If life had worked out differently, IBM New Zealand managing director Jennifer Moxon would have been writing about companies rather than leading them.
That’s because Moxon trained as a journalist in her birthplace, England.
She and her family emigrated to New Zealand in the early 70s, but she felt unsettled and headed back to the UK after completing high school.
“I went to journalism school in London. I completed the course and wanted to be a reporter. It was only by accident I fell into IT.”
While at university, she worked part-time at IBM UK during the holiday study break.
“It so happened that they asked me if I would be interested in joining them full-time.”
In 1983, she did just that. Although she has taken a couple of breaks from the vendor over the years, Moxon has held a variety of roles in New Zealand and Australia since the 1990s.
“All of my roles at IBM New Zealand had some significant input in terms of my next role. The roles have always been externally orientated and I see that [continuing] into the future.”
From 1997 to 2000 she was IBM NZ’s South Island manager in Christchurch, a personal highlight for Moxon.
“We were managing and motivating a group of people to lead the business. We experienced significant growth in the market and I had a client set that was very wide. It spanned a number of different industries from seafood to cheese processing. I did enjoy that diversity.”
Moxon moved to Sydney in 2000 to join IBM Australia and worked as a telecommunications client director, then director of the distribution and industrial sector.
“The span of control that you have in the South Island is very different to when you move into a new role in Sydney. I would describe that role as a big fish in a small pond, moving to a small fish in a big pond. You do need to establish your credibility from scratch in Sydney.”
She was able to do that at what she calls an “accelerated pace” with the two director roles.
Moxon adds the local business has changed since her return in April 2009 to take the position of managing director.
“We’ve become integrated as a global enterprise and there has been the advent of the internet. When I left Christchurch we were a very product-centric company and now we’ve moved into the high value services part of our business.”
As a consequence, she says the vendor is having “very different conversations” with customers.
Taking the opportunity to meet IBM’s partners has been important for Moxon.
“They [business partners] are an important part of the IBM family in the community. Last year, our revenue grew double digits as a result of our performance from business partners. They cover all aspects of our business from infrastructure through to services.”
She is looking forward to judging the IBM Business Partner Awards in November.
“The future of our business partners forms an important part of our growth. As we’ve moved out of the low value parts of our business to the high value services segments, we continue to look at ways that we can work with our business partners to improve the way we are delivering value to our clients.”
Moxon says in the economic downturn she has seen at first-hand a drive by customers to reduce costs, transform infrastructure and drive innovation.
“There is a real role for our business partners to work alongside IBM, to work with our clients on innovative solutions to address their problems.”
Another consequence of the economic downturn is a large UK expatriate base at IBM in New Zealand.
“When I walked back into IBM in Wellington, I thought `Gee, is this IBM UK’?. It is great as we are getting access to some very good skills and resources.”
Moxon’s husband is a born and bred Wellingtonian, which is why she is based in the capital.
“The decision to move to Wellington was personal rather than professional. It wasn’t a major adjustment [moving from Sydney], but it is quite nice to be able to walk in the city of Wellington without having to get in a car.”
Moxon adds now is a great time to be leading a company like IBM.
“In these economic times our clients are really looking at companies such as IBM to help them drive costs out of their business and improve their business models. IBM has the breadth and capability to help our customers.”
According to Moxon, the vendor is working to achieve this through its Smarter Planet programme that aims to use IBM technology to help companies.
“On a global basis as part of our smart planet vision, we’re helping health agencies around the world improve the way they deliver health care to consumers. Moving forward, we’re looking at leveraging our capability and global expertise in a lot of those areas and how we can contribute and be relevant in terms of New Zealand’s desire to be a lot more productive.”
She is also excited about IBM’s recent partnership with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). The vendor sold NIWA a $12.7 million supercomputer to help with environmental forecasting.
“One of things it [the partnership] does demonstrate is the benefits of bringing research and science together with a private enterprise and the benefits that can deliver New Zealand moving forward. NIWA will have access to global research scientists who are working around weather modelling.”
Away from work, Moxon competes in triathlons, plays the piano, loves to travel and is an avid Crusaders’ supporter.
“My husband supports the Hurricanes, so we have some interesting discussions.”