Tell us about your background.
I grew up in rural north-west Auckland. After my undergraduate degree I worked a short time at a seedling nursery before becoming interested in plant breeding and training as an ornamental plant breeder for four years. Covid halted plans to gain work experience in Canada so I got a job as a gardener for a retirement village, before accepting a role with Rockit in Hastings.
What do you do now?
I work as a horticultural scientist for Rockit, it’s an exciting new role so I get to help define it. I hope to be able to make a positive impact on the orchards including leading transitions to regenerative/agroecological systems.
How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?
I got the role before it was advertised; I contacted the business at a time of expansion. My practical experience and qualifications helped, my lack of experience in apples was an advantage in this case because they were looking for a fresh perspective.
What’s the best thing about your role?
I get to take time to do research and design experiments, while also still getting out on to the orchards. A good indoor/outdoor balance is great.
Do you travel much for the role?
I’ll be based in Napier-Hastings but will travel to the Gisborne orchards occasionally, there may be opportunities later to visit our growers overseas.
Do you have any qualifications?
I really enjoyed biology at school, so I stuck with that and did a BSc in Biological Science at the University of Auckland (UoA). I got interested in plants so did a bit of everything – genetics, ecology and plant pathology. While working in plant breeding I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Science – Plant Breeding, part time at Massey.
Did you require any specific education or training for this role?
In addition to the above, I have a degree in Classical Studies (BA) which helped develop my writing and research skills. Working with plants, you also need good observation skills (mine weren’t so sharp to start with but can be trained on the job!) and the ability to ask questions, “why/how does that work?”.
Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?
My advice is to be confident in your abilities and your worth. When you’re looking for a new job try to be patient and don’t settle for something less than what you’re looking for. In saying that, it is also fine to take an ‘in-between’ job to keep you going while you look for that ideal role. While job hunting I like to read tips on resume/interview online and follow Career Confidence Coach Sam DeMase on Instagram.
As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?
In terms of equitable influence, I don’t believe women will get more representation in leadership roles by passive diffusion. We need businesses and those in leadership to actively drive the change and address the obstacles that may be in the way.
Are you on any Boards? If so which ones
I currently volunteer on the committee of the International Plant Propagators’ Society (IPPS).
Have you received any awards? Can you tell us a little about them
I received a summer studentship with the UoA School of Biological Sciences, the Colin Aiken Plant Breeding Bursary through Massey, and an exchange scholarship with the International Plant Propagators’ Society NZ to the IPPS Western Region conference in Oregon, USA.