The distinguished alumnus, who was knighted in 2012 for his contribution to public service, spent 22 years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade―including stints as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea and Ambassador to Japan―and says being open to new opportunities is vital.
“I was greatly blessed in my career by having senior colleagues, managers, and bosses in certain roles who saw something in me that I didn’t see myself. They stretched me by putting me into new roles. I took that on as a lesson myself … one of your biggest roles when you are a chief executive or senior manager is to nurture your talent,” says Sir Maarten.
Listen to the podcast:
As chief executive of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for eight years during the Helen Clark and John Key years, Sir Maarten was often asked by younger public servants how he made it to the eighth floor of the Beehive “as though there were a sort of yellow brick road”. He would tell them not to think too far ahead and do the best they could in their current role, to innovate and deliver well. “That’s when things will come along.”
A staunch advocate for stable, effective, accountable, and lawful democratic government, Sir Maarten never talked politics with any of the people he served with.
“Your role is to assist the legally elected government of the day. If they say they want to climb Mountain A and that’s their objective then your job, with your colleagues, is to say this is how you might do it, this is how much it’s going to cost, these are the options for getting there. You can’t question the direction and objective of what they are doing.
“We have a very strong and robust, intimate democracy in this country, which I think is an absolutely invaluable national asset.”