Nic Kennedy says her career has followed "squiggly lines", but at first glance, a jump from tech darling Vend to global accounting giant PwC seems more like a complete about-face.

While the move might have raised a few eyebrows, Kennedy, 43, says leaving her role as chief delivery officer at the fast-growing point-of-sale technology company to step into the newly created position as PwC's chief innovation and ventures officer isn't that much of a leap.

She'll miss the team she worked with at Vend, but says the energy for work comes not just from the people, but from solving great problems, and "there're great problems to solve here as well".

"What's interested me for a long time is this really nice intersection between business and people and design and technology and wicked problems, really, and when you combine all of those things together then you get really exciting and interesting outcomes.


"The stuff that gets me out of bed in the morning is making sure that we've got a really nice balance between all of those things."

Kennedy calls herself a late bloomer, having made a false start with an architectural drafting qualification before heading off to see the world and stumbling across start-ups when she lived in Holland.

That got her hooked on technology and the possibilities that arise when you mix tech with people and design, she says.

Returning to New Zealand seven years ago, full of hope and with some pretty good international experience, she found the local tech scene was not what she'd anticipated.

"I expected the bar to be a little bit higher than what I discovered.

"I didn't have a network in New Zealand any more, so that was a little bit difficult for me to start off with, but very early on in my return back to New Zealand, I got very inspired by New Zealand Inc. and how I could contribute to that and how we could make New Zealand better, rather selfishly, so I could have a great place to work and also so my children could have a great place to work, but also because there is so much potential here."

Networking until she found "my group of people" saved Kennedy from the crash-landing that can sometimes accompany the return home.

"Once you get into your groove a little bit, then New Zealand is quite small so it works well in terms of people supporting each other - particularly women in tech.

"My experience of women in tech in New Zealand has been great."

Kennedy spent time at Orion Health, which she says taught her resilience, but it was joining Vend when it was still a relatively small company that was a career game-changer.

She says it helped shift her thinking from "I'm just here to help out" to "I can really contribute in much bigger ways and I can make great things happen for the company and help it on this scaling journey that it's on.

What's always interested me ... is this really nice intersection between business and people and design and technology.


"I think that made me stand a little bit taller, getting that success happening, and I feel very proud of the achievements that we managed to achieve there."

Kennedy will be bringing start-up thinking to a firm where the average age of staff is 27 - firmly in the digital native camp - with 3000 people globally working on digitally-focused jobs.

"That really got me going; that's excellent.

"Those are the people we're going to be tapping into."

Overseas, her PwC equivalents are already rolling out new innovations.

In Australia the digital practice recently launched an app to help Uber drivers calculate GST, after an Australian Tax Office ruling that ride-sharing drivers had to pay the tax on all revenue.

Normally, businesses in Australia don't need to become GST-registered until turnover hits A$75,000 ($84,000), but the app has potential to simplify life for other sole traders, freelancers or sharing economy workers.

Kennedy would be the first to admit that when she began talking with PwC, she wasn't at all interested in working for a big corporate.

But when PwC chief executive Bruce Hassall sat her down to go over the firm's strategy, Kennedy says it was so good the hair stood up on the back of her neck.

Meeting more of the senior staff opened her eyes to the size of the opportunity.

"That's what I'm interested in," she says.

"The purpose of the group I'm starting up is: how do you unlock this fabulous potential that works within this firm?"

In the short term, she will work with staff internally on finding problems that need to be solved and validating repeatedly until the "gold nugget" is revealed, she says.

PwC already has a client-facing digital business, boosted a couple of years ago when it purchased homegrown digital business Optimal Experience.

"I do think that there will be an evolution because I can see a lot of other opportunities come in the near term - but baby steps first."