Breaking into the Boardroom: Vicky Taylor
- Vehicle Testing New Zealand
- Landcare Research
- CarbonZero Holdings (a subsidiary of Landcare Research) and chairwoman of the new company called Enviro-Mark Solutions
- SpringBoard co-founder
Executive career: General manager of the Smartfoods food manufacturing business she owns with her husband Justin Hall, established 10 years ago. Smartfoods makes the Vogel’s range of breakfast cereal. Latest conquest is the launch of the Hillary range of cereals and spreads.
- Country manager New Zealand for Coca-Cola Oceania
- Senior marketing roles for Griffin’s Foods and Goodman Fielder
- Product manager for New Zealand Dairy Foods
Family: Married with two young children
Vicky Taylor holds governance roles in industries very different from food and beverage, where she has spent her career to date.
But the skills and processes gleaned in her blue-chip career path translate well – principles of consumer behaviour apply equally to food and vehicle testing, for example.
“There is lots of cross-pollination of ideas and the strategic discussion complements what I’m doing with other hats on,” she says.
“I’m totally agnostic about what the organisations do. I love getting stuff done and seeing outcomes.
“Having a governance role that is adjacent to your experiences lets you leverage your knowledge in a fresh way; what is standard practice in one industry can be breakthrough for another.”
Her first directorship, on the board of the Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat), was pursued at age 28 as a way to combine her interest in history with giving back to the community.
“I think I got the job because I was the only candidate under 60 and interested in trains,” she says.
When she took her seat around the board table at VTNZ nine years later, she was again surrounded by male, car enthusiasts.
She agrees women bring a different dimension to governance roles and are prepared to have different conversations.
Diversity of age is also important for different perspectives.
“Ultimately though, it’s diversity of thought that’s the key and there are many other important dimensions to diversity that are much harder to measure – appetite for risk, for example.
“It’s very hard, sitting around a table of smart people, to be the one who asks: what about this? Or, have you thought about this? But that’s the key.”
Nurturing next generation directors
Co-founder of the SpringBoard – a not-for-profit group helping to develop the next generation of Kiwi directors – Ms Taylor has a keen interest in nurturing the next generation of director talent.
“There is significant benefit from bringing talented young people into governance early in their career, rather than at the end of their careers, because otherwise you miss big development opportunities.”
She encourages boards to regularly consider what they are doing to help educate young directors.
“Consider the mix on the board and bring on a young director and consider them in long-term planning. It’s as simple as that,” she says.
And for the young candidates, she says being young isn’t enough.
“You need to have real expertise to bring to the table and the ability to communicate it too.”
Vicky Taylor’s tips for aspiring directors include:
- Be really good at your day job and be clear about the value you add
- A board is a very small number of people sitting around a table and you must have a unique voice or you are not adding value
- Have a point of view
- Broaden your skills. Put your hand up to be involved in a project outside your area of expertise to learn the breadth of the organisation
- Start building a network. “I have a fantastic network of people I can call on and ask their thoughts on the best approach to a situation.”
- Consider starting with a not-for-profit, or school board