Genevieve Whitson

NZ Avocado
Tell us about your background.

I have come from the rural sector in Edinburgh Scotland, where I spent seven years working at an agricultural college, SRUC (Scotland’s Rural University College).  Growing up on a sheep farm in the Manawatu New Zealand I really enjoyed going back to the rural environment, which is ultimately my roots. I had some great career progression at SRUC starting off as an Executive Assistant and moving into an International Engagement/Alumni role networking with other agricultural colleges around the globe and supporting marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits of choosing an agricultural career path and staying connected as an alumni.

What do you do now?

I work as the Corporate Services Associate at NZ Avocado. This involves working closely with CEO, Jen Scoular and the wider team to support a variety of projects. These include Board meetings and governance, managing annual planning timelines and undertaking activities to progress delivery.

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

I was successful via ‘Seek’ submitting an online job application followed by three rounds of interviews (two via phone and one in person). It was my first time applying for a role online and being successful. When I saw the job advertised, it sort of felt like the job was perfect for my skillset, I remember thinking ‘I have a really realistic shot at this!’ and was genuinely excited at the prospect of returning to the horticulture sector having worked in agriculture in the UK.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The variety to the job. No day is the same and there is some travel involved. I am also a bit of chatter box and I get to network and engage with a lot of people across the horticulture sector which is really valuable for me to understand the world of avocados better.

Do you travel much for the role ?

Yes sometimes I do. I think the highlight so far was our growers forum in Whangarei. I’ve been away from NZ for a long long time and it’s been really exciting to reconnect with parts of Aoteroa I am less familiar with and meet some of the growers/stakeholders I deal with over the phone or vial email.

Was being a woman a hindrance or a help in getting this role?

I think it was neutral actually. While traditionally there are more women in Senior Admin or Executive Assistant roles, I felt that NZ Avocado were simply interested in the best candidate with the right skillset to fit the role, be that a man or women.

Do you have any qualifications?

I have a bachelor of arts with a double major, am a licensed pedicab driver (that’s a whole other story from my time in Scotland)! Am a qualified Trail Cycle Leader for road and mountain biking and have my first aid certificate.

Did you require any specific education or training for this role?

In an ideal world yes. Any training within the secretarial area, board governance or commerce and management would be beneficial, but I actually learnt most of my skills on the ‘job’ for this role while in the UK. I was lucky in my time at SRUC to be sent on a variety of training courses to upskill to support my professional development.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

Yes. I would have taken a year out after school and delayed starting University until I was more certain about what I wanted to study. Education and study opens doors and pathways and while I am proud of my degree I could have channeled the focus more clearly.

Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?

Learn or take advice from someone who does a job you aspire to! Don’t be afraid to ask questions too – and believe in yourself. I think one of the biggest challenges we face as women is having the confidence to believe we are truly capable. If you can dream it you can have it.

As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?

I would like to see more respect from our male counterparts. This is not a generalization for all the men in our industry, but at times, I have definitely felt like my opinion does not count so much simply because I am a women. I would also like to see more boards with even numbers for males/females and more pathways to the top in place for women in this sector, which is why the WiH is such a great initiative helping to bridge this gap.

Have you received any awards? Can you tell us a little about them

I rode professionally as a cyclist for several years in Europe and the USA and have some palmares from that time:

  • 3 x National Road Cycling Titles – 2015, 2016 & 2017
  • Scottish Cycling Roll of Honors 2018