A chat with 2023 Award Winner, Karyn O’Loughlin
2023 ComplyWith Community Contribution Award Winner
Karyn O’Loughlin, General Counsel at DB Breweries
How did it feel to win the 2023 ComplyWith Community Contribution Award?
Very exciting! I was sitting at a table with people I didn’t know, and it wasn’t until part way through the night that they noticed from the programme that I was a finalist – and they were very supportive and congratulatory.
My husband drove down to The Mount with me, and I actually didn’t even think to invite him to the dinner. Before the event he was my realist saying “it’s competitive so don’t get your hopes up too high” and it felt great to call him on the night and say “I won!”
Your guidance has been described as invaluable to the CEO, the organisation, and the gymnastic community. What led you to volunteering your time with Gymnastic New Zealand?
My daughter does gymnastic aerobics, and I would sit at competitions (sometimes for days on end) thinking ‘what can I do to help instead of just sitting here?’ – so I reached out! And luckily, they were in the early stages of forming an integrity unit that needed to be chaired by someone with a legal background.
I began my volunteer work in 2018 by meeting with the CEO to help formulate and review some governing documents. From 2019, I spent a lot of time triaging complaints as they came through, with the committee meeting once a month to discuss each and make recommendations. It was heavy on time but incredibly interesting.
My background is in commercial and property law, and more recently compliance and integrity, so being involved in the sporting sphere put me out of my comfort zone and was eye opening to see the amount of effort that goes into making a sport tick. For my own development, I also went to a sports law seminar, which was fascinating and exposed me to an area of law I knew nothing about.
What do you think are the advantages of Volunteering?
I was early in my leadership journey at DB when I volunteered for the GNZ role. I learnt so many leadership skills when interacting with the staff and volunteers at Gymnastics NZ, which led to a lovely cross over with how to lead a team, delegate and get the best out of people. So, I got back as much as I gave!
Another advantage of volunteering is working with people from different walks of life. Not saying all lawyers are the same but we tend to be quite analytical (and always up for a healthy debate on anything) but hearing different perspectives on the same written document led to better thought process and discussions. Which ultimately led to better outcomes with the complaints. So, I really learnt to appreciate diverse backgrounds and opinions!
As the ComplyWith Community Contribution winner, $5000 in funding will go towards a community organisation of your choice. Tell us about the organisation you have chosen and how this funding will benefit them.
This has been the hardest part of winning! I did however decide on the Auckland Youth Orchestra (AYO). They’re musicians aged 14 up to early 20s, and I would describe this group as a baby philharmonic orchestra. The role of AYO is not just to perform concerts but to train future musicians to feed into the national ensembles and orchestras. They put on concerts in the community which are funded by donations and run by a passionate group of volunteers. 2023 is their 75th anniversary, and it was amazing to be able to attend their anniversary concert at the Auckland Town Hall over Labour Weekend and experience the most amazing musicianship.
When I let them know about this donation, they were overjoyed and sent me the loveliest email congratulating me on my award win and advising what they could use the donation towards. My family has a musical background - so music is my relaxation and I’m excited to contribute to this organisation.
What would you say to someone thinking about nominating themselves or a co-worker for an award?
Put yourself forward or chat to the organisation who you are volunteering for as they will likely put great effort into your nomination. The CEO of Gymnastics NZ reached out to external counsel and the chairman of the board, who all wrote such kind things about me and my work. Sometimes you’re in the thick of it thinking “what have I got myself into” or “I’m out of my comfort zone” so, even if you don’t win, it is so rewarding reading all the positive things they say about you in the nomination.
Winning this award was one of the highlights of my year!