The Blacksmith Team

Kate Billing


There is no other single thing we spend more of our waking hours doing than being at work. So why are so many of us prepared to declare that ‘dead time’, simply exchanging it for money to ‘have a life’ in the few hours between working and sleeping? What if we could all become better people through our experience of work, and do GOOD in the world as well as create business, career and financial success? Those questions occupied my mind for years while I moved from job to job and country to country – playing the same game as everyone else.

My career path has been a twisty turny one that has seen me develop a unique mix of experience and skills in service and brand-experience driven businesses internationally, two of NZ’s top corporate law firms and powerful global brands such as Coca-Cola. I took the road less travelled in 2007 and left the corporate world for the thrills and spills of building a business. I thought I’d give it a year and see what happened. Short answer – I love it! Working in an external partner role with multiple businesses, I can enable far more change than I ever could on the inside. No two days are ever the same and I’m learning and evolving every day. My clients are amazing people who I love seeing deliberately shaping their businesses through strength of purpose, conscious leadership, genuine connection and the performance power of their people.

Together we’re making our world a better workplace.

Paul Leacock

Paul Leacock

Like a lot of kiwis, I grew up in a small town in provincial New Zealand and after returning from four amazing years of travel overseas I got my big break in Auckland and landed a role at IBM. The learning curve was intense – I didn’t know what cut & paste meant and here I was working for the biggest IT Company in the world.

When I think about that time and why I was successful, I have to attribute it in part to having a great manager who connected with me and channeled my passion and enthusiasm into the results that mattered. Unfortunately I have found that generally this is the exception not the norm.

Having managed teams myself, I understand the frustration and isolation one can feel when there are limited resources and support for how to get the best out of your team and align them to the overall business strategy, purpose and brand promise. This is why I am so excited about being part of Blacksmith and the results I know we have delivered for clients across New Zealand by doing just that.

Anneke Pinker

Over the last 10 years I have established my career in the dynamic area of capability development, gaining my skills and experience in specialist roles across a broad range of organisations, most recently within the New Zealand public service.  I understand that investing in people starts with the leaders of a business who are entrusted with engaging their teams to perform at a high level.

My experience includes developing and implementing competency frameworks; analysing development needs at the organisational, team, and individual level; coaching managers to fulfill their responsibilities as people managers; facilitation; and designing and delivering innovative learning opportunities that translate into real-world, on-the-job improved performance.

I bring with me a unique energy that enables me to bring out the best in others and build rapport with both senior leaders and business-wide. It is rewarding to work with businesses committed to helping its people recognise and achieve their potential through a personal connection with a shared purpose. As such, I have a strong connection to our mission at Blacksmith – to make our world a better workplace.

Milena Velez

Milena Velez

I joined the Peace Corps two months after graduating from University because after four years of study I still had no idea what I wanted to do!  During the two-year posting to Thailand I led teacher training which ignited my passion for facilitating the possible in individuals and teams.

Over my 16 year career in Learning and Development, I have held consulting roles in Australia and New Zealand across a range of industries in not-for-profit, private and State Owned Enterprise organisations.

Some key projects I have led include leadership development, change readiness and building emotional resilience.  I’ve come across a huge range of leadership capability.  The great leaders that stand out were all authentic, passionate about developing their people and could connect them to what the organisation was aiming to achieve.

My mission is to actively engage leadership teams, from the frontline to executive, to create collaborative mind-sets that result in high performing organisations.