For the first time since launching our People of Asuwere features, we have looked no further than our own bench with our newly appointed CEO, Mr Poohan Nathan. It was certainly an easy choice, considering his business experience is one of critical acclaim. A career CFO, Poohan has been an integral part of some of New Zealand’s greatest business success stories.
From New Zealand Unicorn, Pushpay to NZ High-tech startup of the year (2019) Whiparound, Poohan currently finds himself leading a team of 6 at Asuwere, and taking some time out to focus on what's most important to him and homeschooling his 10 yr old daughter. For those who know Poohan, this comes as no surprise considering how kind he is.
You have worked for some amazing companies in your career, what have been some of the highlights?
It has been really cool to have played a role at some of the fastest growing tech companies in NZ.
I guess the biggest phenomenon that has always had me in awe, was how a small nation like New Zealand punches well above its weight in the tech space. The creativity and tenacity of the industry here has resulted in New Zealand products being used globally on a scale that I would not have thought possible with a population the size of ours. Brands like Pushpay, Asknicely and Whip Around which I have had the privilege of working with are now well recognised in many verticals all over the world.
The other major highlight is the people that I have come to know. Many are from all walks of life who have ventured into the tech industry in NZ (e.g.historians who have ended up as coders, landscapers going into graphic design, visionary CEOs, the list goes on). Tech in NZ is a melting pot of cultures and diversity which I have no doubt made a positive impact on communities all around the country.
You left your most recent role as a CFO to prioritise your family needs. How did you make that decision? And how do you reflect on that now?
It's a great question. Short answer is that it was a very tough decision to make. Being a career CFO was my craft and pretty much my comfort zone. It took quite a few long dinner conversations with my wife who knew that our oldest daughter needed our undivided time and attention and it's certainly something we couldn’t defer or get too creative with.
Reflecting back, it was 100% the right call. We have seen so much positive change from just being present and available, something a full time CFO career would not allow for. Our child is now a whole lot more grounded and happy as any 10 year old should be. Looking back, I would not have done that any differently.
With many of us homeschooling during lockdowns, do you have any tips you can share?
Yes...lots! Main thing is not to stress yourself out if you can’t cover much of the academic stuff. It is hard as all children are different and learn at their own pace. Keeping it fun and lots of play goes a long way in taking the pressure off both the parents and the kids. Also, as much as possible, construct repeatable routines that both parents/carers can respect and follow so that everyone at home is clear on roles and the ‘plan for the day’.
What is one non-negotiable when it comes to leadership?
There are quite a few to be fair. But if I could pick one, it would be to lead with empathy. As a leader, putting myself in the shoes of others and listening helps me support my team and it also provides me with important indicators on certain decisions to make.
There are times when I have to make difficult decisions that go against the grain of popularity, but I find it always starts with listening and having a pulse for what is happening within the organisation.
Any advice for other leaders during this time?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help when you need to. I do it all the time. It is a challenging time to be a leader. Targets still need to be hit. Shareholders still need a return on their investment. And people need all the support they can get in their roles. Leadership is a massive challenge to take on, as much as it is a privilege to be called a leader. Reach out to your wider networks or peers and have a chat. You will be surprised that you are not alone on this journey of leadership.
A good book I read recently, which I would encourage any leader to have a go at, is ‘The 5 Temptations of a CEO’ by Patrick Lencioni. You don’t have to be CEO to read it but the principles are very relevant to the trade off of invulnerability.
What inspires and motivates you?
Working with great people. I am lucky to have landed this role with Sam, Noah and the rest of the team at Asuwere. All throughout my career, I have gravitated towards people who love striving for impossible things and always sending the ladder back down to develop the next rung in the organisation. It is super motivating to see young professionals learn and progress and blow me away with their creativity and drive!