Education has always been an important part of Tuanz’s mission. When it was first set up, in the 1980s, the goal was to help people in companies using telecommunications to share information and to educate their colleagues about technology.

At the time, such information was hard to find. The Post Office still had a monopoly on telecoms. It was government owned, did little marketing and wasn’t always transparent.

Not long afterwards, the then Government privatised Telecom New Zealand. This meant Tuanz needed to become more of an advocate. But information sharing and education remained important elements of it work. They still are today. The pace of telecommunications and technology change hasn’t slowed. And the blurring of lines between telecommunications and other sectors is greater than ever, as is the reliance on telecoms.

Today, Tuanz shares information and educates members through seminars and training. Our popular After Five sessions keep members informed in an informal, social setting. They update people on the latest trends and give members an opportunity to discuss issues with experts as well as their peers.

When I took over as Tuanz’s chief executive, two years ago, we did a strategic review of the organisation. We looked at who we are, what we are about and where we wanted to go. One gap we noticed was in reaching members who were at the beginning of their career.

We want to develop future leaders in digitally enabled businesses. This doesn’t just mean coders or tech-engineers. We want to help anyone in a commercial enterprise who uses telecommunications and digital technology in their work. We want to give them the experience and understanding they need to build their careers.

There is also another reason for developing this next generation of professionals. I looked at Tuanz’s members and noticed that, as in most other industries, the most active, engaged people have been active for a good while. Audiences at events tend to be older and many of these people have been with Tuanz for many years. That’s not a bad thing. It shows we do the right things. But there is a need for renewal.

We know from experience that people from the baby boomer generation are comfortable with these traditional kinds of engagement. They go along, take part and socialise at industry events. But younger people, from the X and Y generations, want to engage in new ways. 

And one of the best ways to get younger executives involved is to ask them how they like to engage. So, we set up a leadership development programme and merged it with our FLINT (Future Leaders in Telecommunications) group. We then developed a leadership group from this youthful target audience. This group now has the ideas and decides on the approach to take, and how to promote its programme. Doing this gives participants an opportunity to develop their leadership and collaboration skills away from the workplace. They do the organising, while Tuanz does the support work.

Our next generation of business leaders need to be comfortable in the digital world if we are to benefit from telecoms and digital technologies as they converge. Tuanz is helping them develop the necessary skills, says CEO Craig Young.

At first Flint’s members came from the telecommunications companies, but we have now broadened it to include all our members. Tuanz members now come from the AA, Westpac, AUT and Mainfreight, and more, as well as from Spark, Chorus and their service companies. We have a Flint event programme, but we also encourage Flint members to attend other Tuanz events, so they can network with senior people from other organisations.

We are committed to developing future leaders because they are the ones who will ensure New Zealand’s businesses make the most of the new digitally connected world. It also means Tuanz will remain effective and relevant as the new digital future unfolds.