Frances Brown was no stranger to Japan when she took up the Foundation’s opportunity to intern at the Kyushu Railway Company in 2009.
Frances had previously taken part in a high school exchange in Japan, and spent time teaching English there, but wanted a sense of what it was like working inside a traditional Japanese business.
“The internship provided an opportunity to see the inner-workings of a traditional hierarchical Japanese corporation - how they blend complex cultural requirements such as the ringi system of team-wide approval of decision-making across a typically Western structure with multiple corporate divisions. You can learn about these things in class but seeing them in practice is something else.”
When she returned to New Zealand, Frances joined the Leadership Network, and from there her understanding of the rest of Asia expanded.
“I attended a Track II dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2014), and a Leadership Network hui in Xi’an, China (2015) – my first time to visit both those countries.
“These experiences really opened my eyes to the scale and possibilities of the vibrant and complicated group of ASEAN countries, that are often overlooked by New Zealanders in favour of China or Japan, and the immense reality of China.
“I still remember the frank insights that we got in that hui – nothing beats seeing and hearing things in person. It made me realise how much of an echo chamber I operated in at home in New Zealand.”
Frances now works at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, where she supports New Zealand businesses to export internationally.
“My current role requires knowledge of international markets – and without the experiences Asia New Zealand Foundation has offered me over the years to build this knowledge, I don’t know that I would have progressed into this role.”
Frances says her highlight in all of that though, has been the Leadership Network itself: “The great friends I have made from a group of like-minded people – some of the best friends in my life I met through the Network and I continue to laugh and learn with them.”