our charm and it also means we are relatively fearless of big opportunities but we need to make sure that we respect and put time into thinking how others see the world.

How can offshore Kiwis contribute to New Zealand?
Many of the New Zealanders here give back to home in lots of different ways – connecting people, helping fund certain ventures, and mentoring. Many also want to stay involved and interested in New Zealand and its economic and overall policy direction, and they find ways to contribute to the policy debates. From business standpoint, Kiwis can support others trying to go global. I keep telling my husband that he ought to write down the lessons learned after starting business in the US as there are so many aspects of this market that you want others to know before jumping in. M

Kirsty Graham is member of Kea, New Zealand’s global talent community.

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