Last year, Britomart Magazine’s 20th Edition featured a story called “Daring Greatly” which profiled four different, dynamic women from around the precinct who help make Britomart what it is. In honour of International Women’s Day, we thought we’d revisit these.
Rohini Ram works for EY in Britomart, leading the New Zealand Human Capital Tax practice. She is the only female on EY’s executive board of five.
On the future of work:
You lead a team of 65; what are you most concerned with?
The future of work and how it will change. New demographics, new needs and new challenges. People’s jobs being taken by robots; how to identify different skills in people and encourage them to work in different ways.
You can never do better if there are no challenges. For us, the pace of change is a challenge. Talking to millenials, understanding how their models of work might look like, now and in the future. In some areas good retention may sit at 18 months – and that is something we have to work with, so instead of fighting it, we have to think: how do you challenge someone and get the most out of them in that time?
On identifying leaders:
Success takes a range of skill and ability: creativity, analytical skills, all sorts of things. In recruiting, I am always looking for qualities that make a difference –technical abilities but also authenticity, the ability to be a team player, a curious mind. I like looking at the future, at future leaders, identifying skill, giving people what I had – mentoring, support, and guidance. I am passionate about developing people.
On what inspires her:
My parents. My father was a businessman, he built a trucking business in Fiji literally from the ground up, starting with one truck… he would always be showing us kids how to do things for ourselves.
What message did you take from him?
Work hard. Don’t doubt yourself. And don’t forget your values.
And what if you’d done nothing with your life?
My mother would have made her peace with it, but my father would have said, “You’re better than that.”
Diane Maxwell is New Zealand’s Retirement Commissioner and heads the Commission for Financial Capability. Her office is in Britomart.
My first job in advertising, I wore my brothers trousers to the interview. I didn’t have much money… I quickly learnt that people grow up in quite wealthy environments… I came in with my second hand gear and I got the full brunt of the English class system.
My first job was in advertising… I remember going home on the tube that first day thinking what an outrageous mistake, the place is horrible, this is everything I hate… I thought: I’ll do it for 6 months. I was there for fifteen years.
My first role was as a TV buyer. They’d never had a female in the team – they told me straight they didn’t think a woman could do the job. They had a lot of hardcore porn on the walls… they said “and by the way, we’re not going to take the porn down.” But you know what? I kind of preferred it because it was explicit. I have more of a problem with a lot of what I encounter today which is courteous, polite sexism.
And in fact… they had their own hierachy, and discrimination, and prejudice. And really, sexism is just one form of prejudice. There were multiple prejudices in that group. I decided the best thing I could do would be to become the best TV buyer in history, and I did that, within three months… and by the time I left, the place had changed.
Unless you’ve stood at the supermarket checkout, worrying your card will get declined, unless you’ve eaten food that you suspect is past it’s best but you’re not going to throw it away… you don’t really understand some of this stuff (that the CFFC deals with/teaches.) Having been a single parent, having had cold sweats at 3am about money… means I’m not doing this job having always lived in a wealthy home… it means the work we do has resonance to it.
Amber Coulter co-founded boutique insights agency TRA, located in Britomart.
One of our questions was about something that has made an impact on you, and you mentioned Brene Brown, who has books with titles like Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.
Yes- she talks about the power of vulnerability, which I find interesting. I don’t think ruthlessness is helpful in business; in my role I see the opposite, I see a lot of women reaching out to younger up and coming women to help them with their careers. Maybe in the past women have felt the need to act like men in business but I think that has changed.
On being a leader:
Did you always see yourself as a leader?
My mum tells me that at Christchurch crèche where she used to drop me sometimes, the staff loved me because I’d walk in there and start organizing the other kids. I haven’t always seen it in myself, but others have.
What’s the hardest part of being a leader?
The only way to achieve scale in a business is to trust – and I’ve really had to learn to let people find their own paths and to be less hands-on… that’s been hard, but a really good thing too.
On staying humble:
Never get above yourself. I am hands-on in my stores. I never expect anyone working in them to do any job that I wouldn’t do. I don’t expect any kind of red carpet treatment and that is why I am able to keep close to what is going on with my teams. I feel that having adult children myself, I am able to offer sound guidance and advice to my teams, both professionally and personally.
On who she’d like to have this kind of conversation with:
I was lucky enough to have this conversation a few years ago….. I reconnected with Mary Quant, who I worked for in the sixties. She was in her 70s and was still very fashionably dressed with the same cool haircut. I asked her about how she felt being one of a very few women fashion designers in the 1960s when, post war, most fashion was designed by male couturiers. Her success was based on mass designing for a younger way of life – and the way in which she was able to use her knowledge as a 60s icon to still be in touch and be relevant to women in business today.