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Griffin on Tech: Look after your people… and they'll look after you

Peter Griffin, Editor. 20 August 2021, 5:15 pm

It was the eve of the latest Covid-19 lockdown and Sir Ian Taylor was wondering how on Earth he was going to deliver his company's Virtual Eye golf graphics for a tournament on the other side of the world this weekend.

Sir Ian, the founder of Dunedin-based Animation Research and a past President of the Institute of IT Professionals NZ, was out of phone range when the Prime Minister announced we would go into lockdown from 11.59pm on Tuesday night.

But when he did reach his team, his mind was immediately put at ease. 

"By the time I came back into range three members of our remote golf operation team had turned our offices into their flat (their bubble) so they could continue to deliver our Virtual Eye golf graphics remotely to our overseas clients so our Lockdown in NZ did not impact their global coverage this weekend," Sir Ian recounted on Linkedin this week.

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Animation Research is a graphics pioneer, delivering graphics for TV coverage to some of the biggest sports tournaments in the world - directly from the office in Dunedin, a method Sir Ian's team perfected through necessity due to last year's border closures and lockdowns.

But Sir Ian never took it for granted that key people required to get the job done would opt to camp out in the office to keep the show running.

"How easy would it have been for them to just take the days off at home ... but it never even occurred to them," he wrote.

It's a testament to the culture at one of our most innovative tech companies and the respect the team there has for Sir Ian. That respect runs well beyond Dunedin too, as evidenced by another Linkedin post Sir Ian penned that last week sparked a bizarre and mean-spirited attack by businessman and Hurricanes rugby franchise shareholder Troy Bowker.

Sir Ian had posted a clever Tom Scott cartoon showing Captain Cook's Endeavour alongside a twin-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe. The caption read: "How come NZ excels on the water in yachting, rowing, kayaking etc? Answer: Our ancestral DNA!"

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Bedding down: the Animation Research team's makeshift lodgings 

The cartoon and Ian's endorsement of it were what most people took them for - expressions of pride in our athletes who had achieved so much on the water at the Olympics and appreciation for how Maori and European cultures can inform and reinforce each other.

But Bowker's response?

"Another example of European NZers not being proud of their own ancestors and sucking up to the left Māori loving agenda. FFS. Wake up NZ," he commented on Sir Ian's post, clearly ignorant of the fact that Sir Ian is of Māori heritage himself.

Before the week was out, Bowker was on the way to divesting his Hurricanes shareholding and had removed his LinkedIn account and website. If people didn't know who Troy Bowker was before, they do now, and for all the wrong reasons.

There's a lesson there for Bowker and for all of us. Treating people with respect matters. 

Who knows how long this lockdown and the next ones will last. But one thing is clear, we'll require more patience, more empathy and mutual understanding than ever to help each other through these trying times as we try to keep our professional and family lives on track. If we are willing to offer it, we will receive it in return.

We all have a role to play in fostering the culture that will help us emerge from this pandemic in good shape.

As Sir Ian signed off his Linkedin post this week: 

Mā pango, mā whero ka oti ai te mahi.

Working together we can get this done.


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