In touch : Managers abroad

Sarah O’Hagan, general manager, US western region, Nike

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
I spent 10 years in London as child, so I knew there was bigger world out there. I wanted to do an OE… but get paid for it!

Can you provide sketch of your current role?
I am general manager of the western region, US for Nike Inc. I oversee all aspects of Nike’s business for this region, which represents about quarter of the US. I am accountable for about US$500 million in revenue and oversee team comprised of sales, marketing, HR, finance, and operations personnel.

How does it fit into your career path?
I started my career in marketing and held number of brand management and marketing roles in companies such as Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Megastores and Nike. Whilst I have always loved the creative side of marketing, I knew I wanted to broaden my abilities and tap into my leadership potential.

What are its main challenges?
Obviously the US is mature market for Nike, so it’s challenging to achieve ongoing double-digit growth in this environment. But we achieve it because we never get complacent. We thrive on innovation and we constantly try and reinvent ourselves and our business to make sure we stay in front of the pack.

What are the learnings you will take from it?
Nike has the presence it does globally because of an incredibly disciplined approach to marketplace management. We make tough decisions to make sure the right product lands in the right door in the right city. We have to say no lot. I’ve learned an enormous amount about what it takes to be the market leader, and to stay there.

How do you view New Zealand both as country and economic/business entity from where you stand now?
My heart will always remain in New Zealand – I tell people on daily basis that I won the lottery by being born in New Zealand. There is built-in desire to explore that comes with growing up as Kiwi – and it’s why we do well when we venture offshore. I have lived overseas for 12 years, and I cannot believe how much New Zealand has evolved in that time. It’s creative marketplace now and an inspiring place to want to be.

What sort of ongoing contribution can you / would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic/social welfare?
I always try to do my bit. I have convinced many Americans to travel to New Zealand in my time! I’m trying to get more involved with KEA now – I like the Volunteer Mentor Network programme that they have conceived. It is about Kiwis overseas helping Kiwis at home who are trying to expand offshore. It is the positive side of the so-called brain drain. We need something like this because we’ve all seen examples of Kiwi businesses struggling to crack the US market because they don’t tap into the knowledge of the locals that know it. There are incredibly well networked Kiwis living here and we can all help each other.

What would induce/encourage you to return?
I know I want to return one day. There will come time, when my kids are older, that the lifestyle down there will be too hard to turn down.

What is the most useful piece of advice you could give young executives who are contemplating career stretch offshore?
Do it, do it, do it! It can, and will, springboard your career in ways that you cannot imagine. New Zealanders have habit of making it big overseas – I am constantly impressed by the Kiwis that I meet over here. Somehow the combination of willingness to take risks with our self-deprecating attitude means that people like seeing us succeed.

Visited 6 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window