Tipperary man Shane Minogue went to New Zealand to watch a few games of rugby in 2011 and just never came back.
His time in Aotearoa has seen him go from consulting to kite-surfing instructor before ending up overseeing app production for one of the continent’s biggest banks. But the journey kicked off, quite literally, with the Rugby World Cup.
After growing up in Thurles and graduating from the University of Cork with a Masters in economic research, Minogue found himself trying to enter the job market at the worst possible time.
“It was right in the middle of great financial crash when I graduated so I went overseas and, because my friends were big into rugby, we decided to go to New Zealand for the world cup,” he said. Of the group of eight friends, Minogue remained, which he credits to “being lucky enough to land a good job.”
Starting out as a market analyst in Auckland, Minogue spent over eight years with the International Data Corporation, a telecommunications and IT markets consultancy firm.
Aside from his job, New Zealand’s great outdoors became the nature lover’s other reason to stay in the southern hemisphere. Initially attracted by a snowboarding poster in an Irish hostel he was staying at, Minogue said the sheer range of activities available in New Zealand became the biggest drawcard.
“When I first moved here in my 20s, I was experience-driven and sports-driven. It was a no-brainer to stay because within an hour of Auckland you have surfing, kite-surfing and mountain-biking,” he said.
Minogue’s boss convinced him to take up kite-surfing by pointing out it required less of a drive than traditional surfing with the waters around Auckland providing ample practice space.
A 2019 family wedding in Spain presented Minogue with the opportunity to take an extended break and a sabbatical from corporate life. In the lead up to it, he became a qualified kite-surfing instructor with the goal of being able to support himself during his summer sojourn.
“I was teaching part-time in New Zealand on top of my day job, then after the wedding I went to Portugal where I taught kite-surfing for 6 months,” he said. Next stop before returning to New Zealand was to his fiancée Juliana’s native Brazil to meet her family and see the Amazon.
“But then Covid hit and we got stuck there for 15 months instead of three months,” said Minogue. It was an incredibly stressful period career wise.
“We were like the only tourists in the country so we got to explore the Amazon without the crowds at 40 per cent less than it would usually cost, but working online was not exactly great for career progression so when things opened again we left.”
Minogue went to work for Westpac, one of Australia’s Big 4 banks, delving into user experience research.
Economics research to UX production might sound like a big leap but Minogue said his background helped him to see which way the winds were blowing. “From a macroeconomics position customer power is growing,” he explained. “In the past we saw monopolistic power where the customer needs weren’t addressed but now corporations are having to become customer- and data-led.”
Like many other UX professionals, he now has a 9-5 job in a career that didn’t exist when he was in education.
When he first landed, Minogue looked at the tried-and-tested method of joining a local Irish sporting club to build up a network in a new city. But team-mates tended to leave after their one-year visas were up. By his fourth year Minogue was “losing the energy” of having to make new friends every ear. He looked to the Irish business community in Auckland to pay down more permanent connections.
“I kept running into Irish people in business. When you see another Irish person in a meeting you instantly relax. You’re asking who their family is and working out if you know someone,” he said.
He noticed something similar working with the Māori community while investigating what obstacles ethnic minorities faced when accessing home ownership with tech as a possible solution.
“They have the same openness and friendliness. It’s part of their greeting too to find out where they are from and who their families are.”
Through the Irish Business Network New Zealand, Minogue authored research on Irish and Māori enterprises, identifying opportunities between the two groups. Working on points they had in common – such as a keenly held respect for the natural environment, a postcolonial language revival, and a strong sense of community Minogue was able to identify how the differences represented business opportunity.
He cites the punishing time zone difference, which sees the two nations operating on almost opposite schedules, as a potential gift to businesses looking to stay competitive in a global market. “It’s called the ‘chasing the sun model’ where a business could have lawyers or software developers working 24/7 if some were based in New Zealand and some were based in Ireland.”
While he has no plans to return to Ireland, seeing his sister become a mother for the first time during Covid made Minogue regret missing out on being a hands-on uncle. Thanks to WhatsApp and headphones, though, Minogue has long weekly catch-ups with his mother while out jogging which has made them closer despite the physical separation.
“None of my friends at home call their mum for an hour every week on a Saturday,” he laughed.
Minogue is prioritising Portuguese for his upcoming wedding in Brazil but he continues work on his te reo Māori so “I’m not the white guy at the meeting pronouncing things wrong”.
His favourite phrase or proverb (Whakatauki) is Poipoia te kākano kia puawai. “It means nurture the seed and it will grow.”