Sally Pulley – Keeping it real

Sally Pulley tells us her early science discoveries that led her to her scientific path, how keeping it real means doing something you haven’t done before, and about Extrinsic.


This month is such a big month for many people around the world. I love Christmas. I love the crazy-fun-chaos of the silly season. But bubbling up from my big internal world (or just too much pizza?), I’ve kept feeling the statement ‘Keeping it real’ as the theme for this December Issue.

Since Little Hutt is about Hutt peoples’ stories and glories, and for this special Christmas Issue, I’ve asked several people from the Hutt City what ‘Keeping it real’ means to them.

Below is Sally Pulley’s response…

Meet: Sally Pulley

Sally Pulley 2

Extrinsic Services Limited

What has inspired me, to take the path I have taken?

‘There is never one thing that inspires me – it is always a combination of events and conversations – concepts develop and look interesting enough to explore and see what might happen.

I enjoyed reading from an early age and discovered science fiction and authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. Brilliant engineering concepts like space elevators led to my enjoyment of science and technology.

A quick internet search on ‘space elevators’ shows conversations about space elevators starting around 1895, and continuing through to today, with discussions about nanotube technology, construction techniques, payloads and financial viability.

What-if thinking means that engineering techniques and construction materials that were not invented when those science fiction books were written could lead to financially viable new forms of space travel.

Of course, I took the science route at school. My teachers tried to convince me to follow a pure science career; however, there was basically zero careers advice available. A pure science degree seemed a bit boring, as it was not clear where that could lead.

I considered my options and looked at all of the science and technology courses. A combination of exploration, engineering, and geology triggered my interest in pursuing an Exploration Science degree, and that degree formed the foundation of my professional career.’

Field trips were part of the degree package.

‘My first journey down a working underground coal mine led to a lifelong interest in risk management.

Stepping into the lift cage of a deep underground mine really focuses the brain on mining hazards, engineering standards, and site monitoring systems.  The mining experience was closely followed by seismic surveys to locate minerals in remote parts of the UK. Hauling seismic equipment up hills in dire weather conditions triggered an interest in how information technology was being used in the field. That led to a career transition into Information Engineering (IE) and Information Technology (IT).

IE and IT skills have given me the opportunity to work with a huge range of organisations in different industries, ranging in size from multi-nationals to small membership based organisations. Innovative projects provided the ability to travel, and to work with international teams of experts.

No two organisations have ever been the same, the business concepts have always been new and original, and some of the work has been ‘world firsts’.’

What does keeping it real mean to me?

‘My work has always been to achieve something that has not been done before.  That means you have to work out what is needed, how it is designed and delivered, how to build and commission it, and how to train people to maintain it.

Making it real means constantly talking to people to work out what they want to do, and then turning their concepts into reality. You have to manage the uncertainty of the undertaking, in order to deliver certain outcomes.

When people ask me what I do, I say that I help people to move into their ‘future business space’ and do what they have never done before. That usually raises a few eyebrows, so I have to describe a few projects to make the conversation real.’

How I spend my time…

‘What I do has a lot of labels – change management, complexity theory, governance, project management, risk management, and situational intelligence analysis being just a few.

I am a principal in two organisations that help businesses to succeed.

Extrinsic specialises in projects in the ‘future space’ of an organisation. We help our clients to bring new concepts into the current reality, to give them a competitive advantage, and to evolve and adapt to outside market movements such as: changes in the regulatory environment, changes inherent in launching new products or services, and changes in almost anything inherent to the interfaces between a business, its suppliers, and its customers. In summary, Extrinsic is all about business creativity, managing the associated uncertainty, and delivering something new.

I am also a principal and founder of Business Cycles; a partnership that helps people get through tough projects.  The two founders have independently reviewed and provided advice to Chief Executives and Boards on some of the largest IT enabled business change projects in New Zealand.

I am an external, independent, member of the Audit and Risk Committee for the Parliamentary Counsel Office. I am a member of the Management Board of RiskNZ, and in 2015, I and five others founded the Project Quality Assurance Forum (PQAF).

Sally Pulley.jpg

I live in Wellington and have a small holding in the Tararua ranges where we grow timber trees and breed cattle. I still read science fiction, and I try to keep up to date with developments in science and technology. I hope to live long enough to see a space elevator become reality.’

M: 0274 785539


Read more ‘Keeping it real’ stories in Issue 4…