MANAGERS ABROAD : Rachael Cotton-Bronte, CEO Waypoint Institute

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I’d both lived and worked overseas earlier in my career but this move was prompted by call from the senior vice president at HP in the United States who I’d met several years earlier. He invited me to join his worldwide team but it wasn’t an easy decision. At the time I was interim general manager for HP IPG during the HP/Compaq merger and I loved working with, and was very proud of, the team that had developed during that period. But they were supportive and the USA role very appealing because it gave me the opportunity to contribute to the development of HP’s global strategy. It was chance to work closely with some of their sharpest minds and the senior HP executives.

Can you provide sketch of your current role?
I’m CEO of the Waypoint Institute based in California. We focus on innovation and leveraging future market insight to develop and transform organisations, products and services. It offers wonderful opportunity to work with range of talented entrepreneurs and corporate executives.

How does it fit into your career path?
It’s lot of fun to be creative and at the cusp of change. The exposure to different markets has been extremely stimulating and inspiring. This work also keeps me fresh and competitive. Eventually I see myself bringing these skills back into more traditional corporate role where I can enable entrepreneurship and rapidly build long-term value.

What are its main challenges?
The challenges are not unique. Larger corporations are impacted by their sheer size, it is difficult for them to rapidly develop innovations and successfully integrate change into the larger organisation. Conversely while smaller entrepreneurs often identify disruptive or incremental innovation they often lack the framework or partnerships required to execute.

What are the learnings you will take from it?
You could sum it up with the acronym TO LEAD ie, Think creatively (dream big); Other point of view (use perspective); Leverage out of the square partnerships; Embrace your customers and competitors; Act now; Develop new market.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?
I think New Zealand is wonderful country and provides people with amazing opportunities. In the future I believe “our size” could prove to be significant competitive advantage. In 2001 Juan Enriquez wrote “The future belongs to… small populations… who build empires of the mind… and who ignore the temptation of… exploiting natural resources.” Being green, small and potentially nimble, New Zealand has distinct advantage.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you/would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
One positive trait I have noticed about Americans is how many contribute generously to charities. Philanthropy is ingrained throughout American’s society and its economy and living here has strengthened my desire to give back to the community. When I return to New Zealand I’d like to contribute in some way perhaps providing support at board level or to health organisations or charities. Working for company that is New Zealand owned or contributes to New Zealand in some way would also be very rewarding. At every level, I am always conscious that I am representing New Zealand and its culture. I am passionate supporter of our global achievements, diversity, primary agriculture, cuisine, tourism, wine, fashion and sportswear.

What would induce/encourage you to return?
I do have desire to eventually return to New Zealand. While family connections are consideration, I would return for the right role where I could share my experience, contribute and innovate. For me it’s not about the size of the organisation it’s the challenge, the people you work with, and the contribution and passion you bring.

What is the most useful piece of advice you could give young executives who are contemplating career stretch offshore?
Travel light, listen to people, expect competition, have the confidence to contribute, share and be innovative.

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