Category Archives: General

Bits & Pieces

Bits-&-Pieces1I’ve had some more time get back making note of some interesting news items from across the web.


Your evolving network

I recently scanned through my LinkedIn connections to  update myself on what everyone was doing. I noticed that most of my friends and associates, that are around my age, had left the walls of their tertiary education provider. They are now in their first or second job at various organisations. Some are still in New Zealand and some are abroad. Some are within key government agencies, some are in the business service sector and, unbeknown to me, some have even moved into a similar sector to me or are employees of my prospective clients.


When I go back 5 years all of these people had simply ‘Student of X’ in their LinkedIn description. Now, the movement of this large group of people into the global workforce has fundamentally exploded (in a good way) my professional network. I now not only have a number of new connections in a range of organisations across the globe, but they also act as a connection into their new and expanding network.

While it may seem trivial upon reading this,  for those going through their tertiary education studies, it simply isn’t.  This is because while at university or polytechnique students are focused on making connections with those in the workforce. After all this is where their first employer will likely come from. However, that beer with your university mates at the local pub or joining that  student club could have a bigger influence on your future career.

The same goes for right now. Where do you intend to be in 5 years? At the same organisation or will you be at elsewhere? But more importantly where will your current friends, associates and colleagues be in 5 years?

As you evolve so does your network. Building a diverse network across many levels, generations and fields rather than one that suits your immediate needs, will likely lead to richer network in subsequent years.

The Disconnect

PhD students can’t get jobs and highly skilled graduates are leaving NZ for Auz. The topic of employment and retaining talent has been firing up again lately.

But why are we in this situation? This is a question I’ve never seen raised despite its potential to unveil a solution.

The answer is simple, there is a disconnect. Individuals are being trained in fields where there is no demand for these people.


We (NZ) are oversupplying industries with too many graduates of sport science, law, commerce, education and bio/medscience. Yet there is overwhelmingly high demand for food scientists/ technologists, engineers, digital and IT professionals  (according to a recent study).

But how has this come about? There are three factors that I can identify:


  1. Incentives or promotions of certain fields as careers for students has not changed or is not dynamic enough.
  2. Industries we hoped would develop into a source of great job creation a decade ago have not developed as fast as expected e.g. biotechnology.
  3. Lack of students to (a) foresee where career opportunities are (b) think non- linearly about their career path i.e. not looking for atypical applications of their skill sets that might interest them.

Based on this last point I seldom sympathise with students who leave university and have not spent time planning their career path. You’ve had at least 3 years to analyse the job market and invest your time in developing yourself into an employable (for the NZ environment) individual. Career planning is not an event that takes place every now and then. It is continuous. You need to be attuned to the dynamic changes that are occurring in your industry that may force you  change and adapt.

This aside, there is an unavoidable trade-off that students need to make between entering an area of study that they enjoy versus the availability of jobs in that area. Can it be expected that students sacrifice the former to satisfy the latter? If you want to stay in New Zealand, then yes, there needs to be at least some compromise. If not then New Zealand is not going to have a job for you unless you create it. Hopefully if you do leave New Zealand to follow your passion then you will return someday when such an opportunities arise in NZ for you.

While the government’s incentives to encourage NZ businesses to employ R&D graduates does help get some students into jobs, these programmes are vulnerable to the disconnect; industry wants students that are simply not available.

The only real way to create jobs is to build/ grow industries and for the output of fresh talent to sync with the industries’ demand for it. Obviously this is no short fix.To grow and build industries we need people to lead this change. People like Rod Drury, Ian McCrae, Peter Maire, Sam Morgan, Richard Taylor, Ian Taylor (to name a few) have led this change for the digital and IT industries.

To finish here are my five takeaways:

  1. Give the 18-30s a shake up. Stop expecting things and help create change. Invest in career planning and explore the non-traditional careers which utilise your skills/knowledge gained in tertiary education.
  2. Provide support for those leaders that have already taken it upon themselves to grow their industries. Who are our upcoming Ian McCrae’s in food & beverage, bioscience, tourism?
  3. All incentives that encourage students to pursue certain fields of study need to respond to changes in the labour market more dynamically than they have in the past. Do we really need them in field X?
  4. We all know kiwis are leaving for Auz but who are these kiwis? What skills do they possess? Do we really need them to stay? How many of them return within a year? We know unemployment is getting higher but what do the employed demographic look like? What are their skills? Are we investing in the right areas to get the right short-med term fixes. We need more details.
  5. Back yourself to be a #2.

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* Upon writing this post, this article appeared on the NZ Herald website. I get sick of seeing this stuff. Not because of kiwis leaving NZ but because of that’s all anyone has to say. No details, no solutions, no actions (from any politician or thought leader).



Advice for new undergrads

I’ve been at university for more than 8 years now !!!  Throughout my time I’ve not only pursued my interest in the life sciences but also developed a passion in  entrepreneurship through my extracurricular activities.uni

I’ve also come to know how universities work, their role in your education and how you should be managing your time there to get the best out of it. So I’ve decided to put together some pointers/insight for new under grads (1st and 2nd years) that will hopefully be of some use.


  • 1st year is chaos. You’ll be totally fixated on study (or socialising). You’ll be living from one exam/ test/ assignment to the next.  This is fine and normal, don’t worry just get through it.
  • Push your work limits of what you think you can manage. Find a new threshold.
  • Find out how you learn best as quickly as possible. Refine it and use it.
  • Focus on discovering a passion and building a knowledge base around it. If you really want to be someone who makes a difference while loving what you do don’t be a person who takes paper A for the purpose of getting job A.
  • If you insist on fantasying on a job. Investigate that job  first. Chances are you are idolising the wrong one for you. What do you really want to be doing?
  • Change will happen, brace yourself for it. You will change you’re mind about what you want to learn. Change for a logical reason. Is your judgement sound?
  • The undergraduate degree is not worth much these days. Consider your first three years as compulsory, like high school. Its sole use is to build your foundation of knowledge. Use postgraduate studies to differentiate yourself by specialising.
  • For some of you academic study is only part of your total university experience. Engage in the rest of what the university has to offer e.g. clubs and societies. This will mould you into the person you want to be. The experience you gain will be just as valuable if not more than your degree.
  • Keep an eye on and get involved in your industry. It most likely currently consists of old grey headed guys. In most situations they love seeing fresh blood getting involved. Make contacts. Get people noticing you.
  • Socialise with people at university. Take up opportunities to meet other people. In 10-20 years time those are the people that will be doing cool things in cool places. 
  • Create something! Start making an impact on something or someone/ people.

1Above–the aerotonic flight beverage

I remember hearing [a while back] about this new drink claiming to counter the crap effects of air travel i.e. jetlag.

On my way out of Auckland Airport this month I came across it, 1Above – the aerotonic flight beverage. Reading through the flyer it claims to counter everything from DVT, a compromised immune system and jet lag – essentially hydration and vitamin replacement. So when you arrive at your destination you can hit the ground running more than if you hadn’t had a swig of 1Above.

Having some time to kill I had a chat with the sales rep and a few shots of the stuff. Nothing amazing but nothing horrible either. I guess you’re not really drinking it for a sugar buzz or to satisfy your taste buds. What I found interesting is the suggested drinking schedule. [ doing a quick google when compiling this post, Siouxsie Wiles on Sciblogs had the exact experience and basically summed up my thoughts as well]. I required at least 2.2L for my flight to Singapore. If I remember rightly the aerotonic comes in max 1L BPA-free bottle (quite styley). While I give them points for actually having a canteen type vessel with a built in cup meant obviously to be used again, I really can’t see my self buying at least three of these things to carry on board to fulfill my suggested schedule. Instead I boarded with my 500mL Powerade which  I refilled with good ole H2O throughout the duration of the flight.

Strangely (or maybe not given how they play up the jargon in their marketing) I (or Siouxsie Wiles ) cannot find any trial data to back up their claims.

Despite these issues I still saw several people on my flight who shelled out NZ$6.50 to purchase one.






Graeme @