We’ve all had those moments when life gets taken over by stress and frustration and you end up on the floor of your home in a fetal position making the sound many would describe as a whale…. Haven’t you?
Michelle Sharp abandoned a stellar career in the corporate world after an early mid-life crisis, instead turning her business smarts to save a charity from the brink of collapse.
In 2009 Sharp was in her early 30s, juggling parenting of two young children and the demands of a senior role with one of the fastest growing business-to-business telecommunication providers in the UK.
Within 10 days of the whale sound episode her husband was on a plane to New Zealand after sending his CV to a global recruitment firm and being selected for a role at Telecom NZ (now Spark).
Sharp followed three months later intent on being a stay at home mum, but before long she found herself applying for a newly created role as a business development manager at Kilmarnock Enterprises.
Today the organisation is in a strong financial position with customers including Fonterra, The Gough Group, Murdoch Manufacturing and Air New Zealand. In Sharp’s decade at the helm the charity diversified its customer base by developing a range of new services including recycling, product labelling and food packaging and processing.
Sharp was born in England but mainly considers herself a global citizen having spent most of her childhood in Spain and Mexico.
When she was 5 years-old her Spanish businessman father moved the family to Mexico City where Sharp’s British grand-father had a diplomatic posting.
Her own ambition was paired with strong affirmation from her parents, who told Sharp and her brother “you could do absolutely anything you want to achieve”.
Sharp swore she would never work in the corporate sector again. Looking back she says her experiences were part of the corporate culture at the time.
In September she did return, after resigning from Kilmarnock to join Vodafone NZ as head of Internet of Things, and head of South Island operations. She’s still working with Kilmarnock, in her capacity as board director.
Sharp says corporate culture has changed significantly, and for the better, and the recipe is simple.
“It’s just about being a good human no matter who you are.”