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Student Develops Degree In Future Thinking

Student Develops Degree In Future Thinking

An ambitious and driven engineer-turned-development manager has found his niche with a small Kiwi development consultancy company that punches well above its weight.

University of Auckland MBA student and civil engineer Tim Woods is also competitive – but not in it for the glory. He is a project and development manager for Greenstone Group, a firm on the verge of completing New Zealand’s largest retail development, Te Awa, for Tainui Group Holdings (TGH). Woods joined Greenstone in 2006 – after approaching them from the street.

With an honours degree completed and the MBA at the back of his mind, Woods’ OE had quickly taken him on a career fast-track. He went from consulting to construction management, to project management. He was head-hunted by AMEC, a listed high-performing multi-national.

His manager at AMEC wasn’t sure what bit him when Woods convinced him to let him “have a crack” at the burgeoning Heathrow Terminal 5. Woods cracked more than a few contracts, which led to a self-sustaining business unit within four years.

But Woods, a keen surfer, fisherman, free-diver and lover-of-salt-water, was the kind of man who belonged in New Zealand. He returned and sought a company which would provide the career growth he desired. He also wittingly targeted one which mirrored his own values. According to him, Greenstone truly strives to succeed for its clients, and values relationships long-term. It has just 20 employees.

Woods very deliberately put his foot in the door at Greenstone, and together they worked out a career path that would suit. He got to work, and remembered he’d been thinking about the University of Auckland MBA.

As an engineer, Woods says he had a very analytical approach to business and problem solving.

“Part of the reason for enrolling in the MBA was to train and develop different approaches,” he says.

In development management, owners and developers of land or holdings often don’t know they have a problem. It’s Woods’ job to analyse and solve, get the projects off the ground, and often get involved with finance and marketing.

He says it has been a pleasure to work on the Te Awa project with TGH, which is operated with the professionalism and reporting of a listed company. Woods also admires TGH’s business values.

“They’re thinking about the next generation,” he says.

In particular, Woods’ interactions with general manager Nathan York had a major influence on his decision to, finally, enrol in the MBA. He respected York’s approach to business, attention to business relationships, and identified York’s MBA study as a defining factor.

The MBA has solidified Woods’ thinking about his own career goals.

“I now know I have career goals for the right reasons, instead of because I thought it was the right thing to do.”

His reason is, pure and simple, to make a difference, for New Zealand.

“New Zealand is slipping down the OECD rankings very fast. In my view, we’re complacent about that.

“We need more people who are educated at a high level and seek to make a difference in this country.

“Being such an isolated country, we can be complacent with where we do sit. The world is becoming a global economy. We’re going to have to face reality at some point.

“The MBA plays a part in educating our business leaders of today and tomorrow so they understand the importance of competing and aligning with other markets - Asia, for example.”

The MBA gave Woods a solid network from the student cohort, and some “really steep learning curves – it’s been very beneficial. It’s a massive commitment, and it’s quite a selfless commitment.”
But it needs to be done for the right reasons, he says.

“You can’t be half hooked into it.”

It’s possible Woods has a baited fish hook, the deep blue sea and a long horizon on his mind – he’s nearing the end of his study, and he is looking forward to reclaiming some leisure time.

It’s certain that the horizon, and what’s beyond it, will always be in Woods’ mind as he looks to the future. He talks about the MBA in the realm of “soul searching”.

“It’s not all career oriented. It does shape the way you think outside of work as well - it does make you question your values and the importance of them.”

Woods graduates early next year, and is likely to spend more than the next few having a crack at making a big difference for the future of New Zealand.

The University of Auckland Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) has intakes in January and June each year, and welcomes applications from SME leaders. Find out more at


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