One NZ chief transformation officer could have been an ethical hacker

Juliet Jones would enjoy trying to get past the controls she tries to build in her present role

One NZ chief transformation officer could have been an ethical hacker
Juliet Jones

For Juliet Jones, the rise of AI isn’t about “replacing people with machines”. As the chief transformation officer at One NZ, she wants to see AI being used to help address issues in society.

In this interview, 2023 Elite Woman Jones talks about how she might have been an ethical hacker if she wasn’t in law, her desire to see more diversity at the senior leadership level, and the gift of time.

What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I remember in our first Laws 101 lecture at Canterbury Uni the lecturer asked, “How many of you are here because you watch LA Law?” and just about everyone put their hand up!

But in all seriousness – I loved debating at school and was always pretty good with words. It was only later in my career that I began to understand how the law is so critical to fundamental principles I care about, like fairness, equality and democracy. I combined my law degree with a bachelor in political science which was the perfect combo for me.

I love helping people solve problems. In my job as counsel, I get to do this every day and see the tangible opportunities for the person and the business that that creates.

What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

As a business with technology at its heart, we are always looking at how we can use tech to do better, for our customers, staff, shareholders and communities.

There’s a lot going on in the AI space which we’re staying close to. As a country I think we’re still at the early stages of understanding the impacts of AI and there is still a great deal of scepticism about risks to personal data, accuracy, discrimination and so on. At the same time, AI provides us with the opportunity to super charge the insights we can gain into the world around us, change how we interact with customers and transform how we manage and develop our businesses. It’s not about replacing people with machines, it’s about enhancing the work that humans do.

I’m really interested to see how this landscape evolves and how risks and opportunities are realised. At One NZ, we are using AI to improve the experience our customers have with us and are already seeing improved customer metrics. More broadly, I would love to see AI used for good by helping solve societal challenges.

I’m also excited about our collaboration with SpaceX to bring direct satellite-to-cell connectivity to our customers this year. It will massively expand mobile coverage across New Zealand, initially with text message this year, followed by voice and data in 2025. Think of the possibilities! One of the things about my role is the chance to engage with the world’s best technology companies and bring that innovation to New Zealand.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

The transaction which saw One NZ’s shareholding change to become 99.9% owned by Infratil was awesome to be a part of. It was exciting to see through such a large deal and the opportunities it brings now that we are fully locally owned by a business as iconic as Infratil. In just a few years our business has transformed from being owned by global-giant Vodafone, to being locally owned and operated, and now being rebranded as One New Zealand with a singular focus on this country.

I was also proud to be recognised as one of the top female lawyers in NZ for Elite Women 2023.

What should the profession focus more on?

How can we leverage technology by getting ourselves ready and ahead of the curve. I see opportunities in using AI for things like legal research and template drafting, which then frees up time for lawyers to focus on the things that still require the human element.

I would also like to see more diversity in senior leadership roles including at partnership level. This isn’t unique to the legal industry, but I would love to see us do better when I look at some of our amazing rising talent.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

We are always expected to do more with less and so are continually evaluating how we can best support the business with the resources, skills and experience we have. This isn't unique to us but there are different ways to respond or better still, get ahead.

Stress, anxiety and burnout are real for lawyers, yet we are still expected to show up and be dependable every day and often nights and weekends. The pressure can feel relentless if the right safeguards aren’t in place.

I often find what people value most is the gift of time because that’s what they’ve been robbed of. Giving your team back the time when they've been working really hard is something we try to do when work demands spill over into personal time.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Alongside my day job, I chair One NZ’s registered charity, Te Rourou One Aotearoa Foundation. An important part of One NZ’s wider sustainability commitment, our mission is to reduce the exclusion and disadvantage faced by Aotearoa/New Zealand’s young people.

The need to help create systems change is huge given the current challenges facing young people and families. Alongside other community partners it’s a privilege to be part of this mahi at a governance level. In 2024, we will continue to think long term about the kind of Aotearoa/New Zealand we can all help shape.

If you weren’t in law, what do you think you’d be doing as a career?

When I was about 10, my best friend and I had big plans to run our own cattery. The other day I found our ‘business plan’, which included selling knitted cat cardigans for $6.50c. Possibly ahead of our time?

These days you’d be more likely to find me as a teacher. Or an ethical hacker where I would get great pleasure trying to break through the controls I try to build in my current role!



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