It has been a little over two years since I came over to New Zealand from India (the finest country in the world in spite of its chaos, heat and noise, or, on second thoughts, precisely because of that – NZ comes a close second, of course!). It is no exaggeration to say this has been a journey of much learning and realisation. 

Thinking back on the journey, I have enough lessons learnt to warrant a short writeup. So here goes my top 10 pointers for anyone making the leap from their home country to New Zealand as a consultant, especially a Salesforce one.

Ways of Working

New Zealand is a very welcoming country and the people are polite in their manner. Though that politeness and kindness provides a challenge in accurately reading the situation correctly for the uninitiated.

An anecdote I heard was that of a kiwi product owner sitting through a presentation politely and acknowledging the presenter with an ‘Its good, thank you’, only to have the project canceled. Elsewhere in the world, in the first two minutes of your presentation, you would know if you were missing the mark.

Paying close attention and engaging the client, affirming what you understand, while always a good practice, seems to have an importance of a different magnitude here.

You Are Valued

While most of us would have been successful in our jobs, with skills that are valued in our own home countries – some of us practically revered as deities in our own teams – the key thing to understand is we are certainly valued here, but your new colleagues and clients do not know how brilliant you are unless you demonstrate that to them. 

That first project or proposal where we make a tangible impact is an inflection point in our journey here. This is when what your colleagues and clients suspect of you becomes reality, and life will then never be the same again in the offices, in a positive way. So strive to make an impact and do the best that you can – sooner or later you will hit gold.

Work Hard

Being an IT consultant in India is a great job to be in. You work with and interact – mostly remotely – with a wide range of cultures and peoples. New Zealanders, whilst giving the impression of being generally laid back, are at times some of the hardest working people you may meet. 

The amount of responsibility and effort that a New Zealander puts into the work is tremendous. While the polite nature of everyone here stops that being said out loud, you are expected to pull your weight, and more. It certainly helps if you are doing work that you enjoy, of course.

Have a Beginner’s Mindset

Yes, we have done wonderful things in our previous life, but there are always things to improve and learn. Your new colleagues will teach you different ways of doing things. There is always value in improving yourself as a consultant, and a person.

An interesting blog that I read recently speaks about how that beginner’s mindset is so important to run successful projects and have desirable outcomes. https://josebrowne.com/on-coding-ego-and-attention.

Kiwiland may be smaller than India in terms of IT teams and project scales, but we have some very smart minds who can teach you a few new things, or at least give you a different perspective about how we already do things. I think as is everywhere, it is always a journey.

Project Scale & Scope

From what I have seen, projects and project teams are generally smaller than what you would encounter at an outsourcing mecca like India. Here the clientele is more local than anything else – which means that the huge cost arbitrage and its effects that you see in India are not as profound.

What this means is that you will work across multiple projects. Yes, you may have done this back home, mostly as a favour to your manager or to handle a certain client, but here this is more the standard practice than the exception – of course depending on what your specific role in the organisation is.

This also puts a renewed focus on how your time is spent and billed against a customer. Most businesses here are far smaller than the IT behemoths that litter India, making margins and billing a trifle more important than back home.

On the flip side, the work that you do has an almost immediate tangible impact on the business you are helping. Unlike India where you are slogging in the bowels to deliver a product someone down the chain may or may not actually use – here you have a chance to see the impact of what you are doing first hand. The feedback loop becomes shorter too.

Solve a Problem, Not Implement a Tool

The mindset of work certainly needs to be focused on change to be successful here. Back home, your technical prowess in a certain technology is the measure of your worth. In New Zealand, the tool used to solve a problem is of the least importance compared to solving the problem itself. This comes into stark relief as you build more trusted relationships with your customers. You will notice quite quickly that as you are trusted more, your opinions are the sort to solve problems, rather than opinions on specific technology features and such.

The consulting mindset comes to the fore and the job is certainly much more than technical consulting. It is more understanding the business and empathising with the challenge that the business is facing. Put your design thinking hats on, people.

Ownership

Self-ownership of your task is huge in New Zealand. You can expect to be left alone with minimal to no supervision, with the expectation that what you have promised will be done to spec. There is almost an element of bewilderment on how to handle a situation where a work product is not delivered as promised, with stakeholders at times not really knowing how to react to that situation. Do not get to this situation – as always, under-promise and over-deliver.

Quality of Work and Pride

Every professional I’ve met here has clearly demonstrated how they value the quality of the output that each one makes. While this is true in most parts of the world, the amount of spit and polish that goes into the final output is more than what I have encountered before. Safe to say the chrome should gleam, it is not enough that the rust bucket does what it’s supposed to do and move people from A to B

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Kiwis like to challenge thinking – this reminds me of the unreasonable man who is the source of all progress. Do not get offended by this. This sparring is merely the way things are done and is in no way a reflection of the amount of respect there is for your work output or opinion. More often than not, it is an indication that your opinion is actually valued.

Learning to make arguments that support your cause in a comprehensible dispassionate manner becomes very important here. I think once you accept that you will most certainly be challenged on any assertions you make, you tend to be better prepared to handle questions and challenges. Ultimately, this allows you to deliver a better product, while knowing that the arguments for it have been battle-tested.

Tall Poppy Syndrome

Quite honestly I haven’t faced this – perhaps it’s just testament to how tall a poppy I am.

But I think what is important is that while we can strut in our finest, we would certainly be challenged about how thick our understanding of things is.

If you say you know something, do be sure that your understanding is more than skin deep. Do be explicit when your understanding of something is a passing acquaintance, as opposed to hands-on project experience on a certain tool or feature. 

Be Sweet As

Yeah, sneaked in another one. One of the things I had a lot of difficulty accepting was how intertwined your social life is with your work. Friday drinks and the endless banter is part of life here. You may not get all of the jokes and some of the ones that you do get, might not really be funny at all to you. But yeah, well, have your drink and enjoy the weekend.

Your mileage may differ, but it is always a great idea to socialise with your teams and clients at some level. Whatever you do, do not miss out on all the wonderful things that New Zealand has to offer. You come this far from home, you might as well soak in the sunlight

While I make no claims that your journey would mirror what I experienced, since you read this long on my opinionated comments, I leave you with words far wiser that capture my experience. There’s no sensation to compare with this suspended animation, a state of bliss. For me, I can tell you the journey is well worth the trouble – save missing the great food back home in India. Here’s your helpful link.

Prasanth Abraham