New Zealand Asian Leaders (NZAL) Conference brought together key Asian leaders on September 24, 2015 at Vodafone office in Auckland. The range of topics that were discussed varied from cancer research to global food challenges, from Auckland’s real estate problems to developing leadership skills. The conference, attended by NZAL members, sponsors and anyone who aspired to be a leader, was highly interactive, with leaders sharing their insights on the value top Asian New Zealanders can bring to this country.
The conference was chaired by Mai Chen, Founder of New Zealand Asian Leaders in conjunction with Ming Lim-Pollard, NZAL Established and Advisory Board member, CEO of Titan Funding Ltd.
Dr. Swee Tan, Founder and Executive Director of Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, a Consultant Plastic Surgeon, former Director of Plastic Surgery and Director of Surgery at Hutt Valley DHB spoke on a topic close to his heart and work – ‘New way of looking at Cancer’. He shared his inspiration for finding a cure for the disease and said, “We need to believe that we can cure cancer and that it can be done and we can achieve it.”
Jef Wong, Group Creative Director at Designworks elaborated on his topic of Creating Collaborative Cultures and spoke about how to integrate design and innovation in to a business where traditionally it was not part of the culture. He said, “It takes leadership to believe in the culture of design and innovation. Leaders need to embed it in to the organisation and change the culture. I believe in collaboration, it’s all about people and clearly defined culture is really powerful and everything takes care of itself.”
Dr. Xiaoying Fu, Director of Kiwi-Digital topic – Victory is spelt ‘survival’. She shared her experiences of doing business in New Zealand and China and observed, “The business model of traditional paper publishing is quite different to that of digital publishing. We have learned lots of hard lessons and now we are getting clever. The mindset of doing business is quite different in both the countries, NZ talks about IT, China talks about users.” Dr Fu is one of a few women working in the field of technology and innovation.
Jessie Chan-Dorman, Managing Director, Dorman Partnership Ltd. talked about her personal journey in business and how that applied to her motto and topic – ‘Do or do not, there is no try’. Coming from the dairy industry, she spoke about surviving in the tough times and said, “Ask yourself why you are doing it. If you don’t love it, there are plenty of ways to earn money. So, you have to know your vision and why you love it.”
Monica Maharaj, Claims Manager at NZI narrated her own passage to leadership in her topic ‘Backing yourself’. She highlighted the need to understand the strengths of one’s cultural background and use that as a ladder to success. She said, “My message to you today is that we need to recognise our own unique talents. It is our responsibility to recognise our strengths and skills, to learn to back yourself and put those skills into action to achieve success.”
Alan Chew, MD and Founder of Houston Technology, topic ‘Work smarter, not harder’, spoke about his passion for technology in personal and professional life. While describing products that makes life easier and smarter, he asked businesses to “take a leaf from the technology industry, and improve bottom line through innovation.”
Dr. Edwina Pio, NZ’s first professor of Diversity, a Beatle’s fan, spoke on her topic, ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’ and described her journey to leadership. A confluence of four cultures, Dr. Pio said, “My road to leadership has been anything but smooth. But I have learned to have the courage to dance in the rain when there is a rainstorm and to look for the brilliance of stars through sheer grit, determination, hard work and dreams.”
Speaking for the need for innovation in food, Professor Harjinder Singh, distinguished Professor and Head of the School of Food and Nutrition at Massey University and co-director of the Riddet Institute, a National Centre of Research Excellence in food science and nutrition, said, “Food & Beverages is NZ’s largest export industry, it is the engine for economic growth. But there is still an opportunity here, we have to work and innovate to diversify our product range and develop high-value manufacturing as well as high margin specialised food products.”
Christine Young, Head of Internal Audit at Kiwibank topic, ‘Control your destiny’. Christine brought experiences from her own life and said “My multicultural exposure has helped me understand and appreciate different culture. It is important to embrace your multicultural roots as diversity only makes us stronger.”
Kester Ko, Principal Urban Designer, AECOM, spoke about the country’s trending topic – real estate market in Auckland and NZ. In his topic ‘The $9.6 billion challenge’, Kester explained, “In order to achieve the numbers that we need, we need to build at a higher density. It doesn’t mean we have to build more high rise towers everywhere, but we just have to be smarter in providing building that people will enjoy living in.”
Wicki Huang, Director at PwC shared her observation of conducting business transactions between Asia and NZ. As a result of her background and work experience, she believes, “We should expect more investments from China in industries that are not necessarily agriculture related. NZ has many industries that we have expertise in – IT, experiences in waste management, financial services sector, health care, age care etc. Those are experiences that are valuable to Chinese companies because they are going through the same learning curve that NZ went through a few years ago. They can learn from that and get value from it “
The conference was closed with a summary by Brijesh Sethi, NZAL Established Member, Managing Director, NZ School of Education, and major sponsor and host Vodafone were acknowledged as well as The Chinese Herald, WTV and SKYCITY by Thomas Song, Deputy Chair of NZAL.