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Women in rugby

Leadership program scholar

Reflections from Rowena’s mentor, Travis Barker, Capgemini VP, Data & Insights

Travis Barker participates in the Capgemini panel at the Women in Rugby Summit.

On leadership growth by design

Travis: As someone who has played quite a bit of sport, what’s interesting is that in your sporting life, you have a close-knit team and a coach, and you get tips and pointers on how to improve at every training and game. You might have a strength and conditioning coach, a technical coach and a team manager to talk about strategy with.

But then we move into work life, and we don’t have that army of mentors and coaches to help us through. For a lot of people in their working careers you fumble your way through and pick things up along the way. You might be lucky enough to attach yourself to a really great leader in your organisation, but it’s not by design.

What I think is really neat about the Capgemini Women in Rugby Leadership program is that it’s trying to emulate the sporting world in the professional world, providing the professional coaching and mentoring to help you improve every day. It’s a really great concept.

One of the other real benefits I see with the program is the access the scholars get to Capgemini’s University and online learning and development platforms.

On the mentoring experience

Travis: Connecting with Rowena was a great opportunity for me to connect a couple of my passions – rugby and leadership in general – and to give a little bit.

Mentoring Rowena is an interesting one because she is very accomplished! She was the first female chair of a provincial rugby board in New Zealand (we had three female prime ministers before we had a female chair of a rugby board!); she’s now a director on the New Zealand Rugby Board and she is CEO of a law firm, Gallaway Cook Allan, in Dunedin. Already in her career she has broken ground and done some amazing work.

When I’ve talked to Rowena about this in our conversations, she always says, “Well, I didn’t really design it that way. It just happened.”

I think this is a really great example of how, for a lot of people, our careers do just ‘happen’ – and sometimes it’s useful to be able to step back and talk to somebody who might be on a totally different path and get a few ideas and pointers. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that I have done anything more than that!

I guess, in a country where pretty much everyone has an ‘expert’ opinion on the All Blacks, maybe what I have been able to give Rowena is a perspective without any judgement – someone to chat with and bounce ideas off who doesn’t try to give her advice on what the New Zealand Rugby Board should be doing!

On seizing networking opportunities far and wide

Travis: One of the things Rowena and I have talked about is the value of networking. Rowena is on one of the most prominent boards of directors in New Zealand, and ultimately, with governance roles, it’s all about networking – creating a really deep and vast network of people so you can get things done.

Pending her acceptance into the course, I’m really excited for Rowena’s opportunity to study overseas next year, not least because of the people she will meet, the new connections she will make and the new perspectives she will gain from the experience.