I grew up as a brickie from a hardworking trade family. My grandpa was a self-employed metalworker. My dad and one of my uncles are self-employed brickies. My other two uncles are also self-employed – a carpenter and a heritage building designer. My mum and sister are florists… We design and build stuff in my family.
I grew up working with my dad and grandpa in Sydney. When I was 10 we moved to NZ. Rather than double-brick houses, a lot of the demand was for hard landscaping. Dad and I would turn up at a client’s place to quote for a job… sometimes an empty plot of land, sometimes something already there. Dad would discuss ideas with the client, sketching options on whatever was to hand. The design was collaborative and visual. Concepts for paved areas, planters and walls would rapidly emerge. Dad would take measurements and mentally calculate the materials and labour required.
When the client gave the go ahead, the real work started. We would unload paletts of bricks, sand, cement and equipment. I would get Dad setup with a stack of bricks where he needed them, the mud (mortar) mixed and barrowed while Dad started the layout. I’d hurry to get the labouring done so I could get in and lay some bricks but I always knew my primary role was to make sure Dad had what he needed, where he needed it. Anticipation. Making sure the brick stack and mud was within ideal reach, so he could keep up a smooth uninterrupted rhythm. Making sure the pointing and raking out of the joints was done at the right time and the bricks cleaned, so the finished product looked great.
Pretty much all of Dad’s work is from word of mouth referrals. People trust him and look to him for advice. He is respected for great work and fair prices.
What has this got to do with a guy sitting in an office working with strategy, design and technology?
Make the idea real
These experiences shaped what is important to me and my style of work. I need to see and contribute to the vision of what we’re doing before I can get to the details. I can’t make sure things are in the right place at the right time without it. My sense of achievement comes from leaving things better than I found them. It is not enough for me to think and talk about it, I need to get in and do whatever it takes to make the idea real.
Tangible improvements for people
My background has ingrained in me the need for my work to result in something real and tangible that makes peoples’ lives better. I no longer work with my hands, so I don’t build structures and environments that will last for decades. Strategy, design and technology are my media now but I’m still motivated by the desire to deliver tangible improvements for people.
Lead by supporting people
My leadership philosophy and style has been influenced by this background too. I see my primary role as a leader is to support people. At a functional level this involves anticipating needs, understanding changing contexts and removing obstacles so the people around me can get into a smooth uninterrupted rhythm. Because I’m fundamentally motivated by making things better for people, I also do everything I can to make the work life of the people around me more rewarding and fulfilling.
So after all these years and the many different directions I’ve taken my working life, growing up being a brickie’s labourer and laying bricks has shaped my story and what I value. I learnt so much about creating ideas and making them real and I learnt how to work. I carry that with me. These days I’m a digital brickie… building the future.