"That was an important step for me, both within Unipart and in my career," he says of the six years he ran the division.
"It was an exciting and also a slightly scary time. It was my first non-IT leadership role. The pressures you're put under when you're a business leader are slightly different to those as a functional leader."
The stint exposed him to leading a startup business, and taking an entrepreneurial mindset.
"I did not come in as chief executive of an already operating business," Powell explains. "It was taking something from nothing through to being a fully working business.
The pressures you're put under when you're a business leader are slightly different to those as a functional leader.
"You had to understand all of the facets of how a business operates, rather than just the IT facets -- understand your profit and loss, how you engage your people and how you motivate your teams to deliver an outcome.
"All these things were different to me at that time. But they set me in good stead for coming back into a leadership role within IT again."
Outside of his professional career, Powell is hoping to spend more time, literally, in the fast lane.
"I am, absolutely, a petrolhead," he says, smiling. "I spent most of the last 25 years racing in one formula or another in the UK and Europe, from Porsches to Mazdas."
"I actually retired from racing just before I came to New Zealand. I love watching the F1 [Formula One] and now I'm over here in NZ, the V8 Supercars are fantastic. But my real passion is racing myself."
His family had joined him during those races, cheering from the sidelines. Those holiday weekends took the Powell family across UK and into other parts of Europe.
"It was a complete release...completely different to corporate life," Powell says of his racing persona.
"Having been to a few tracks over here to watch the racing, I'm getting itchy palms to start again." Photos by Tony Nyberg
This article is the cover story of the leadership edition of CIO New Zealand (September to November 2014 issue).
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.