Alumni Profile

Chris Wright

Headshot of Chris Wright, Chief Executive Officer of Football South, New Zealand

Course and year graduated

BSc (Hons) Information Systems, 2008

What are you doing now?

I am Chief Executive Officer of Football South, in New Zealand, a dynamic non-profit, and as CEO my job involves being a generalist across multiple areas.

When I finished my degree I thought it was a good opportunity for change. When I was young I remember my grandpa showing me photos of New Zealand and it looked such an amazing place, so I took a gamble and went there.

Now I am doing something I love. In my youth I played a lot of sports but I enjoyed football the most. I love what football can do for people and cultures and, being able to use my business knowledge and experience in an area I personally enjoy, is something I feel extremely thankful for.

In 2017 I got the opportunity through work to visit the UK; I got back in touch with the University of Derby and was told about the Football Journalism course. I believe it is a great initiative that focuses on developing more female journalists who can support the growth of girls' and women’s sport. I offered a student internship position at Football South and Derby student Holly Percival was suggested. She has been a game-changer for our business; the professionalism and volume of what she does is extremely high. We have really enjoyed the injection of new ideas and energy and it has allowed us to promote the game and tell our story more.

What has been your greatest achievement to date?

The one I am most proud of is raising $4m to build a two-field artificial turf facility here at Football South – it was a lot of hard work with many setbacks, so overcoming those obstacles and building something that will make a difference is a great feeling.

What advice would you give to current students?

My advice would be to work hard to get industry-level experience as early as possible. I was not very academic at university and got through by the skin of my teeth. I found it so much easier doing practical things and actually being in the work environment. In my second year I worked full-time at an IT company and managed study around it – balancing everything was hard work, but the experience and learning was vital.

When you are a graduate coming out of tertiary study with two years of experience behind you it helps in so many ways.

Action shot of Chris Wright kicking football on a pitch

Do not be afraid to get out of your bubble – the best opportunities are not without risk and travelling is an exceptional way of expanding not just your knowledge, but also your maturity.

Chris Wright
Chief Executive Officer of Football South

What challenges have you faced so far in your career?

Initially it was my age, as I was a corporate level executive by 21 with ADInstruments, New Zealand, and that involved managing staff who had more years in business than I had been alive. I have had the privilege of learning from some amazing people and experiences.

The hardest challenge though was balancing the goals of my career with having a young family, and at the time I had health issues, which included having open heart surgery to fix a genetic defect. These were big challenges for me and something you do not traditionally get taught.

I learned the importance of compromise and communication. I have had the honour of travelling all over the world and I have tried to stay grounded and balance progressing my career with being a good father and husband.

What are your top tips for success?

If you ever get into a management role, you can make a difference by creating a positive and safe environment for your team to excel. One of the most rewarding things for me is looking at a team I have helped build and realising they are passionate for the cause, are together with each other, and that they are now leading the culture themselves. If you can help other people go home to their families having enjoyed their work and felt a sense of achievement that is a good thing for the world.

Other than that, find passion in what you do, soak in any knowledge from those around you, and look for ways to be a part of your chosen industry during your study – it will help cement your learning.

Finally, do not be afraid to get out of your bubble – the best opportunities are not without risk and travelling is an exceptional way of expanding not just your knowledge, but also your maturity.