Passionate People I’ve Worked With

My Fabulous Career

Recently I pitched for a website I was born to create.

I knew it would be an uphill battle – all our perceived flaws were laid bare, while our strengths were buried – it was like they’d made up their minds already.

What a shame. These sorts of companies need to learn to take a punt on truly passionate people like myself and those I work with.

In my career I’ve achieved some wonderful things but they largely go unrecognised outside my immediate contacts. I’ve even had the bizarre situation where I was a major contributor to a project, it won an award, but the project manager took himself and someone else along to the ceremony (I just had to get that off my chest).

In all honesty this has frustrated me. I like recognition.

I thought the answer might be to work for an award-winning company – get to work with talented people who appreciate ambition and would share in success.

But my previous attempts to get my foot in the door to work for these high-flying companies has failed dismally (it’s interesting to note that the attitudes of the managers at these companies are often quite similar – so I don’t blame myself – maybe they just don’t ‘get’ me?).

I have inadvertently won a couple of awards during my career – I didn’t enter the awards myself – someone else did. But over the past five years my work has been in web applications – usually restricted to a select group of people and highly confidential – not awards material.

So, slowly, I’ve come to the view that it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is results for my clients and users.

From time-to-time I see expensive websites winning loads of publicity or winning design awards but then attracting hardly any traffic (and in some cases folding – Flying Pig, AMP Aqua – and future prediction – Ferrit).

But I can revel in the knowledge that for a fraction of the price I’ve doubled the website traffic and user-satisfaction of many smaller NZ businesses and organisations.

Your Fabulous Career?

Reflecting on all this made me start to appreciate more about the fabulous career I have had, and especially, the people I have worked with over the past 20 years of my time in employment.

I then realised that most of these exceptionally talented people have also largely gone unrecognised.

It’s time to set the record straight…



(or the “ZEF[A]MEDIA Awards for Passionate People I’ve Worked With”)

John Francis

John (co-founder of TEARAWAY Magazine) has long-term visions, struggles for years and them whammo – his vision becomes reality. TEARAWAY started in John and Vicki’s laundry – literally – I was squashed between a washing machine, a desk and Jacko the dog in my first few weeks at TEARAWAY Magazine.

This magazine, while still largely unacknowledged by mainstream media, is MASSIVE. Over the past 19 years or so its commutative readership would now easily be in the millions, and is still New Zealand’s longest-running, largest-readership magazine for young people.

John’s most recent project is a new primary school children magazine called UPSTART – I think I was there when his vision for such a magazine began – way back in the late 80s. We even created a pilot zine called ‘Time Out’ (I’ve still got a copy somewhere).

John was also one of the people who got close to the Rockquest Promotions crew in the early days (1989) – the promotional partnership with boosted Rockquest into a hugely successful nationwide event, with five regional finals and a national final. We had the time of out lives!

Paul Newell

As the original video editor for Shortland Street Paul was full of unbelievable stories about the antics of cast and crew off set (and sometimes on) that well, I can’t print here. He abandoned Auckland for a little television studio in Dunedin called Vidmark – one of the most eccentric companies I’ve ever worked for – just a notch quirkier than TEARAWAY. Paul is a technical and creative whizz and was the mechanic behind several unverified claims to fame for myself and Vidmark including:

  • NZ’s first webcam.
  • NZ’s first 3D-rendering farm, and soon after…
  • NZ’s first 3D-animated television commercial (Plypac Natural Guy).
  • NZ’s (and possibly the world’s) first ‘virtual drumkit’ (wave your hands in the air and you’re playing the drums – created using Marcel’s electronic drumkit, studio lighting and some sort of light detector).

Lian Hathaway

An immensely talented graphic artist, Lian was there at the dawn of the WWW creating usable websites before Internet Explorer was even a concept. Lian, like many designers, has sat under the radar most of her career just getting on with great, practical design. She was always sharing her knowledge in the workplace and now tutors students in web design.

David Copeland

People say the glue behind the creative chaos at CWA New Media is the mysterious Jill Wilson, so I’ll give her some credit for the legend that is David Copeland. For me, David is a true Creative Director – incredibly frustrating at times, but also one who fosters talent and creates an environment where creativity can truly spark and combust. My time at CWA was one of the most creative periods of my career – I was able to experiment, take risks, do cool stuff and extend into every realm of media from web to writing to animation to sound to video.

Brenda Leeuwenberg

Brenda, once coordinator of ‘Webgrrls Aotearoa’, kidnapped me from CWA in 1999 and set up Spunkmedia – Wellington’s first Web2.0 company. No really, in hindsight we were as Web2.0 as it gets – user centered design, webapps, design-led, simple and clean websites – the Spunkmedia candle was short but the flame burned bright. Just too ahead of our time I think. Brenda is now reeking havoc at MediaCalalyst in Amsterdam.

Emma Martin

The supremely confident Emma is one of the best Information Architects I’ve ever worked with and has an uncanny ability to convince anyone she is the right person for the job. She completely throws herself in the deep end and quickly learns to swim better than the experts. I worked with Emma on the Fonterra Intranet which had billions of pages, thousands of sub-sites, and hundreds of departments (yes, I do exaggerate just a little) – how we got through that I don’t know – but we did!

Grant Ramsay

Ah yes, the undiscovered musician from Dunedin who doesn’t want to be discovered. Grant (aka Swampy, DJ Duvet) is a bloody legend and made my years in Dunedin hilarious, colourful and above all, down to earth. Like many Dunedin musos Grant is unpretentious and just hums away in his studio creating funky roots music – releases the occasional CD and plays the odd gig here and there – but does has no expectations of fame or recognition. Quirky fun guys like Grant make me feel good about humans.

Special Mentions


  • Steve Baker for NZ’s first online music player? (pictured above).
  • Alison Green for initiating the Gathering Documentary.
  • DJ Global Influence for a decade of wicked world music in the South Island.
  • Pete Stones for being Pete Stones.
  • Dominic Stones for The 3Ds and nail polish.
  • Toki Wilson for raw heartfelt music.

That’s the ZAPP AWARD WINNERS FOR 1986-2006 (for now).

If you’re not listed here then you’ve either already won too many awards or more likely, it’s the middle of the night and I have to goto bed!

3 responses to “Passionate People I’ve Worked With”

  1. Chan Avatar

    WHAT! You forgot all about me! How could you do that 🙂

    Good stuff Zef! It’s about time someone came out and said what they really felt. I feel lucky to have worked with a few people on your list and you are absolutely right about their passion and commitment.

    Do I sound like I am sucking up? 🙂

  2. Zef Avatar

    Damn, I knew I’d leave at least several dozen people out! It’s all starting to backfire now (you’ll soon find me crouching behind bus stops and alleyways).

  3. webweaver Avatar

    Awww thanks for the thanks, Zef! I still think it’s by far the best of The Gathering documentaries. We done good!

    Nice blog btw – I’ll add it to my blogroll forthwith.