Richard Renall, (class of 1999), Country Manager/GTC Operations Manager – Sweden, Atkins
First of all, I appreciate Margaret reaching out and being patient as I think it’s a great initiative letting Old Boys share their story in the Listonian. I left NZ straight after Uni and haven’t returned since, having split the last 20 odd years between Australia and Sweden, so for me it’s been nostalgic reflecting back on my time at Liston. I am the oldest of the ‘Renall Boys’, my three brothers also attending Liston during the 90’s and early 00’s. We grew up on a farm out in Kumeu and took the Muriwai/Whenuapai bus to school, until we moved to Henderson Valley. One might ask why Liston, why not Kaipara College or Westlake Boys? Well, my mother attended St Dominic’s and who wants to go to school on the North Shore?
I look back on my time at Liston as a key phase in my life. It really was a transition phase where you have left the playground of primary school yet haven’t experienced tertiary education or joined the workforce fulltime. It’s an important time, your personality matures and is shaped in more detail. Your goals and aspirations are also first defined and explored during this phase. Liston College provided the support needed to help shape my personality with the right values and to provide me with the foundation to achieve my goals in life and to take that next step. I first heard about the “Liston Man” when writing this article and what a great way to term the unique culture found at Liston and the values the College strive after.
Teachers/Coaches play such an important role in your development and in pushing your limits whilst at the same time keeping you engaged and the teachers at Liston didn’t disappoint. Sitting Bursary (University Entrance) exams a year earlier, playing sport for the school’s top sports teams at the young age of 14, or weaving psychology into RE lessons were some of the ways I was challenged to excel or kept engaged. Not to mention my Graphics and Design lessons which gave me the inspiration to further my studies at university. Winning the Hemana Cup (Sportsman of the Year Award) when I was 12 helped me come out of my shell and gain more confidence as I was quite reserved early on at high school. I seemed to gain a lot of ‘locker room respect’ after winning this award from the other guys outside of my group of friends.
Directly after Liston I moved down to Dunedin and attended Otago University. As I was the only guy from my year at Liston that made this move, it was intimidating at first, however with strong support back home from family and my Liston mates, the transition went smoothly. In my last year at University, I spent 6 months in Sweden through an exchange programme, which in hindsight was a turning point in my life. I highly recommend doing an exchange, if possible; it’s a priceless experience.
After graduating from University, I moved first to Brisbane and then spent time living and working in Stockholm, Malmö, and Sydney. I have now settled down on the southern coast of Sweden not too far from Copenhagen in Denmark, along with my Swedish wife (whom I met on exchange) and our two teenage daughters.
Graduating from high school with the values of the “Liston Man” has influenced my life both privately and professionally. During my time at Liston, I gained the confidence needed to further my studies in Dunedin, to move overseas and to eventually live in a country where I had to adapt to a new culture and language. Although we are based in Sweden where my daughters receive a Swedish education (which is vastly different to the education system in NZ), I ensure that where possible, my knowledge and experience is shared with them - acting responsibly, with respect, and being competitive yet humble. In Sweden they don’t have anything like the student houses at Liston has (Kupe!), nor regional school sports leagues. My strongest memories come from winning and competing with my friends and fellow classmates. These environments helped shape my character. Student Houses are a really great way to get all involved and to maintain that contact with students in other years; something which is lacking in Sweden. I also ensure that my daughters think independently and not shy away from posing the tough questions.
Professionally, my values are tested daily in my role as the Country Manager for our offices in India where I oversee and coordinate operations between Sweden and India for both the Urban Development and Rail Sectors. Due to the time difference, I spend my mornings having meetings with my colleagues in India (in English) and then in the afternoons I have meetings with my Swedish colleagues (in Swedish) so it’s a nice mix where I get to practice my English! It really is the contact with people from different cultures and backgrounds that drive my motivation. Most of my time is set aside for collaborating with the senior management teams in Sweden and India, but I do find the time to support and discuss with the engineers who are delivering excellence on a weekly basis. Due to the vast difference in cultures, I must be unbiased and humble, act responsibly and fairly, while thinking effectively, otherwise excellence would not be delivered and the collaboration would fold.
Although I have created my life abroad, I do keep in contact with a few of my Liston mates. It may not be often, but when we do catch up in NZ or Sweden, the stories from our time at Liston are once again relived as if it were yesterday. I attended an old friend’s wedding in Tuscany, Italy a few years back where I caught up with other Old Boys whom I hadn’t seen since our days at school together. Good times!
If anyone is curious about student exchanges or living and working in Scandinavia feel free to get hold of me via LinkedIn.