Managers Abroad: Offshore Kiwis a big asset

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
It was partly personal. My wife is English and I’d spent few years at university in the UK, so we had strong links to England and always wanted to live here at some point. After 10 years in Auckland we decided to make the move. We’ve been in the UK for 11 years now, so it’s been slow oscillation between the hemispheres.
Work also played part, of course. We both had good jobs in Auckland but like many Kiwis overseas we wanted to swim beyond the breakers.

How are your experiences overseas shaping your understanding of New Zealand?
From this distance you get good perspective on what makes New Zealand special, and it’s not the landscape or the lifestyle, which is what I’d always assumed when I lived there.
It’s the people. Kiwis are just different – more open, friendly, unpretentious, pragmatic, positive, naturally innovative. I took all that for granted in New Zealand but over here it really sets us apart. At Kea we call it the ‘NZ Effect’ and it’s really powerful force. Its people are probably New Zealand’s most valuable export.

How can offshore Kiwis contribute to New Zealand?
First things first: let’s drop this ridiculous assumption that ‘offshore’ Kiwis are somehow different from ‘onshore’ Kiwis. We’re all the same, all fiercely proud of our country, and we promote New Zealand to anyone who will listen. The fact that some of us live overseas is irrelevant.
And while we’re at it, let’s stop using words like ‘diaspora’ and ‘expat’, and that awful phrase ‘brain drain’. New Zealand doesn’t ‘lose’ people overseas, it gains highly valuable advocates and ambassadors.
So don’t waste time trying to lure them back to New Zealand – they’ll return when they’re good and ready. Instead, make good use of them while they’re away, because Kiwis living overseas are huge strategic asset for New Zealand. M

Todd Somerville is member of Kea, New Zealand’s global talent community.

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