Leading through Open

by Don Christie

Man on a bridge

A few weeks ago I joined five other Catalyst people at an Irish bar in New York, cheering on the All Blacks in their pulsating quarter-final Rugby World Cup victory over France. That's something I never would have dreamed of experiencing when we set Catalyst up nearly 20 years ago. Victory over France was pretty good as well :-)

And after that overseas travel I am again reminded that we Kiwis often forget we bring something special to IT in general and 'Open' in particular.

While in the Northern Hemisphere I travelled to Brighton, where our UK office is based. There I caught up with fellow Open Source business leaders. First was Sam , CEO of SilverStripe (http://www.silverstripe.com/), who are setting up their own London office. Then it was TotaraLMS Ltd's CEO, Richard Wyles (https://www.totaralms.com/), who has also established a Brighton base where he now employs 15 people. Silverstripe, TotaraLMS and Catalyst all have headquarters in Wellington and all three are very successful and growing open source businesses.


Sam from Silverstripe wowing the Catalyst team

On the last leg of the this tour of duty - from Auckland to Wellington - I was on the same flight as another five Catalyst people who had been at an OpenStack Summit in Toyko. This is a huge event, these days attended by the likes of HP, IBM, VMWare, Dell and many others (https://catalyst.net.nz/blog/openstack-summit-report).

You might expect that Catalyst would've been one of the minnows at this conference.

But almost universally, once other attendees realised who they were talking to, they'd go, “ooh, you're the people who are doing public cloud.” From folks who are in far bigger organisations, with a much larger reputation, came the recognition that we're doing things a bit differently and making a valuable contribution.

Oh, and there was also “Our Man in Ìbàdàn”, https://catalyst.net.nz/blog/kohacon15-ìbàdàn-nigeria

I've often wondered, what it is about New Zealanders which gives us this good name?

The simple answer is our people, and the unique offerings we can make to the world.

We're a small economy, but being part of the OECD we have an expectation that our technologies and services will be truly world leading. We have to deliver that first world capability for everyone. Typically in large populations, you have people specialising niche areas that form part of the bigger, often disjointed, picture.

In New Zealand though, we have to apply cross-subject matter experience – we have to be good at lots of things at the same time. When we go out to the wide world, what we have to offer is unique - an ability to take on a wider context and apply an appropriate solution to the whole.

The other aspect of our culture is that by nature we are more collaborative than other countries*.

By our nature, we're more likely to be thinking of what we're doing as also being important for ourselves, and our country as well as our businesses.

Whether it be our cricketers world cup winning rugby players, or successful open source collaborators, Kiwis show that it is possible to be nice and to win.

This all ties into openness, of our people, of our IT offering.

It is a treasure we don't measure in any sort of GDP figure – but perhaps we should!

*My colleague, formerly of NZ Trade and Enterprise, disagrees on this point. But he can write his own blog posts.