It has been two years since the launch of our 2013 TalentNZ Journal. To mark this anniversary, each day over the next month we will share an interview with one of the 30 kiwis and provide an update on where they are now.

Today we share Michael O’Donnell’s full interview which you can read here.

Mike O'Donnell

Two years on, we checked in with Michael O’Donnell and asked him four questions about what he has been doing since we published the journal. You can read Michael’s responses below.

1. Two years on I am
I have become the executive director of NZ G2G KnowHow – a government-owned company charged with marketing and selling New Zealand’s public sector capability to foreign governments. It’s a start-up affair so its been a roller coaster ride of wins and learnings, doing deals, offending some people and delighting others. But we’ve got a solid year of progress behind us and a truckload of opportunity in front of us. On a personal front this has seen me just about wear out my passport, so I owe my family big thanks for being flexible. I’ve also invested in and become a director of two awesome New Zealand SaaS startups – RayGun and Timely.

2. Recent thoughts on how to build a talent-based economy
The last year has emphasised how important it is to hire people smarter than you, give them a firm idea of what success looks like, empower them to get on with the job and try to clear roadblocks for them. Smart people who can execute like hell are the building blocks of growth – God bless them!

3. Books, research and talks that have shaped my thinking
Clayton Christiansen’s thoughts around disruptive innovation, Traction by Gabriel Weinberg – fantastic real world advice on 21st century marketing and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Also, I have been struck by the growth of ‘on demand’ cloud-based service businesses. The next big thing perhaps? Still waiting for the web to become more like elegant lego for businesses, but it is slowly happening.

4. Any additional thoughts for young people?
Consider your epitaph – how you want to be remembered by people that you value and love. Then work backwards and ask yourself, ‘how am I tracking towards that?’ Don’t shy away from people that push you hard, so long as they do it with grace. Graceless people are toxic to your growth. Remember, Socrates got it right when he said ‘we are what we repeatedly do’.

Connect with TalentNZ
We want to build New Zealand’s talent-based economy. If you want to join us on this journey, please connect with TalentNZBy connecting you will receive our monthly TalentNZ newsletter, which outlines recent developments, research and resources related to creating a talent-based economy, and which keeps you informed about upcoming TalentNZ events. Please also share this link with anyone you think may be interested.

TalentNZ Journal: Grow talent edition
We are currently in the planning and research stages of our 2016 TalentNZ Journal: Grow talent edition. The journal will illustrate grassroots initiatives that New Zealanders are doing to grow talent. Our focus is on encouraging innovative ways to develop talent across New Zealand. The Grow talent edition will be the second edition in our TalentNZ Journal series.

About TalentNZ
The 2013 TalentNZ Journal is part of our TalentNZ project. TalentNZ is designed to facilitate a structured discussion on how to make New Zealand’s talent-based economy flourish. The Journal features interviews with 30 Kiwis, essays from contributing writers and data with a focus on cities and the economy. The 2013 Journal, and in particular the 30 interviews, showed us that by managing the four integrated work-streams – grow, attract, retain and connect – New Zealand is more likely to become a healthy, dynamic and interesting place to live in the long-term. TalentNZ builds on Sir Paul Callaghan’s vision of making New Zealand ‘a place where talent wants to live’. Sir Paul outlined the reasons why his vision is important in a 20-minute video at the Institute’s StrategyNZ workshop in 2011. To learn more about the TalentNZ project see

If you have any questions about the TalentNZ project, please contact us at