Joshna Mistry, Partner

Joshna Mistry was born in Fiji and moved to New Zealand when she was eight years old. Her first home in New Zealand was in Tuakau (Waikato Region), she spent her first two years on farms with plenty of friends. She moved to South Auckland and attended Manurewa East Primary, Greenmeadows Intermediate, and Manurewa High School. Joshna feels that growing up in South Auckland played a huge part in who she is today and wouldn’t exchange those experiences for anything.

Having played netball and touch rugby through her earlier school years, she considered herself an average sportsperson. She made the decision in fifth form (year 11) to give sports up and concentrate on her studies. Books are Joshna’s oldest and dearest passion. She enjoys both fiction and nonfiction, especially those that challenge thinking.

She feels this contributes to why she is intrigued by people who challenge the norms and status quo.

Initially, Joshna wanted to be a pharmacist, but with a somewhat strict upbringing, was not allowed to leave home (back then studying for this meant leaving Auckland). Her second choice was psychology, but looking at the numbers it seemed to be quite a slow burn before money could be earned. Joshna did well in accounting during school, and so she did the work and became an accountant.

Still enjoying accounting, Joshna wanted to engage more with people– working with business owners to drive and improve their businesses. She was exposed to consulting and corporate finance engagements, and she knew that this was the direction she wanted to go. People, and what they choose to do in life and business, and the challenges that these bring is fascinating.

Joshna spent a long time at a large mid-tier firm, where she learned a lot technically. However due to the GFC and its effect on clients and employment, it became quite high-pressure – especially with a one-year-old child. Looking for flexibility, Joshna found a position advertised at Gilligan Sheppard and it appeared too good to be true. It offered not only flexibility but had 30% corporate finance workload and glide time. Everything she wanted in advancement, whilst still able to have family time.

The initial interview was with Greg Rathbun and Marion Garlick. She was immediately attracted to the down to earth ‘real’ nature of both Greg and Marion. The second interview was with Bruce Sheppard. As per the reputation that proceeded him, he was in a towel. He got changed into bike shorts and together they went to a café. Joshna recalls that Bruce made her talk for five minutes on a subject of her choice (one of his interviewing techniques). Joshna was intrigued by him, he was ‘real’, challenged the status quo, and had no qualms about saying exactly what he thought. She had very limited exposure to this in her work life previously.

Upon starting with Gilligan Sheppard, Joshna found it a shock to the system. She had come from a very formal, structured, process driven and highly monitored mid-tier firm to something that didn’t seem to have any processes, rules or hierarchy.

“Initially I found it hard to deal with, sending correspondence without it being checked by a partner. I kept asking people to check and they would look at me confused as to why.”

Joshna has come to deeply value what Gilligan Sheppard offers. When people are having problems at home or health issues, there is never a discussion about time off required. It is just given, no questions asked. Joshna had never seen this anywhere, whereas at GS, it’s just a part of the DNA. Initially, Joshna kept looking for a ‘catch’, but to this day, still hasn’t found one.

“While there are always people who will take advantage of open trust, GS is a living example of how it works. Instead of having to take sick days when children are unwell, or to go to an appointment, the ability to make up the time, actively works as productivity is maintained. This is enabled by a no-questions-asked, work-from-home option when required, and the ability to work outside of normal business hours.

Additionally, if so inclined, the seamless ability to work from home allows faster response to clients outside of office hours (though outside work hours responses are not expected other than if you are making up time outside of these hours).

“Mistakes are not a big deal (provided they are not repeated). People are not looked at based on their last big mistake.”

“There is zero protectiveness of client relationships by partners or managers (and in the limited cases where there are ‘rules’ the ‘why’ is always communicated). People are actually left to communicate directly with clients and develop their own relationships with them.”

Joshna feels that Gilligan Sheppard has contributed so much more to her life than she has to Gilligan Sheppard. Coming from highly regulated and process-based workplaces, Joshna has introduced new technologies, systems, and processes that work within the GS ethos. She is a champion of alignment and direction for the company and team. Joshna has a strong technical background, however with GS she learned to understand doing business in the real world working with Bruce and Greg who were entrepreneurial and very active in governance. While numbers and the technical stuff is underrated, and very important, they are only one part of the wider story. At GS, she found real people, with real experiences, and real stories. She learned how to engage with people, not just numbers. She could be her natural ‘self’. She has found her home.

Author: Lisa Garrud interviewed Joshna Mistry.