Hurling yourself out of a plane might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for MPA channel manager Deidre Steyn it is just one of a number of extreme sports she enjoys.
“I am into quad biking, sky diving and jetboating. I also enjoy keeping fit with army-style boot camps.”
She has even kayaked to Rangitoto Island and back. “If it’s extreme and a bit of a stretch then I am there.”
The next thing she wants to try is sky diving in Queenstown this summer.
Her enthusiasm proved infectious at distributor MPA, where she has been the channel manager since late 2007, with a company team now taking part in the Auckland Half Ironman annually.
“Each person gets an event and mine is cycling. We switch roles so one year a person will have to do swimming and the next year running. Because I am a physical person, bringing this into the business is fun, because it builds a better team.”
Steyn is also a self-confessed animal lover who supports the World Wildlife Fund and volunteers at the SPCA.
“I have sponsored a kiwi in Rotorua and helped out at the bird sanctuary on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Animals don’t have a voice so people need to be the voice for them.”
A South African, Steyn began her working life in the finance sector there, having obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree with majors in marketing and communications from the University of Johannesburg.
Her next step was an OE in London, where she worked in marketing. “It was good to learn how to stand on my own two feet,” says Steyn of her first experience being away from home.
She returned to South Africa to work for financial services firm Old Mutual, spending the next five years as a consultant, managing a team of financial advisers.
Steyn was prompted to move to New Zealand after she and her partner were caught up in a robbery in Johannesburg in 2006, and three months later they arrived in Auckland.
Having spent nearly three years at MPA, she says she fits in well at the firm.
“They are a driven business and [the company] has been going for a while, but there is a good place for me. [I have] a different vision of doing things, such as rebranding the company.”
Steyn says she always knew she would end up working in IT because of her interest in technology, but learned a lot while working in finance and marketing.
“It is still business, whether it is a massive building or a $40 million investment deal, and it comes down to managing people, managing expectations and doing what you say you will.”
Steyn says her family background also helped when she moved to a new industry. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs because in South Africa we owned factories. I grew up with business and I have a passion for it.”
She says an important aspect of her role is understanding who the customers are and what they want from you.
“It is not only understanding what our reseller fraternity wants, but also what the end user wants. That is because we need to have the type of technology that the end user will buy and that the resellers will be interested in.”
Steyn maintains a busy travel schedule, both for business and for leisure. Every second week she flies to Wellington and once a quarter she heads to Christchurch to see customers.
Outside work, she and her partner travel regularly, with recent trip destinations including some Pacific Islands and Dubai.
“It was easy to settle in here. The nice thing about New Zealand is there is an opportunity for driven, successful women to go far within the market, because it was the first country to give women the vote and there have been two female prime ministers.”
Steyn enjoys being part of a company where she is able to create change.
“Within MPA, your voice can be heard and ideas implemented,” she says.
One of these ideas was to revamp the company’s website and scrutinise the distributor’s business.
“We realised that most of the business we place through the channel is with the top 250 businesses. Those companies are based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.”
She says MPA has a 10-year plan. “We are putting a customer intimacy programme in place. We want to position MPA as the expert, but still using the channel to sell through.”