Dan Walker

3rd year 5th form, IT Sales guru, and MBA.
Story by Tony Cuttng

When I first chatted to Dan I really struggled to comprehend how young he still is.  This is because this rangatira has achieved a lot in his first 30+ years and what is truly inspiring is he didn’t have what most people would regard as the best start.  

He does however have some fabulous people with big hearts who have always believed in him, and once he started to believe in himself some wonderful things started to happen…

Christchurch – The Early Years
Life for Dan started in Woolston, Christchurch.  Dad was from Christchurch and his Mum was from Ngati Ruanui in Taranaki.  His mum and dad split up when he was 1.5 years old and for his first few years he was raised by his mum.  

At three years old he contracted Kawasaki Disease.   (It is named after Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese doctor who first described the disease in 1967 – not the Motorcycle).  The major complication of Kawasaki disease is heart damage. The most common type of heart damage is caused by irritation or inflammation of the vessels that carry blood to the muscle of the heart. Needless to say he was very sick and spent quite some time in hospital as a toddler.

After this time he moved in and lived with his Dad.

Dan attended Bamford School in Woolston and went on to Linwood High School (now known as Linwood College) It would be fair to say school in those days was not Dan’s thing.  He openly speaks of how he was a 3rd year 5th former who really did not get it.

What he did have in his favour was very supportive grandparents on both sides of his whanau.  His grandmothers in particular always encouraged him and showed great faith in him.  While at College he started working for Countdown and was still there when he entered into the University of Canterbury as an Adult student – amassing a $10,000 debt while still struggling to “get it”.
He figured he just was not an academic.  He still had strong supporters in his grandparents and also in a particular young lady he met at High School – Michelle.  He flagged University and secured his first IT Sales role with Dick Smith’s. 

Around this time with support from his grandmothers he started to explore his Maori “roots”.  He was 18/19 and he started to really want to know more about where he had come from.

IT Sales and his Whakapapa – his tandem turning points.
As Dan got to know his Whakapapa he really started to get a feel for what he was about, where he was from and why this was so important to him.  

He also fell on his feet at Dick Smiths “who have a great training philosophy, especially suited for young teenagers”  He feel in love with technology and excelled, doing his product research after work and connecting with his customers during the day – almost immediately from the start of this early IT sales career. He set a target of becoming a branch manager by the age of 25.
His primary goal as a Sales person was to foster trust through good product knowledge, in order to create repeat business - this is exactly what started to happen for him.

He was inspired and really wanted to be the best sales person at his work.  This inspiration along with his dedication to research and strong customer care added up to Dan quickly becoming an Assistant Manager (Not just any Assistant Manager – one who was nominated for Dick Smiths “Assistant Manager of the year) still under 20 years old.  

At 20 he was appointed to Store manager at Dick Smiths.  As we say in the sports world “he was in the zone”.  
He was also doing some great things outside of his work.  He was now involved in Kapa Haka, really connecting with his heritage and working closely with other young Maori.

All through this time his parents, Grandparents and Michelle were supporting and encouraging him along the way.  He chose to give Education another crack so while working at Dick Smith’s decided to get his Diploma in business through (CPIT) Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.  Suddenly his world was much different – he got it.

National Honours
At 26 years old, Dan had surpassed his early Branch Managers target with Dick Smiths and was moving up and on, appointed the National Commercial Manager.  With this role it was the big move to Auckland.  A few years after this he was approached by Noel Leeming and a year into this role he decided to yet again take another education step and took on an MBA through Auckland University.  He openly explains how Michelle encouraged him to take on this new challenge and young get the feeling his kaitiaki were also smiling at this decision.

In 2011 Dan was awarded with his MBA.  .  He did his thesis on Noel Leeming and looked to better ways they could incentivise staff.  Dan enjoyed this demanding period as it not only provided him with a top level qualification but it expanded his personal business networks dramatically.  

2012 to current – Samsung, National Commercial Sales Manager.  Working for Samsung Dan is responsible for their Business to business product and service ranges.

Other activities & achievements
Dan keeps himself busy outside of Samsung as a Director at New Zealand Maori Tourism, the goal being to help Maori to lead the visitor experience in Aotearoa. 

He is a trustee of Tuwhakaaehu Hapu, Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust.  The focus of this role is on high level strategy related to improving health, education, social, environmental and cultural kaupapa for the 9000+ people of his tribe. 

Achievements: 2010 - Young Maori Leader Award at the Aotearoa Maori Business Leader Awards

Dan is also very passionate about his work with Tuia Te Here Tangata, working with other rangatira to help grow Maori rangatahi in his iwi and inspire other young Maori leaders.

Dan’s personal story is not just inspirational, he is using his experience and skills to help others truly understand that anyone can succeed, maybe sometimes we need to drive ourselves but it also helps if you have others around you helping you believe.

He is living proof of someone who has used higher education not only to improve his own life, but also take advantage of this knowledge and experience to work on projects that help others.

Dan  Walker