Great minds think alike

I like working in teams.  There’s something so satisfying when you see a group of people completing tasks together in a respectful, collegial and fun manner.  An effective team needs a solid foundation and I fundamentally believe that a key to this is spending genuine time with each other.  The role-modelling needs to come from the top, therefore managers and leaders must be involved too.

I have witnessed too many instances where managers and leaders assume that they need to clear lines with their staff, or maintain a hierarchy of some sorts.  Get real.  People respond to people, rather than a falsely constructed ego reeking of grandeur.

Today I held a team building day with my teams and we spent the morning engaging in a few connecting activities and one of them involved playing a song from the very first album we heard or bought.  The songs ranged from Simon Garfunkel, Michael Jackson (70s and 80s versions), Whitney Houston, The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Andre, oh and Allanah Myles (yes, I bought the cassingle from a music shop at Mangere Town Centre).  Naturally many anecdotes and memories flowed from these songs.


My awesome Student Development teams

After having lunch together at Bread and Butter Cafe in Grey Lynn (fantastic food and service by the way), we headed to Newmarket to experience a session on robotics at The Mind Lab by Unitec. 

Say what?!  

For those of you who don’t know, The Mind Lab is a specialist education lab dedicated to enhancing digital literacy capability.  In other words, we can get all hi-tech and geeky and find new ways of working and collaborating with each other.

We were totally blown away when we entered the Lab and it was like stepping into an grown-up version of the Willy Wonka’s Factory.  Our facilitator Rich warmed us up with an activity featuring 30 tennis balls, then introduced us to coding.  By this stage my heart starting beating quickly… maths and physics were never my forte.


Facilitator Rich Rowley, setting the scene for us

He showed us how a cartoon cat could make a noise, by applying logic and coding rules to enable this happen.  Using this learning we worked in teams to create a ‘sound box’ that could play music.  My partner Di and I struggled away at this and realised that coming up with the creative ideas, was way easier than making it practically.  But we persisted.  Our sound box ended up NOT looking like what we thought, but hey, it did make a distorted sound.

To cap off the session we created the coding to make a remote controlled car move.  I worked with Deb on this and we successfully got it moving forward and backwards, despite the odd time when it went hurtling under the table.

What I loved about the session at The Mind Lab is that it totally made us feel comfortable with using digital technologies.  The instructions were brief and it was up to us to figure out how to make things work.  It was so great to see team members checking in with each other for help and ideas.

My team members and I can now say that we have experience coding and making a robot. Team + chatter + music + food + robots = strong team.  All from one day’s investment of time.  Do not underestimate the power of thoughtful team building.

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Feel the love



Today is the 14th of February; the Feast day of Saint Valentine; the celebration of love.

With aroha in the air, I write this blog post with strong affection for my administrative skills.  Yes, I have loathed you in the past and at times I found you to be boring, repetitive, routine, and devoid of joy.  But today I will put you on a pedestal.

Administrative skills are those that are required for success in administration, such as communicating, computing, organizing, planning, scheduling, or staffing.  They are often performed ‘behind the scenes’ and carried out with little fanfare or appreciation.

When I graduated from university I undertook many admin jobs as this was the easiest transition into the workforce (sorry high powered HR job you would have to wait!  Well, it never happened in the end anyway…).  My experiences at university taught me how to follow instructions carefully and I had no qualms in processing documents and spreadsheets.pexels-photo-131979

Having written many essays over the years, I also felt comfortable composing emails and sending messages to clients and staff.  Entering data and typing quickly?  No problem.  I was of the generation that grew up with computers and using gadgets and devices.

After many years of using these skills, I felt unchallenged and got tired of the routine nature of the work.  Where was the creativity?  Even though I had a natural ability to organise and plan things and events, especially if it was in the best interest of others, it still felt hollow.  By the time I transitioned out into a role that didn’t rely on admin skills, I was feeling jaded and could happily not use them ever again!

Many years later as a career practitioner and manager, I still undertake admin tasks but these form a much smaller part of my skills tool box.  I must confess that being able to complete them in small doses has been a godsend – completing a spreadsheet or entering data totally appeals to the organised part of my brain.  I zone-out and I love the sensation of collating the information quickly, presenting it succinctly and tidily.

Whilst I don’t derive natural pleasure or excitement from my admin skills, I acknowledge their usefulness and ability to enhance my work.  They truly are a transferrable skill and I know I can depend on them in this changing world of work.  Once upon a time I would have been too embarrassed to highlight my admin skills, but now I see them as a necessary part of my self.

Today I’m showing some love to my less favourite skills and I encourage you to do the same too!

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Happy Waitangi Day

Happy Waitangi Day to all the New Zealanders out there!  May you bask in the glorious sunshine, knowing that we live in a South Pacific paradise.


Happy Waitangi Day from Karioitahi Beach

I refuse to get caught-up with all the misunderstandings and ill-feeling that is usually associated with Waitangi Day.  Since I was young it almost felt expected for people to bicker about the relevance of this national day. ‘Cringe’ is often the word that springs to mind.

Growing up I used to feel confused by the Treaty, particularly as it represented the partnership between Māori and Pakeha.  What does that mean for a New Zealand-born Samoan-Chinese person?  I now feel comfortable in understanding that the relationship is not so restrictive or exclusive.  The relationship is between Māori and non-Māori, all of whom exist on this multi-cultural nation.  This was clearly articulated to me at a hui (gathering/event) last year and it really made sense to me.

I really wish that New Zealand history was made compulsory at high school.  Whilst you learn small parts about this in Social Studies, I gained comprehensive understanding of the Treaty and other significant parts of New Zealand’s history when I undertook the subject in years 12 and 13 (forms 6 and 7).  Note:  History is purely an ‘optional’ subject from year 10 (form 4) upwards.

As a teenager, it is easy to dismiss such subjects as boring or irrelevant, heck, didn’t that all happen a long long time ago?  But learning about the Treaty was eye-opening and really gave me an objective and informed account of this significant event.  I wonder how people would respond if they were fully informed on this too.

My sense is that the level of discomfort around talking about the issues of colonisation, race and indigenous rights, make this a very awkward and taboo topic for New Zealanders to discuss.  When we suppress these issues, they can fester and grow ragged around the edges.  Get comfortable with the talk people, as the younger generations deserve to be treated with honesty and integrity.

I am proud to live in a nation where our indigenous peoples have strong values and principles at their core.  Māori are inextricably linked to the land, much to the delight of New Zealand’s clean green image. At sporting events, we champion the haka with pride and sing the National Anthem in Māori and English.  When we travel overseas, we proudly wear our pounamu and share the myths and legends pertaining to Maui.

To me this is beyond tokenism.  This is a part of being a New Zealander.  A Kiwi (yes, another word derived by Māori).

I feel that New Zealanders have a natural defensive response to thinking about how they contribute to a flourishing Treaty relationship.  But if we keep it simple to the core, than it’s all about showing respect.  It’s as simple as that.

At work I love how my colleagues greet and use Māori words in conversation.  Quite often I will use these words too and it’s such an easy way for me to show an appreciation for Maori.  For example, mahi refers to work, and kai refers to food.  I am blessed to work in a highly diverse workplace, so we also sing waiata (songs) in Maori.

Another simple way to express appreciation is to attend events, shows, plays and gigs that feature Maori themes and artists.  I am always so intrigued by the rich story-telling involved and it makes me feel even more proud to live in Aotearoa.

What I’ve suggested is not rocket-science, but requires a willingness to change some of our attitudes.  If we refuse to acknowledge, or minimise the contributions of Māori, then we are not showing respect to the Treaty, or to our fellow New Zealanders.  We are better than this.

He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata
Goodwill towards others is a precious treasure








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Tea? Coffee?

We might not think about it too deeply, but the ability to have have a cup of tea or coffee in a shared workspace is more significant than we think.

I recently conducted an online poll asking people if they thought their employer should provide free tea, coffee and milk, and the results were overwhelmingly clear!

Below is my simple infographic highlighting the benefits of having coffee and tea readily available in the workplace.


Website references:

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Family first


What a hoot!  Ice cream time with the family.

A mid-week dinner at Boy and Bird followed by the dreamiest ice-cream from Ben and Jerry’s (mmmm…. Cherry Garcia…).  Sharing non-stop laughs with my two sisters and my little cousin.  Yup, life doesn’t get much sweeter.

Yesterday my sisters and I decided to take our cousin Sene out to celebrate her successful completion of NCEA L2 (or essentially Sixth Form Certificate for the oldies out there).  She has strong aspirations to go on to university so it was great to chat with her about how she’s feeling about the next few years.

What I love about my cousin is that she appears so composed and quietly confident about her goals.  Her strongest subject is Maths with Calculus and she already has career ideas around architecture and engineering.  She told us about about her scrapbook where she keeps her drawings and house designs.  We couldn’t help but chuckle when we confessed that the maths gene definitely didn’t land with our immediate family!

We told her how we have a line of strong matriarchs in our family; women who are strong-willed, determined and able to rule the roost.  Quite often at family get-togethers you will often see my mum and Sene’s mum calling the shots (code for bossing everyone around).  The hard-work ethic is strong and in part we attribute this to our Grandfather John Ah You, a Chinese-Samoan man who used his smarts to manage plantations in Samoa.  I see the glint in mum’s eyes when she talks about him.

Sene will be the first in her family to go to university, so I happily shared with her my experiences of being in that same situation.  The pressure can feel immense and the expectations from family is high.  For many Samoan families, being able to put your child through university is seen as the ultimate outcome for all the sacrifices that were made for coming to New Zealand in the first place.

The caution around this is that there is also a typical expectation that the child will end up studying a traditional course such as accounting, law or engineering.  Yes, these are great pathways, but only if you’re that way inclined.  I know that my initial foray into accounting study was always going to be short-lived, as my yearnings were at some point going to outweigh the desires of family.

I felt like such as sage when I told Sene that our parents “only know what they know”.  They have the best intentions for us but at the same time it is nigh impossible for them to know everything about the range and raft of careers out there. I went on to tell her to share information with her parents and to let them know about all the great things out there.  To this day I still do this with my mum and dad.

As fiercely protective cousins we want to make sure that Sene knows she has awesome support around her.  We know first-hand that the power of having a strong education creates uplift and growth in a family.  Through sheer hard work we have lifestyles that allow us to occasionally eat out in cool Ponsonby restaurants, but we can also treat our parents to things they may not do or get for themselves.

The drive to work hard is strong in all of us.  Thank you Grandfather for paving the way.









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A – Z guide of (hopefully) useful job search tips


Now I know my A-B-Cs… (Source:

Attitude.  Job searching can be stressful, so create a positive mindset by reminding yourself (constantly) that a good outcome will come soon.

Be on time.  Do not be late for an interview.  Ever.  Try and arrive at least 5-10 minutes early and use the time to focus and calm yourself.

Confidence.  Build your confidence by talking to friends, family or colleagues who support you and want you to do well.

Develop.  Have a desire and zest for learning.  Employers love people who are willing to grow their skills and use their initiative (and can articulate it to them).

Explore. Look beyond SEEK and Trade Me for job leads.  Cast the net further and use social media channels, friends, family and community groups for potential opportunities.

Font.  Use an easy-to-read font in your CV, such as Calibri, Cambria and Century Gothic. Move away from conventional out-dated fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial.

Gratitude.  Send a thank you email after your interview.  Remind them why you are keen for the job.

Hello?  Employers and recruiters will try and contact you over the phone, so make sure you can answer, or have a sensible voicemail message available.  Check for messages too!

Internet.  Make Google your best friend.  Be curious and use the net to find tips on job searching, or info on organisations.

Judgement.  If an employer receives a large amount of applications, they will make quick judgements to reduce the pile.  To reduce this bias, refrain from putting your date-of-birth, religion and political affiliations on your application (unless relevant to the role).

Know-how.  There are many books and articles dedicated to job-searching.  You can also talk to a career counsellor/advisor if you want expert coaching, guidance and advice too.

LinkedIn.  A useful tool for the digitally-inclined.  It provides a platform for connecting with people from a wide variety of industries.

Mistakes.  We learn so much from what doesn’t go well.  Interviewing is a skill, so practice with others and ask for feedback to help you improve.

Notes.  Grab a notebook and write down ideas and examples to help you prepare your answers.

Organisation.  It is important to research the organisation you are applying for.  It is common in an interview to be asked what you know about them.

Practice. Not everyone can speak “off the cuff”so take the time to rehearse what you might say.  Start in front of the mirror, or record your voice.  Practicing with friends and family you trust is very useful too.

Questions.  Make sure you ask the employer questions during the interview too. This shows you are genuinely interested in them.

Realistic.  If you’re applying for lots of jobs (from junior to CEO) but not hearing back, then perhaps you need to review the level of roles applied for. Seek the opinion of others.

Smile.  This is one of the best ways to build a positive connection during your interview.

Tailor your application.  Too many people fall into the trap of sending out generic CVs and cover letters.  Employers prefer applications where people put in the effort to demonstrate how they are relevant.

Understand what you’re applying for.  Carefully read the requirements for the role.  Usually a position description is provided, but if not, request one.

Volunteer.  Not only is this a great way to build skills and confidence, it also will keep you engaged and active while you search for a new job.

Wisdom.  There are many supportive people out there.  You will be surprised at the quality of advice you will get from those around you.  If you don’t ask, you don’t get!

X-Factor.  As much as possible, stand-out for the right reasons.  Share examples of great initiatives, roles and hobbies you are involved in.  We are not clones.

Yipee.  Celebrate the milestones.  Being offered an interview is a big achievement in itself!

Zzzzzz.  Sleep well on the night before your interview.  Naturally you will be nervous, so utilize techniques that promote a sense of calm, for example meditation tapes, soft music, a warm bath.


Need further advice or help?

The Careers New Zealand website is a great starting point.  It contains fantastic information on how to prepare and look for paid and unpaid work.

If you wish to speak to a career professional then the Career Development Association of NZ (CDANZ) website has contact details for qualified, passionate practitioners in New Zealand. 


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I sold a Chupa Chup to Anthony Kiedis


Chupa Chups!  (Source:

I am loving the current ‘Summer Job’ series in the New Zealand Herald where well-known New Zealanders including Dai Henwood, Andrew Little, Polly Gillespie, Metiria Turei and Owen Franks share what they did for their summer job.

More often than not, these jobs during their high-school and University days are far from glamorous, sometimes interesting, often menial, but are a starting point at the beginning of their careers.

At first I cringed, then looked back fondly on all the different jobs I had during my summer breaks.  I was totally motivated by the need to earn cash to fund outings with my mates, and to buy drinks, CDs, clothing and the like!

So here is my experience of my first memorable summer job…

What was your summer job when you were at school, and what did it entail?

I remember getting to the end of high school and thinking I badly needed a summer job, so I worked as a Retail Sales Assistant at Whitcoulls at Auckland International Airport.  The job entailed shift work hours (3.45am or 3pm starts usually) and selling a variety of items to customers including books, magazines, travel accessories and food items.  If I wasn’t serving on the counter, I’d be tidying displays, cleaning shelves or stocking items.

How/why did you end up working there?

I’d had small part-time jobs before, but the attraction of working of the airport sounded exciting!  It was also relatively close to home.  I saw the ad in the Manukau Courier (yup this was before the days of SEEK and TradeMe) and posted in my application.

How did you feel about it?

I had no qualms about dealing with people, so in that respect I enjoyed interacting with travellers from all walks of life.  The hard parts were having to wake up really for the morning shift (3am is not easy at all…), dealing with travellers who left their purchases to the last minute, coping with boredom when it was quiet, and having to get all the boxes checked by security when having to work airside.

Memorable moments?

  • On the odd occasion I would serve celebrities and this presented a great opportunity on the day after the Big Day Out.   A very chilled-out, leather clad and jovial guy with a gorgeous woman on his arm, approached the counter and said he had less than one NZ dollar left to spend.  After going through our selection of inexpensive lollies, he excitedly bought two Chupa Chups. Who knew Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was so endearing!
  • Dealing with diverse customers was a fantastic learning curve.   For example, I remember older male customers who would stand uncomfortably close to me when asking questions, not realising this was normal form of communication in Southern European countries.  I also become proficient in using hand gestures with people who had limited spoken English.
  • Proudly being able to sell Kiwi books to overseas travellers, including titles from Janet Frame, Margaret Mahy, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Michael King… oh, and the “Edmonds Cookbook” too.
  • My dinner ritual was to eat California Roll Sushi with a side of McDonalds French Fries.  Come on, I was only 18!

What was your dream job at that age?

At 18 I had aspirations to become a Management Accountant.  In the words of the famous Tui ads:  YEAH RIGHT.

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