The livelihoods of local fishermen and their families in many small villages in Fiji depend on how many fish they can sell. And before smart technology, they lived in a lot of uncertainty.

“They would catch fish and go from hotel to hotel hoping to sell as many as they could – with no guarantees,” explains Andrew in his role as Regional Chief Technology Officer at Vodafone Fiji.

“Today, thanks to smartphones and reliable mobile coverage out on the water, they can sell their daily catch via WhatsApp before they return shore. Customers pick up their order from the marina, and fishermen receive instant payment straight into their mobile wallet.”

Andrew has seen first-hand how reliable telecommunications can change lives in these communities, and it’s this tangible impact that drives him to lead technological innovation by supporting high-performing teams across a diverse international market in the Pacific region.

After more than two decades in the industry, Andrew is renowned for making things happen. He credits his reputation to the unique perspective he developed by  working with not only diverse teams, but  the added skills gained through his MBA (Executive) from AGSM @ UNSW Business School.

Connecting communities

Significant progress in mobile technology has changed life and work for many communities in the Pacific.

“The value for the fishermen is immense, and we see the same story play out in the subsistence sector for farmers, taxi drivers, and even the public transport system,” Andrew explains.

And for Vodafone Fiji, the Pacific’s leading mobile network provider, the role of a telco goes far beyond providing a reliable network. In 2022, the company announced its evolution from traditional telecommunications to a next generation connectivity and digital services provider. This was a critical move for the regions Vodafone Fiji operates in, according to Andrew.

“Communications is a vital part of any country’s infrastructure and significantly impacts economic growth. It’s no different in the Pacific region, where communications and technology play an integral role in how people go about their daily lives. There has been phenomenal growth in how people use technology for their daily needs.”

In another example, Vodafone Fiji developed  the country’s automated electronic ticketing system for all public buses – making it easier for locals to access public transport.

The company also promotes financial inclusion and empowerment by bringing Fijians who had limited or no access to basic financial products and services into the digital payment ecosystem. Vodafone Fiji’s M-PAiSA mobile money platform is also the country’s largest digital bank, with more than 580,000 registered customers. That’s more than 60% of the population.

And Andrew plays a central role in making the company’s vision possible.

“It’s about providing the right technology for the right solution, so people in the Pacific can embrace technology and bridge the gap between traditional and digital ways of living. We build applications on top of our baseline technology to solve pain points, which benefits everyone,” he says.

He hopes his legacy will take shape through his work and impact communities across the South Pacific for the next 20 to 40 years.

“The infrastructure and technology we’ve built through these operations will be the driving factor for many generations, especially from a mobile communications perspective. We have laid the foundation and the building blocks for what’s to come.”

Diverse experience and AGSM help Andrew tackle challenges

Creating impact across different countries including Fiji, Cook Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa has its challenges – from skills gaps and a lack of vision within teams to low levels of trust in tech.

But Andrew’s exposure to diverse cultures and a multinational experience has equipped him with a unique perspective that helps him overcome most hurdles.

“Each market is a little bit different in how they adopt technology; how they use it as part of their daily lives, and what role their traditions play. Working across seven countries has given me a bit of an edge so I can easily adapt and understand the local environment.”

Andrew has always valued different perspectives. It’s why he decided to pursue an MBA in the first place.

“Embarking on AGSM’s Executive MBA program was always a dream. I wanted to perceive the world in a more holistic way and use that fresh perspective to drive value for the people, organisations and everyone around us,” he recalls. “AGSM was the default choice because of its reputation.”

Completing his MBA (Executive) at AGSM was a transformational experience.

“It changed how I see the world around me. I developed more soft skills, emotional intelligence and empathy, and I now take a more structured approach to how I work. And that has helped me in a lot of ways, not only professionally, but personally as well.”

And it’s not only this fresh approach that’s made a difference for Andrew. The tools and frameworks he learned during his time at AGSM have also been a game-changer.

“The workforce management tool and framework have allowed me to ‘right-size’ my team and have the right people in the right roles – which is a win-win for both employees and the organisation. And the strategy development tools have given me the right skillset to really drive meaningful change.”

These skills have been particularly useful for him as demand for the M-PAiSA platform grew over time. Vodafone Fiji needed to expand the team and bring more product support and development skills on board. Andrew added three new departments over three years with completely separate functions.

“If all the services were still under one department, our teams would be really struggling with the service level demands today.”

Keeping pace with change

Vodafone Fiji’s data is increasing by up to 50% annually – a testament to the network’s capacity to handle increasing demand. This wouldn’t be possible without high performing teams like Andrew’s.

With decades of experience nurturing and building teams, he suggests leaders should be more hands-on when it comes to guiding people on how to achieve goals.

“Leaders often focus on result-driven goals only. They address what needs to be done, without guiding teams on how to get there. But it’s not always about ‘what’, it's also about ‘how’. Working on a systematic approach to reach goals can help you see what's out there, use the existing knowledge base and address any issues.”

Andrew also stresses the importance of continuous education as a priority for all leaders and teams.

“We live in a world that changes fast, so we need to constantly learn to be able to keep up. I will be getting some of my team to take AGSM courses, as they provide not only practical tools and frameworks but also new perspectives and a diverse cohort. I highly recommend it to others thinking about professional development.”

Find out more about AGSM’s MBA (Executive Program) and the AGSM @ UNSW Business School.