Geraldine McBride’s passion for New Zealand and our opportunities fairly fizzes down the digital pipeline as she talks from her Queenstown – her home and workbase. “I live in paradise,” she enthuses.
The former high-flier in one of the world’s largest business software companies, SAP, she is now at work co-founding global next generation technology business, MyWave, mobile personal social cloud platform that securely holds personal product and brand preferences.
And far from being isolated down here at the bottom of the world, the digital revolution allows us to use technology to transcend the barriers of distance and time, she says. “The world is small now, and New Zealanders are the most travelled people on the planet.”
McBride believes there’s renaissance in New Zealand – an energy and buzz that wasn’t present five or 10 years back. She cited Auckland’s Icehouse and Christchurch’s Epic Innovation Centre and Callaghan Innovation as initiatives showing New Zealand is waking up to the opportunities arising from combining technology, content and innovation with our creativity.
“New Zealand earns more Cannes Lions [international advertising awards] per capita than any other country.” We punch above our weight in creativity, she says, citing Weta Workshops and our movie industry; and we have culture – embodied in the All Blacks and the haka for example – that has international appeal.
“Disobedient thinking” or thinking outside the box is in our DNA. “When you ask Kiwis to jump, they say ‘why?’, not ‘how high?’. They challenge leadership. Wherever I went [in her career] people would say, ‘You’re breath of fresh air’.” And we don’t specialise. McBride describes Kiwi professionals as “deep generalists”.
She believes we have numerous strengths to capitalise on. “New Zealand is the most free society I have lived and worked in, it’s less regulated than the US and the UK, and big plus is that we have had no sub-prime crisis. Our growth rate is 2.5 percent, against the UK 0.6 percent and the US two percent est. No wonder the Kiwi dollar is high.”
McBride credits her natural science background – she has degree in zoology – with her success as global expert in corporate evolution. In the information business her grasp of the natural world’s imperative: adapt or die, evolve or be left behind; has served her exceptionally well.
She began in the information business in 1985, working for IBM, and subsequently rose to key roles in SAP. In postings for IT giants on every continent bar Antarctica, her transformational leadership repeatedly delivered exceptional results.
She also transformed the working environment. She ran SAP in the US, Asia Pacific and Japan and in China, SAP was the first company to be named an IT Industry Employer of Choice, and in Japan SAP was listed as one of the top 20 companies by the Great Place to Work Institute.
Entrepreneurs like Xero’s Rod Drury have blazed trail for our millennial generation who are growing up digital and social natives, McBride says, and we’re limited only by our imaginations. Our kids should be dreaming of founding the next generation Facebook or creating the next Angry Birds.
She truly believes, “This is our time.” M