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Young alumni

Kohan McNab

24 July 2023

BCOM / LLB, 2011


Digital Solution Delivery Manager at Zespri International

You studied Law and Management at UC, what are you doing now?

Based in Singapore since 2017, I have recently joined the New Zealand Kiwifruit co-op, Zespri in their Singapore office. I’m focussed on aiding delivery technology and an organisation transformation project, concentrating on the Asia Pacific and emerging markets regions.

Zespri is an innovative kiwi company with a global scope, so it’s an exciting time to be joining the team. Coming from a farm in Canterbury it’s great to be able to be a part of Aotearoa’s primary industry while continuing to live in Singapore - it’s definitely not an opportunity I ever thought I would get!

This is a fairly new role for you, what has it been like starting a new job in this current climate?

It’s been strange – after more than 2 months with the company I’m still waiting to set foot inside a Zespri office! The recruiting and on-boarding process was all virtual, and with the current travel restrictions and social distancing rules, I’m yet to meet most of the team face to face. But other than being a little unusual, it’s been a pretty flawless process. I actually think it played to my advantage in some ways as everyone is very used to sitting down for video calls, so team members across the world have been really accommodating about speaking virtually and helping on-board me. That gave me a chance to do a lot of one on one learning about Zespri and how we operate in different markets that I might not have got the opportunity to do if everyone was busy in their respective offices. Having said that, I am definitely looking forward to being able to meet the team in person and hopefully visit some kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand.

Was working internationally always the plan?

Yes absolutely. During my time at UC I was lucky enough to be influenced by staff and faculty who stressed the importance of international experience and cross-cultural competency – an idea that’s been emphasised by some of the protest movements around the world this year.

I was lucky enough to be able to study for a semester on exchange at the University of Sheffield in the UK which was a fantastic time. Once I graduated, I knew I wanted to enter a career that gave me an opportunity to work internationally – but I wasn’t particularly clued up as to what that might be.

So, it was a result of some good advice from fellow UC grads and quite a lot of good luck that I ended up joining the Deloitte Management Consulting graduate program. I ended up working on projects in 8 or 9 different countries across Asia and Australasia, including relocating with Jade (my then girlfriend, now wife) to Singapore in 2017. These projects, focused on strategy development and organisation transformation, gave me practical experience across a range of different cultures which ultimately helped me land my current role at Zespri.

How has your time at UC shaped where you are today?

I think a unique aspect of UC is its practical nature. Universities are sometimes seen as just places for talking and thinking, but I came across a lot of ‘do-ers’ at UC. By that I mean students and staff who are at the university in order to contribute in their community.  I was encouraged to volunteer at the Community Law Centre, was involved in practical projects with local small businesses and charities, helped organise and run student events and services with the UCSA, and got involved in the earthquake response with the Student Volunteer Army. Because of this focus on applying your knowledge in your community, studying at UC felt like a practical experience rather than a theoretical one. That’s an approach I try and maintain in my work now.

If you could recommend one ‘must do’ in Singapore, what would it be?

With travel restrictions being in place since March, we have been doing a lot of exploring of Singapore – with over 5.7 million people in a country less than half the size of Rakiura | Stewart Island, it’s lucky there’s plenty to do. For a first-time visitor, I would recommend catching the sunset from the restaurant 57 floors up, on the roof of the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. In one direction you look over Gardens by the Bay to the Singapore Strait and the Indonesian islands - while in the other direction you have a great view of the sun setting over the super modern Singapore CBD and the historic public housing blocks, right up to the remaining jungle in the nature reserves. It’s pretty unique!

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