SHIFT Consultant Profile: John Hanson

John Hanson started out as a research scientist before he entered the legal profession. He shares more about his fascinating career journey, his love of guitar and his top places to eat in London.

Tell us about yourself:

I live in Mission Bay with my wife, three teenage girls and one rescue cat.

I’ve been practising law for well over 20 years. My time in the law was broken up by a 10 year stint in senior management. My most recent permanent role was as General Counsel at a large organisation for 15 years.

I was born and educated here in New Zealand. I completed a Master’s degree in physics originally and then worked as a research scientist for a couple of years. Things came to a bit of a head at that point. It turned out, it was really decision time at that point – a moderate career crossroad crisis. While I could have taken science further, the sad reality is (as I found out with a bump), there aren’t many places in the world where you can make a good living as a scientist, and it’s tough to get jobs that are enduring and meaningful.

I found myself wondering what I really wanted to do, so I talked to people about different fields: medicine, the commercial field and law. In the end, I was offered a position at law school at the University of Auckland and decided I’d take it. I really didn’t have a great idea about what might be involved.

I just went and did it really. You learn by doing, don’t you? In the same way as I didn’t start out getting guitar lessons and thinking I’d end up writing something and then uploading it onto Spotify (read on to learn more about this!), I didn’t start out in law thinking I’d be a General Counsel. There was no great master plan to it. It’s a good job I enjoyed the study of law!

What makes working with SHIFT great?  

SHIFT has got a level of flexibility that you don’t have in most environments. You get to work with people who come from a variety of backgrounds, as SHIFT puts you in front of clients of all different types.

While the businesses themselves are interesting, the people are even more interesting. That’s something that SHIFT does give you.

What do you love about the job you do?   

I love that it’s not private practice – I’ve kind of done my time doing that.

Flexibility and the very fine folk I have been fortunate to work with to date.

I decided to get out of the big firms and go into an in-house environment. In house offers someone like me much more. In the end working in-house as SHIFT offers, gives us an ability to provide immediate support.

I was GC for about 15 years in two large organisations. I don’t have aspirations to climb any mountains now. I’m just really happy to support people in what they’re trying to achieve. I really prefer this type of supporting role than dealing directly with Board issues or CEO issues and so forth.

What’s the best book/podcast/show you have recently indulged in?

  • TV show: My youngest daughter and I are moderately obsessed (probably an understatement) with Stranger Things. Aside from that, repeats of Endeavour.
  • Podcast: The Rest is History.
  • Online: Rick Beato’s YouTube channel – he’s a music academic and now talks about music.
  • Book: A history book called The Forgotten Soldier.

Favourite Restaurant or Café and any menu recommendations?

The French Cafe is very nice, and we’ll give ourselves a treat every now and then. The local Kohi Cafe is good for us, they’ve started doing other things like pizza now which is great.

Hawkesmoor is a meat restaurant in London. They adhere to a philosophy about where the product comes from, how they treat the animals and how they cook the meat. There’s also a very good pie and mash shop opposite the Tottenham Hotspur ground…

Favourite way to unwind? 

I fly fish when I get a chance – we’ve got a place in Taupo where we go and hang out.

I read – fiction and non-fiction.

Football – I’m a Tottenham Hotspur supporter.

I’m still a science nerd, so I still read the odd copy of Nature magazine, and subscribe to an offshore paper where they talk about sciency things.

I garden, and hang out with friends every now and then.

I’m also a closet musician. I’ve been playing the guitar for about 9 years and am taking piano lessons. I’ll have some music appearing on Spotify soon that I’ve written for my wife and girls.