World class who?

Do you know who Claudia Batten, Andrew Adamson, Neville Jordan,Dr Catherine Mohr  and Dr Murray Brennan are?

They were honoured at the 2014 World Class New Zealand Awards last week but I suspect most of us know little about the awards, or those who won them.

. . . digital entrepreneur Claudia Batten was named the youngest ever Supreme Award winner.

Ms Batten, 39, stood out as not only a serial entrepreneur but also for her “degree of engagement” in supporting other Kiwis in the start-up scene, according to one of the judges, Phil Veal.

“She’d achieved a remarkable measure of success but she had actively in the last several years been engaged in giving back to New Zealand,” Mr Veal said.

Colorado-based Ms Batten, who began her career in commercial law, was a founding member of two highly successful entrepreneurial ventures.

Others recognised included Andrew Adamson, director of the animated box office hit Shrek, who flew from Russia to receive his award for services to the creative sector.

Multi-millionaire Wellington businessman-turned-investor Neville Jordan accepted his award for services to business and investment.

Surgical robotics technologist Dr Catherine Mohr was recognised for her global impact on life sciences and renowned surgical oncologist Dr Murray Brennan was awarded for his contributions to research.

World Class New Zealand also acknowledged the substantial impact American technology entrepreneur and Kiwi Landing Pad director Craig Elliott has had on New Zealand’s standing in America’s tech world, announcing him this year’s Friend of New Zealand.

The awards, established by Kea (Kiwi Expatriates Association) New Zealand in 2003, include among past winners former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Don McKinnon, fashion entrepreneur Peri Drysdale and physicist Sir Paul Callaghan, who was recognised posthumously in 2012.

Kea New Zealand global chief executive Craig Donaldson said last night’s winners were saluted for taking flight and creating global success against all odds.

“Their success has been earned in workplaces far less glamorous than the world-famous sports fields and concert stages but their contribution to our country is immense and should be widely promoted to inspire others to dream big.”

Had they won on sports fields or concert stages we’d probably know more about them.

But success in business and science usually take place below the popular radar.

Mr Donaldson said the awards played a vital role in recognising “tall poppies”, particularly when New Zealanders were not confident at promoting their successes.

“There are so many amazing Kiwis around the world who have done world-class things but none of us have heard about them.” . . .

More’s the pity.

Success in business, science and any other positive field of endeavour should be celebrated the way successes in sport and the arts are.

This year’s judges included Sir Tipene O’Regan, Professor Margaret Brimble, Dr Craig Nevill-Manning, Peri Drysdale, Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas and Jon Mayson.

Q & A The Herald asked the six winners the same set of questions:

1. Was there a specific moment or turning point that helped launch your career? What drove you to make the choices you made?
2. In your opinion, is there something special that sets Kiwis apart or helps Kiwis succeed on the world stage?
3. What can New Zealanders do better to improve their chances of success overseas?
4. Which one New Zealander do you feel epitomises the Kiwi attitude to success and why?
5. What does being a World Class New Zealander mean to you?
6. Sum up your career in 10 words or less.

Answers include:

Dr Murray Brennan . . .

3. Having your own vision is important, but equally so is the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes and see the opportunities that they see. It may be a given, but hard work isn’t just an important factor in success, it’s inevitable. . .

5. A deep feeling of gratitude. While I have been recognised in other parts of the world for my work, to be honoured with this award here in New Zealand by such an esteemed group of judges is a special milestone.

6. Otago education, serendipity, hard work, tenacity, vision, next generation investment.

Dr Catherine Mohr . . .

3. Our greatest strengths are often the source of vulnerabilities as well. The very dauntless attitude that leads Kiwis to take on anything, can lead to a tendency to reinvent when it might be better to adapt, or to change what is there currently, when it may be better to simply move forward. . . 

5. As a New Zealander who largely grew up away from New Zealand, being a Kiwi has always been an anchor of my identity. I felt great pride to be a part of this community. It is an incredible honour to be receiving this award. It is like being welcomed home.

6. Finding ways to use technology to improve the human condition.

Neville Jordan . . .

3. Understand their place in the world and behave as a world citizen. . .

5. It provides a quiet space within; to reflect on and about all those who have helped me along the way.

6. Vision, courage and stamina.

Claudia Batten . . . 

3. We have to realise that when we step on to the world stage there is another code, another set of rules, and learn them. I think we can be a little naive; a little too “smell of the oily rag”.

4. Maybe it’s human nature to want to hear about soap stars and athletes. I find it repetitive and uninspired. We should talk about the Sarah Robb O’Hagans, Victoria Ransoms, Greg Crosses, Jonty Kelts and Guy Horrocks a lot more than we do every one of them pushing boundaries and setting new standards internationally.

5. As Kiwis on the world stage we have an obligation to represent all the positives that people associate with New Zealanders and then take it to another level. We need to be out there setting the groundwork so that others can have a slightly less bumpy road as they come in behind us.

6. A squiggly line!

Craig Elliott . . .

3. New Zealanders should not be afraid to raise their hands and tell the world about their good ideas. . . .

5. Being an “American” World Class New Zealander allows me to help more New Zealand entrepreneurs and serve as their network into Silicon Valley. Any way I can bring attention to the innovation in New Zealand is fantastic and I’m honoured to be able to help.

6. Farm boy turned high tech CEO/fly fisherman.

 This refers to those who’ve been awarded Queen’s Birthday honours, but it applies equally to these people and the many others most of us don’t know who make a positive difference every day:

It’s important that we recognise those who make a difference in our communities.

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