Reflections with alumnus Tom Greally

Alumnus Tom Greally has had a fascinating career—moving from KPMG Consulting, to Weta Digital, and now to Garage Project where he has been Chief Executive Officer for the last three years. Tom reflects on his career and how his study in accounting has allowed him to explore a variety of opportunities.

Tom Greally

Tell us a little bit about your current role.

I’m currently Chief Executive Officer of Garage Project, although some people think I’m actually the Chief Sensory Officer! Garage Project has a strong brand and presence in the market and is known for being compulsively creative. The CEO role was created to work with that innovative culture and bring about excellence from a business perspective. I’ve been here for three years now and I’m loving every minute of it.

What did you study?

I studied accountancy, believe it or not. I was encouraged to do accountancy by my father who also completed his degree at Victoria University of Wellington. Some of my siblings went to the University and most of my kids completed degrees so it’s a bit of a family tradition.

What’s your strongest memory of studying at Victoria University of Wellington?

Growing up in Petone my strongest memory was getting to know Wellington and the people of Wellington. I embraced the music, social, and cultural scene which was vibrant in those days. Getting to experience all of that for the first time was an adventure.

How has what you learned at the University helped you in your career?

It was a stepping stone. What I learned gave me a ticket to my first role at KPMG Consulting where I spent the first 20 years of my career. At KPMG I had the opportunity to travel and take on different roles in several countries.

Accounting is a surprisingly versatile subject. It’s a discipline you never forget and you don’t have to be an accountant forever if you don’t want to be. I’ve been able to apply what I learned to the creative and technology sectors. To me, that’s been a bonus because it is not necessary to follow a profession to get diversity from a variety of roles.

What have been your career highlights?

Spending 22 years at KPMG consulting was a career highlight, and 12 of those years were as a partner so that was a pinnacle achievement for me. I travelled the world, going to the United Kingdom, Middle East, and Australia. Management consulting allowed me to try my hand at many things across a range of industries.

The next highlight for me was the transformation of the Miramar film sector and Weta Digital in particular where I played a role in developing a strategy for growth. Today we have a very thriving film sector and I am proud of the fact that I played a significant role in that development.

And finally, the role at Garage Project is something a little offbeat. I’m working with a younger crowd and it’s given me another lease of life. It’s another environment I’ve totally enjoyed working in.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry at the moment?

There’s lots of competition both locally and globally coming into the craft beer industry. The challenge is to stay ahead of the game, keep looking in front of you and not in the mirror, continue to be compulsively creative while also being really disciplined as a business, and executing what you say you’re going to do.

Growth is fun but also a challenge as it brings all sorts of complexities, but the young crew here accept them with a lot of enthusiasm and their personal growth is a pleasing side effect.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

It’s an oldie but it’s a goodie—never judge a book by its cover. I am big on intuition but as I’ve got older I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s worth looking at things a bit deeper.