General Manager Supply Chain, Facilities & Sustainbility - Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.
While growing up on a farm is often acknowledged as fostering a healthy outdoors lifestyle, gaining a wide range of skills and experiences at an early age can also be particularly valuable for later career success.
Jonti Rhodes can testify to this. His upbringing on a farm in the Bay of Islands, Northland was about as perfect as it was possible to get for an adventurous youngster who enjoyed getting his hands dirty.
At eight his father gave him permission to buy his first motorbike (but insisted that he work to earn 50% of the purchase price mowing lawns), allowed him to use the chainsaw to cut up firewood at 10, drive a car (on the farm) at 12, which the two of them rebuilt from the ground up, and importantly encouraged his young son to be a curious, independent thinker.
As it would turn out, it was an ideal upbringing for a future career in logistics and supply chain management; not that Jonti knew it at the time.
“Like most people, I owe a huge amount to my parents. From an early age they encouraged me to participate in every activity possible and experience everything on offer including sports, drama, music, cultural activities as well as meeting people from all walks of life and places around the world. I still can’t believe how much freedom they gave me from a young age!”
Telling his careers advisor at Kerikeri High that he planned to become a farmer, Jonti says he was surprised to be told she had other plans for him having already identified a potential scholarship he could apply for to study engineering.
As it turns out, it was good advice; and he secured the scholarship.
“I’m very grateful I was persuaded to go down the engineering path. Growing up I preferred binary outcomes, black & white, right and wrong answers and as such I naturally gravitated to the maths and science based subjects, so engineering was a very good fit with the way I thought about things. It’s a good example of how good advice can be so pivotal at certain points in your life.”
Joining Fisher & Paykel Healthcare in 2007 as a Trainee Design Engineer, 11 years later F&P remains the sole entry on his CV.
“I started out working in a quality assurance project that was supposed to last six months but ended up lasting four years, including a period of time being based in the U.S. I’ve also made a point of not being afraid to take on the shitty jobs others aren’t so keen on. I’ve found it’s a great way to learn as you go.”
Ambitious for his career from the get go, Jonti told his boss shortly after joining the company in a graduate role that he wanted to be part of the company’s senior leadership team by the time he was 30.
Impressively, he managed to achieve this goal with a month to spare; including spending time completing an MBA along the way.
“For me, choosing Auckland for my MBA was easy. I wanted an internationally recognized qualification that would stretch me personally on an academic front but more importantly offer the international business, strategic, fiscal and leadership skillset that I needed to develop if I wanted to achieve my goals as a senior leader at F&P.
After researching all options both here in NZ and off shore the MBA programme allowed me the opportunity to expand my critical thinking with an international business hat on which is essential in a company like F&P that exports 99% of what it makes internationally.”
Jonti says the resulting network that came from doing the MBA has also proven to be beneficial.
“The classes were small enough for everyone to get to know one another and as a result I developed a very tight knit group of friends and professional contacts who I connect with regularly .”
And it seems that one line entry on Jonti’s CV isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
“Ever since I joined F&P the opportunities have just kept coming. In fact, I have so much respect for the team I work with and really enjoy the F&P culture I just can’t see myself leaving.”