Candace Kinser says her double degree in anthropology and political sciences provided her the best foundation as she moved to high profile roles in New Zealand's technology sector.
Kinser is an American who moved to New Zealand in 1998, and landed in jobs in technology focused companies. She has worked in a raft of technology companies from Biolab to vendor companies like Telecom (now Spark) and SolNet, to Biomatters, where she was CEO, nurturing it from a startup to a global company.
"I cannot think of a better degree, anthropology... combined with political science, to carry me through to through to where I am now in my career," says Kinser, who is completing her thee-year term as CEO of NZ Tech, the body representing ICT organisations in New Zealand
"It gave me that foundation of understanding issues and why people are motivated to do the things they do, especially in technology."
In technology, we are trying to get people to do something, or monitor behaviour or some sort of change, she says. "You are taking a process you have traditionally done manually, and trying to put that into an electronic method.
Anthropology gave me that foundation of understanding issues and why people are motivated to do the things they do, especially in technology.
She says companies, especially those in IT, are looking for that "soft skill, that soft science" the discipline provides.
"You are not a psychologist, you are not a sociologist; you are really interested in figuring out how people do things, why people do things, what are the values, what are the mores, the norms within their society or as an individual that compel them to do something."
Kinser had started to major in organic chemistry but "accidentally" took a class in anthropology.
"I thought it was fascinating that there was an entire area of study that looked at everything from human bones to culture to how people interact," she says.
Kinser's anthropology studies in the early '90s focused primarily on Pacific Island cultures, the migration around the Pacific, and languages. She says by that time, she had been exposed to different cultures, having lived in Texas, England (where her stepfather was assigned) and Hawaii.
"I said, 'Oh this is an awesome degree', and thought I could do something with this."
She says her work schedule will not necessarily slow down when she leaves NZ Tech at the end of this month as she has just accepted a non-executive director role at Talent (formerly Talent International) and continues to be on the board of EROAD and McCashins Brewing.
She is also a Trustee on the Well Foundation - a not for profit organisation in Rodney district, Auckland - that helps raise funds for the Waitemata District Health Board, including Waitakere and North Shore hospitals. She is also a director of the Cloud Security Alliance and an advisory board member of the University of Waikato Cyber Security Lab and Massey University School of Business, where she completed a master's degree in business management.
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