May 16th, 2012
Mike Paranihi is a New Zealand-born director of a $US40 billion, 60,000-employee, US-based multi-national. He manages a global team, with responsibility for multi-million dollar international projects and customers. Nothing so special in that – Kiwis are doing high powered jobs all over the world. What is amazing is that Mike lives not in California (company HQ), not in London nor in an Asian hub. Mike lives in Auckland.
Yes. Mike is the ultimate remote worker. During the day he’s Director IS for Cisco Systems, using a high-tech mix of internet-based communication to lead a globally-distributed team. Then in the evenings and weekends he’s a Maori father of four, giving his children the kind of Kiwi kid lifestyle he and his wife had – and loved.
It all started in 2005 when Mike, then working for Cisco in London, decided he wanted to bring his family home. The company which – conveniently – specialises in networking, voice, and communications technology and services, was supportive, and Mike started to work out how he could use Cisco expertise and products to do his job from the other side of the world. It worked. Mike has continued a successful corporate career from New Zealand and was appointed a director in 2008. Best of all, he doesn’t spend half his life travelling – some grunty technology makes it possible to do the vast majority of his work with clients and his team via video links. (In fact, he lost his Gold status on Air New Zealand more than three years ago!)
Mike’s typical day starts at 5am or 6am (8am or 9am in San Jose) with a virtual meeting from his home office via high definition screen and camera. Once at work, there is web conferencing and video conferencing to connect with his team and clients. Cisco Auckland has three of the company’s 1000 or so international TelePresence conference suites. The biggest of the three is fitted out with exactly the same furnishings as the others worldwide (for continuity), and has three huge high-definition screens showing life-size pictures of participants. It brings virtual meetings as close as possible to the real thing, Mike says.
“It works really well. I can see them talking to me and, let’s say they are telling me about a problem, I can tell from their body language if it’s a big or a small problem. Another example – I used to deal with a Vice President who was notorious for rolling his eyes if he found a presentation uninteresting. I always made sure I was working in front of a video so I could tell how he was taking it.”
Video is good for client presentations too, Mike says. Instead of flying people across the world, the company brings customers into a Cisco Telepresence unit and uses video links to connect them to the relevant top San Jose or globally-distributed team member.
Next step for New Zealand, says Mike, is Ultra-Fast Broadband. If the country as a whole wants to take advantage of the economic productivity gains Cisco gets from using its communications networks, our companies need access to fast fibre, he says. “I have friends who own or manage companies in New Zealand. Without Ultra-Fast Broadband, video conferencing just isn’t high quality enough yet, so they can’t see the benefits. UFB is going to be critical to allowing companies in the digital era to expand and grow and innovate. It will be the driver for productivity.”