Melissa Conrad

NZ Avocado
Tell us about your background.

 I grew up just north of Auckland, swimming in the Hauraki Gulf, exploring nature and enjoying the environment around me. After finishing a degree at the University of Otago, I moved to Mount Maunganui where I worked at Mainfreight International, and developed an understanding of the movement of goods, including primary products, around the world. My passion for travel then took me overseas where I lived in London for several years, working and travelling, before returning home to NZ in 2015. I then joined ExportNZ, as the Executive Officer for the Bay of Plenty where I supported New Zealand export companies in achieving their international goals. I worked with several horticulture based businesses including NZ Avocado and it was here that I developed a keen interest in the Horticulture sector.

What do you do now?

I am now the Communications Manager for NZ Avocado based in Tauranga. My role is varied encompassing a key support function to the New Zealand Avocado industry by communicating information via various methods to our growers, industry stakeholders, media and NZ Inc., as well as providing education opportunities to growers through the execution of extension events alongside our team.

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

In my position as Executive Officer for ExportNZ BOP, I worked with several horticulture businesses including NZ Avocado. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the sector therefore after having my first child, and looking for a change, I applied for the role of Communications Manager at NZ Avocado and was successful.

What’s the best thing about your role?

The people. With over 1800 avocado growers, many commercial stakeholders and a very passionate NZ Avocado team, the people within the horticulture and avocado sector are what makes my role so enjoyable. The collaboration, the drive and passion across the industry is very admirable as we all continue to strive to grow this fantastic industry, which highlights such a versatile, healthy and incredible product. It is hugely inspiring to get to work in an industry with such a passionate and diverse range of people, with a huge realm of knowledge.

Do you travel much for the role ?

Being based in Tauranga, but supporting a national industry, there is often travel required. With 1800 avocado growers throughout New Zealand, but primarily based in the Bay of Plenty and Northland, we often travel regionally to host events, visit out of town orchards and engage with stakeholders. There is also opportunities for international travel when international events across the horticulture sector are on.

If you have children how do/did you balance your job and family? What are/were the biggest issues? How did you deal with them?

As a working mum, with two little girls under 4, finding a strong work life balance has become a priority since having my girls. With a wonderful female CEO, who is a mother herself, I find I am empowered to be able to achieve the balance needed to be good at both. When I started back at work after having my first child, I knew it would be challenging working a full time role however my CEO at NZ Avocado enabled me to work a three day week which gives me the opportunity to spend the time with my children, as well as to invest the time to do my job well.

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

I don’t feel it has been a hindrance.

Do you have any qualifications?

Bachelor of Commerce in Management and Marketing, University of Otago.

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

Believe in yourself and surround yourself with like-minded people who will support you in making your dreams come true.