Get to know Joanna Simon, The Starship Foundation new Chief Executive

Welcome Jo! What’s your ‘why’? Why did you want to become Chief Executive of the Starship Foundation? 

As a parent of two boys I have spent time over the years in Starship hospital. We were grateful for the warmth, compassion and human touch of all the medical, nursing and admin staff who looked after us during our visits.  As a result, we always found ways to support the Foundation. 

In a work capacity, I had a connection with the Starship Foundation when I was Chief Operating Officer at global law firm DLA Piper.  The Starship Foundation was a treasured pro bono client and had been since its inception in 1992 and I had the opportunity to support various fundraising efforts through the firm and to see the great mahi of the Foundation. 

I am both humbled and excited to be part of this organisation whose vision is to enable Starship to accelerate world-class healthcare for all New Zealand children and lead equity, innovation and excellence. 

As you get your feet underneath the desk, what’s some of the first things you are going to do as Chief Executive, and do you have any sense of what direction you are going to take the Starship Foundation in yet?  

At the moment I am observing, listening and asking questions about the business of the Starship Foundation in order to clearly understand the organisation.   

Over the next 6 months I have three key priorities on which I am focused. 

  1. Building relationships - My first priority is to meet, understand and work with our many important stakeholders. You are our key supporters, and we couldn’t support child health without you. I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know you. 

  2. Writing a new Starship Foundation strategy - We are coming to the end of our current five year strategy and over that time the Foundation has progressed and completed many great initiatives under Aisha’s leadership.  Over the next 6 months I will be working with the Board, the Starship Foundation team, and various stakeholders to develop our next 5 year strategy for launch at the start of our next financial year – 1 July 2023.  I will look forward to sharing this with you. 

  3. Moving into the new Research and Innovation building - A huge amount of work has gone into the planning and design of the new Research, Innovation, Collaboration, Excellence (RICE) Centre at 111 Grafton Rd.  My focus, with the team, will be to complete this project and move the Foundation into it, ready for operating around mid- 2023.  

How would you describe your leadership style?  

I would describe my leadership style as inclusive and communicative. I welcome and encourage initiative in those around me. With a clear vision, strategy, structure and the right capability, I expect our people to know what they need to do and then to deliver.  Together we can achieve great things.   

The Starship Foundation raises $20 million per year thanks to generous supporters – what would you like to say to our supporters?  

I am in awe at the generosity of our supporters. I would like to thank each one of you for your continued support and for all that you do to help us bring better health and brighter futures to the children of New Zealand.   

What’s your hobbies and interests outside of work?  

I try to keep a work-life balance, which doesn’t always happen.  However, the things I like to do outside of work include Pilates, walking and cycling – I love my electric bike which I commute to work on.   

I like to spend time at Matapouri beach with my husband Greg, and two sons, Oliver and Alex, when they are in the country. I am a keen reader and also love art and was recently on the Board of the Auckland Art Gallery Foundation. 

I am also on the Board of Mercy Healthcare Auckland Ltd, which governs Mercy Hospice in Ponsonby – whose compassionate focus on palliative care is an important healthcare service for our community.  

Finally, I have two delightful little dogs, Doris and Panda, and a very devoted Norwegian Forest cat, with a huge tail, called Hank.