As a young girl Kelly Eyerman wanted to be an explorer, and in a sense she has done just that. The senior business manager of distributor Ingram Micro’s Apple division grew up in Oregon and has since lived in other parts of the US and Europe before coming to New Zealand in 2007.
She had always been attracted to the prospect of travelling, so jumped at the chance to take a place in a high school exchange programme to France. Later she put her French-speaking skills to use with two summer internships at Ingram Industries (now Ingram Micro) in Belgium in 1990 and 1991.
“I was doing a business degree along with French literature [at the University of Oregon] and they had the internship in Brussels – [I was offered it] more because of my business studies and because I spoke French.”
Eyerman returned in the US in 1992 to work full-time with Ingram, but a holiday here a decade later with her husband Christian sparked a major life change.
Touring around Wanaka in the South Island, the couple decided they would one day live in New Zealand. In 2007, Eyerman realised that dream and began working for Ingram’s branch here the following year.
The couple originally planned to sail to New Zealand after buying a boat when living in Seattle, but Eyerman’s pregnancy with twins put paid to that.
“We sold the boat and got on a plane instead,” she says.
The family’s first home in New Zealand was in Motueka, near Nelson, but they have now settled on a lifestyle block near Kumeu northwest of Auckland.
“I loved living in Europe in my early 20s, but now with a family, New Zealand is the best life,” she says.
Having experienced a variety of cultures, she sees a closer relationship between the way New Zealanders live and work and how business is carried out in Europe, than she does with the culture in her homeland.
“New Zealand is a community and in [the IT] industry I see a lot of similarities with Europe. There is a high standard of work ethic here that I admire. But Kiwis work to live whereas in the States, they live to work. I like this ‘European-like’ style and it fits into my goal of having more work/life balance.”
After nearly 20 years with Ingram, Eyerman has seen major changes take place in the company. One that stands out is the establishment of the logistics business at the heart of its business model today.
“In 2000 when the dotcom crash happened we had extra warehouse space and started a third party logistics operation. We were paying for space that wasn’t being used at high capacity and we saw it as a great opportunity to offer our services to other companies, such as Microsoft, which took its retail business direct in 2000.”
She has also observed significant change in the wider IT industry, saying being with Ingram Micro is the best place to witness such change.
“Being in distribution gives you a birds’ eye view of the industry. From reseller partners to vendors, you get to see what’s going on.”
Eyerman stresses the importance of keeping up with technology movements to keep the channel successful.
“The technology is changing so quickly, you really need to be on top of your game to work with the vendors taking products to market and helping the resellers see how they can change and grow their businesses.”
As well as a passion for the dynamic nature of IT, Eyerman is enthusiastic the purchasing side of her role, which also spans marketing and sales.
“When first choosing whether to go into marketing or purchasing, I had to think about how [my career] aligned with my personality,” she says.
“While it seemed I liked marketing better, I found that a purchasing role would suit me as it was more around the numbers – which never lie.”
Last month, Eyerman took on leadership of the Apple division Ingram Micro established when it became the second local distributor for the brand alongside Renaissance.
The role is familiar territory for her, having been business unit director for the company’s US Mac division, where she oversaw purchasing, marketing and sales. She also worked in the US company’s logistics division, managing supply chain management for the Apple brand.
She says there no typical daily routine now she has taken on the new role, but even with the change she aims to put customer service first.
“If customers are treated right, you will be successful, I always go for the win-win solution.”
The couple’s twins Trystan and Megan are now six years old, and they take up a lot of Eyerman’s time outside work. She also manages to find time for gardening and to play golf, go swimming and do yoga. She used to be a surfer, but rarely gets the board out these days.
“When I am home, I focus on the family. I also have some help with the housekeeping and a very supportive husband. We have a lot of fun together and absolutely love living and working here in New Zealand.”