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Q&A with Danica Paki, New Zealand CEO @ ArchiPro

From aspiring professional dancer to leading one of Aotearoa's fastest-growing startups, Danica Paki, New Zealand CEO at ArchiPro has had a somewhat non-traditional path into working in tech.

We caught up with Danica to learn more about how are why she pivoted away from a career in the arts into a more "professional" career path. We spoke about how that has shaped her approach to leading and growing teams, as well as the impact her own journey has had on her tendency to look beyond CV's and how people are presented on paper when hiring.

We also touched upon her experience as a woman in an executive leadership role and her thoughts on how New Zealand can accelerate towards greater diversity within leadership positions as well as across the board.

Finally, we spoke about the unique opportunity ahead for people to grow their careers alongside ArchiPro as they begin to take on larger international markets, whether that is exploring new career pathways or simply accelerating within their chosen field of expertise.

About the Speaker


Danica Paki headshot 1

Danica Paki

Danica Paki is the CEO (NZ) at ArchiPro

Transcription of the interview with Danica

“ArchiPro is an online platform and we are designed to connect people who are building...”

Greg Denton:

Welcome, everyone. Today we're having a chat with Danica Paki, CEO at ArchiPro. Danica, great to have you on. Perhaps first things first, at a top-line for people that aren't acquainted, what is ArchiPro?


Danica Paki:

Thank you for having me. So ArchiPro is an online platform and we are designed to connect people who are building, so whether you're a homeowner or an architect or a designer, building with the professionals and product suppliers that essentially make your project happen or come to life.

Our founders, I guess, recognised that in every other industry outside of the design and build sector had been revolutionised by tech, but we hadn't, and so really saw for themselves an opportunity to bring tech into the design and build industry and look at what that could mean for people.

So for building professionals, it's really about how do we provide a more economical way of getting their products and services out into the market? I think that we can all agree that it's become extremely expensive to reach your target audience, and so for us, it's about providing that sustainable marketing solution for the long-term growth of your business, for our clients.

Then for people who are building, as homeowners or professionals as I've said before, that whole process can be really daunting. You've got to navigate various online sites and visit showrooms and flip through magazines and you could find inspiration online, which could be a beautiful Copenhagen inspiration, but there's no way for you to connect the dots locally in New Zealand.

For those people who are building, it's about connecting them with the right people to bring that project to life through sourcing trusted professionals here locally, but also those product suppliers that make them happen.

“I actually went to dance school and studied for a few years to become a professional dancer and went on to teach...”

Greg Denton:

If you don't mind, it would be great to hear a little bit more about your career journey. As a start perhaps what were you dreaming about doing when you were younger? Was tech something that was ever on the radar for you as a teenager?

Danica Paki:

Interesting question. So absolutely not. I can't even remember. I think I knew where the guidance counsellor's office was in terms of talking about a career post high school, but I'd never frequented their office.

My mum was a teacher and my dad was a detective or a policeman, so the landscape for career options at that age was fairly traditional and tech was not even on the radar.

So my career after leaving school at the end of sixth-form was really non-traditional, I didn't go to university. I actually went to dance school and studied for a few years to become a professional dancer and went on to teach.

I guess realised along the way that I wanted a little bit more structure in my life and the arts world for me wasn't as structured as perhaps I wanted it to be, or hadn't realised yet as an individual that that's what made me tick.

Greg Denton:

Fascinating! In terms of the style of dance, just for someone that's probably quite ignorant of the variety of dance that you could get into, what did you end up teaching and where did that lead?

Danica Paki:

So really broad, I studied a mixture, anything from New Zealand jazz to contemporary and hip hop. I probably leaned towards more of the hip hop space, which I found really interesting and did lots of competitions in that space and I guess that's probably where I built the professional side of my career in the dance world. I met some super interesting people along the way as well.

From there, I moved into managing events at various different events companies and started playing around with what tech meant in the event space and how people could interact with the use of tech or microsites.

From there, I ended up landing a job working for a really good friend at a tech company. And so that was, I guess, my first role outside of the arts world into the tech space, which was, I guess, really disconnected from where I thought I would go as a high school student!

“..I think it was completely throwing myself into the deep end, or I guess that learning curve to understand what the process was, talking directly with developers...”

Greg Denton:

That's super cool. Then fast forwarding a little bit as you start to delve into the more structured realm of working, what were the next steps there and ultimately how you landed at ArchiPro a couple of years ago?

Danica Paki:

As I mentioned, the first role for me was working in the event space where tech was starting to become a really interesting dimension for clients in terms of how they could engage with their customers.

I worked for a company where I was responsible for owning that client relationship, but also it was a really broad role from understanding UX with clients in terms of the experience they were wanting to achieve with their end customer, the various different touch points, whether it would be a mobile app or a microsite back in those days, what was that on and offline experience from someone turning up to an event to interacting with their brand online?

And so for me, I think I was completely throwing myself into the deep end and into that learning curve to understand what the process was, talking directly with developers, understanding how to move from A to B when it comes to a digital or a tech-based project.

That was a really strong foundation for me, in terms of the tech and the digital space. I then transferred those skills into working in an agency environment. The largest portion of my career today has been working in a digital and strategy agency, so working with clients on their ecosystem assets from a digital perspective, their comms, what's the overall strategy in terms of how they're utilising and making the most out of the assets within their digital ecosystem?

I think that's probably where I found my love for business strategy, in terms of how tech can help clients grow sustainably, but also understanding the intricacies of the different channels for engagement for clients.

What attracted me to a role at ArchiPro, was the fact that it felt like an organisation that really operated like an agency.

If you think about the structure of an agency model in terms of the different departments, you've got people who sit in that ideation space who are creative, who are technically sound, super-smart strategists, and so for me, it was a really natural fit to move from the agency world to working in more of that tech startup environment.

Greg Denton:

What have been some of the obvious differences coming from agency side into a fast-paced and high-growth tech startup?

Danica Paki:

I think for me, working agency side you're so used to a brief or a problem that you're solving for a client and you're working within a budget and within a timeframe, and so that's often the driving factor, unless you've got an endless budget, which is often not the case with clients.

Whereas when you're working in the tech environment, whilst we've got multiple features at ArchiPro that we work on, ultimately it is that one business tool that we've created for our clients and so we determine the timeframes, we determine the release dates.

A lot of that is in our control as opposed to, I guess, working towards a budget and a timeline for a client. And so that probably has taken a little bit of getting used to.

The other piece for me is the SaaS or the productisation side of things. Working in an agency, you are used to pitching for a new piece of business and that might take a couple of weeks depending on the size of the project, or it might take a couple of months depending on the research that needs to go into responding to a pitch.

Whereas, the model when you're working in a tech environment is that it's about hyper-growth and how many people do we get using the product? What does that mean for our sales function within an organisation? So I guess that pace of getting it into the market is a lot quicker than possibly what you're used to working at an agency.

Those are probably the two things that have been a really interesting shift for me and had to get used to.

“There's been a huge amount of investment into the product side of the business. I think moving away from the platform possibly being known as a top of the funnel inspirational platform...”

Greg Denton:

That's really interesting. For people that might not be aware of the current state of play at ArchiPro, how would you describe the current state of the business in terms of the product life cycle and the markets that you're operating in?

Danica Paki:

I think the business has grown a lot in the last couple of years. There's been a huge amount of investment into the product side of the business, moving away from the platform possibly being known as a top of the funnel inspirational platform that people might find when they're looking for inspiration or scrolling through Instagram, to really being that suite of features and becoming a business tool of utility for both the client, but also for the person building.

There's been a huge amount of effort, and I guess change in that space. I think the other piece for us as well is we've had a huge focus on resourcing ourselves internally in terms of building our team culture.

That's come about with the strength of the people that we're hiring and attracting these days. I think also the leaders that we've established within the business and the tools and the processes that we're now arming the team with.

Sometimes I talk about the fact that we've moved from being a startup to a bit of a grown-up, and so that's what it feels like now is that we're in this real catalyst or phase for change where we're going from being this New Zealand-owned business that largely until end of last year, only operated in New Zealand, to be a company that is pushing through into this next phase that we're now launching ourselves into the Canadian market towards the end of this year, and then from there into the US.

We're now this global business that feels grown up as opposed to being just, not just, but a localised New Zealand startup.

“...that typical, dare I say it, "white male view" that we've got in the tech space is still really prevalent.”

Greg Denton:

Diversity is still a massive challenge within tech within New Zealand and we still have a long way to go to see more people like you leading organisations and really inspiring the next generation to get into some of these exciting companies that are popping up in New Zealand.

What has been your personal experience and what are some of the other things that you're seeing that are really helping encourage more people to consider tech as a career path?

Danica Paki:

Yeah, it's such a big question, and I think you're right, that typical, dare I say it, "white male" view that we've got in the tech space is still really prevalent.

Whilst I think we are seeing pockets for change, there's still a huge amount of work to do, not only in the tech space, but also in the design and build industry, which has also traditionally been fairly one dimensional. We're really conscious at ArchiPro about making sure that we're hiring to better reflect a way forward, or I guess reflect what we want to be as a company.

We've still got a while to go. I think one of the things that we're really proud of is that we've got an exec team that's more than 50% female and that's, I think, a reflection of I guess the environment that Milot and Britt, our founders, have created, being a husband and wife duo that have started this business and they're not just running it like a business.

For them, they're extremely passionate about it and part of that is reflecting, I guess, the kind of community environment that they want to see.

I think for me personally, it's why I often hire on soft skills. Like I reflected on before, my personal experience has absolutely not been traditional and so I think because there's possibly a view that if you check certain boxes on paper that you're fit for a role, I'm often one in the office that's always constantly disrupting that view.

So for me, it's about hiring someone who you have a connection with or someone who you can see has got great learned skills based on where they've got to date or how they respond to certain questions.

“...I think having strong female leadership and also a diverse reflection of what our community actually looks like out there in society is where we need to be heading...”

Danica Paki:

It's also shaped the type of questions that I ask in interviews. I can't actually remember the last time I looked at a CV for an interview, so I'll have a look at someone's LinkedIn profile, but then for me, having an initial chat, whether it's via Zoom or over a cup of coffee for 15 to 20 minutes is, in my opinion, more powerful than having a look at someone's skills necessarily on paper.

I think there's still a long way to go is the kind of simple answer. But I think having strong female leadership and also a diverse reflection of what our community actually looks like out there in society is where we need to be heading and is a really good start.

Greg Denton:

When you say that you're not reading CVs and you are really open to exploring people's experiences to find those people that potentially might be missed, how would you encourage those types of people to still reach out and still at least put their names forward when they might otherwise traditionally be put off because job descriptions can make them feel unqualified?

Danica Paki:

I think a little bit is role dependent. In the tech space, if you're on the tools, sometimes there are some core fundamentals. I know that our VP of Product or Chief Product Officer and the tech team would say that there are some core fundamentals that you've got to have in that space, and I don't disagree with that at all.

I think for someone who doesn't necessarily have those skills yet or is really earlier in their career, or as I did, is changing tack slightly in terms of what they want to do, I think you've got to have the confidence in your own ability.

If I think about how I solve problems, it's having a global view and it's looking at things slightly differently. Having the ability to articulate how you do that, someone's EQ is something that I'll look at and how they respond to questions, as I mentioned.

It probably starts with confidence and the willingness to throw your hat in the ring and have those conversations. I think a level of transparency if you don't know the answer to something or if you don't have experience in that space, hitting it on the head and saying, "But here is how I would bridge that gap. Here is how I would solve that problem if I was faced with that problem."

Answers like that or I guess, people that show those sorts of skills that I'm looking for, people who can show transferable experiences where they've solved problems or shown discipline or work ethic in other realms that might not yet be relevant to a role but can show me from a personality perspective or a work ethic perspective that totally those skills are transferable into any environment I think.

“the opportunity to come in and get that really diverse exposure to different departments is a very real...”

Greg Denton:

Before we let you get back to your day, for you personally, why do you think now is such an exciting time to be joining the stage of where the company at now?

Danica Paki:

One of the obvious answers is our recent cap raise has opened up lots of opportunity for us as a business and so I talked before about us moving into a global business, and so having an office based in Sydney, having team based across Australia, moving into the Canadian markets, what that's meant in terms of why now for ArchiPro, is it has become a really great choice for someone looking for a role in the tech space where people move really quickly across the business.

You might come in a sales or a client-facing role, or in content or a product role, but because we're evolving so quickly, we're totally open for people to be trialling new pathways within the business. The opportunity to come in and, I guess, get that really diverse exposure to different departments is a very real opportunity.

Also, with moving to a global business, it means that people are now exposed to global roles. You might have been working in the New Zealand team a year ago with a remit that covers New Zealand business, but now we've got roles that mean actually you could be responsible for what your department looks like across the whole business globally.

So how does your department show up when it comes to the Canadian market or the Australian market? We're really encouraging people to rise to that challenge, or I guess take on the challenge of what that means. So that feels like a really exciting opportunity for anyone who's already in the team, but also anyone who's looking for a role at ArchiPro as well.

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