Kobe-born Kiwi connecting creatives in Asia

Born in Kobe, Japan, and raised in Nelson, new Leadership Network member Fenn Anderson has always had strong connections to Asia and now spends a good chunk of the year in the region working for Nelson-based digital marketing company Shuttlerock.
A head and shoulders photo of Fenn

Fenn: "I consider myself a Kiwi and definitely grew up sitting on the mat listening to stories of how Maui slowed the sun.”

Freshly-inducted Leadership Network member Fenn Anderson says he is always tweaking his “elevator pitch” of what the company he works for, Shuttlerock, does.

“The classic one is: ‘World leader in hand-crafted digital creative’.”

For those of us that don’t follow tech-speak, he breaks it down.

"We combine technology and talented creators to make video ads that go on modern day media platforms."

Imagine a large company has just done an expensive television commercial. They will have spent big dollars bringing the campaign together and will have plenty of raw images and videos from it.

They know they need to make use of social media platforms, whether that be Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or something else. But they often don’t now how. That’s where Shuttlerock comes in.

Staff at Shuttlerock work with images and snatches of video content to craft a fully formed advertisement, matching whatever format has been requested by the client and made to suit that platform’s best practices.

“We are experts in that field, so we can make creative that is engaging and will perform well for those clients.”

Fenn is half of a management duo guiding the international team of creatives that produce this sort of content.

The bulk of the 220-strong team is spread across three studios in Vietnam, Malaysia and India.

Fenn heads north to visit in-person several times a year, estimating that he spends one-quarter of his year in Asia for work.

There’s something special about the vibe in each of the three workspaces, he says.

A group shot of about 20 young people sitting including Fenn

Fenn with the Saigon Shuttlerock team

He describes a converted warehouse in Ho Chi Minh, where staff get from A to B on scooters and small bikes, and house-designed graffiti breaks up the industrial look of the building.

“It’s the spaces themselves but also the people. I love going over there.”

He says he sees “deep-rooted cultural elements” that infuse the company’s offshore offices.

“There’s a group mentality as opposed to an individual mentality like you might experience in a more western mindset. That is something I value and want to encourage”

Fenn was born in Kobe, Japan, the child of globe-trotting parents – his mum, a language teacher, and his dad, a scientist.

The family came to New Zealand when he was three, making a home in Nelson.

“I consider myself a Kiwi and definitely grew up sitting on the mat listening to stories of how Maui slowed the sun.”

But his parents continued to be outward-looking, and Fenn recalls the family being involved with helping refugees settle in the city, and “acquiring a wonderful Vietnamese sister”, who his mum meet through her teaching job.

He says she now feels like a part of the family, having lived with them for a long time.

His mum’s language skills meant Japanese words peppered family conversations, too.

“Dame (pronoucned dah-meh) means ‘no good’ or ‘not allowed’ in Japansese, so I used to get that a lot when I was trying to pinch snacks from the table and that sort of thing...I just thought that was normal, I thought everyone got a ‘dame’ when they were naughty.”

Fenn sitting at a table taking to two women

Fenn says joining the network was about “trying to create opportunities for myself and for others”. (Leadership Network 2023 induction)

Fenn says all this helped him grow up with a healthy intrigue for the Asian region, as well as a feeling of “some kind of relation or similarity or shared experience and perspective” with the peoples calling it home.

He made it a priority to return to Japan as a young adult.

“I always wanted to go back, so did a Japanese uni exchange in Hokkiado when I was in Dunners and then worked there for a few years skiing.

“That was really special.”

As he embarks on a new journey with the Asia New Zealand Foundation, Fenn hopes to carve out opportunities to grow his connections with Asia as well as with other Kiwis who have their sights set on the region .

While Nelson is a “stunning” place to live, networking opportunities can be limited, he says.

Fenn’s wry observation: “I do think there is a level of isolation for an international professional, where everyone is grey-haired, beach-going retirees or young families.”

Joining the network is about “trying to create opportunities for myself and for others”, he says.

He’s excited to continue to develop his own leadership style, which he aims to be caring and consultative.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network equips New Zealand’s next generation of Kiwi leaders to thrive in Asia. We provide members with the connections, knowledge and confidence to lead New Zealand’s future relationship with the region.