Luke Minford has always had ties with China, having lived there as a child. But he admits this experience was all but wiped from his mind before he picked up a Chinese paper to finish off his Bachelor of Arts in 1993.
“It was exciting – it gave me a real opportunity to differentiate from the crowd which I realise now was critical to grasping the opportunities that came my way.”
The experience led to a year in Bejing on an Asia2000 scholarship to further develop his Chinese studies. After returning to New Zealand to sit his professional law exams he began working for Rouse International LLP, a world leading Intellectual Property firm. Twenty years later he is now Chief Executive of the company, based in their Bejing office.
“Intellectual property is fascinating; at its core it is about innovation and the way in which businesses extract value from it, which makes it endlessly interesting. And being able to work at a global level is fantastic – I’ve never considered doing anything else.
“The learning experience I had at Otago put me in good stead for my career – it was the right balance of structure and defining your own way to learn. The strong community environment allows you to try new things with a sense of support. There is a real ‘safe to fail’ quality that teaches you how to adapt to different situations. I think this comes from being a university that really values innovation - Otago picked up Chinese before most other Universities and the MBA is another example of this.
“I’ve since hired graduates from Otago and the same qualities still shine through. You can teach people most things on the job, but there are some things you can’t teach– like the ability to fit into a team, particularly a diverse multicultural team, and Otago grads have it.”
Luke completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English alongside a Bachelor of Laws, and believes the two paired well. His Law degree has given him the technical skills and knowledge needed in his day-to-day work, and his English degree has given him underlying communication skills that have helped to make him successful in his career.
“English teaches you how to read, not just for the sake of reading but to get the most out of it, which is an incredibly powerful skill. So much of what I do is interpreting what is held within words. Often things are written for multiple purposes, the agendas are never the same, so you need to be able to extract the right meaning from a particular context.
“One of the most important things you learn from a subject like English or History is that there is usually no right or wrong answer. There will always be multiple levels and perspectives, and you need to be able to identify and consider these.”
Luke’s advice to prospective students; “Pick two subjects that bring out different skills. A subject like Law teaches you fundamental analytical skills and how to structure your ideas, whereas a subject like English or History teaches you to see different levels of perspective and insight, which is critical to being an effective communicator.”