Mandy rates these decisions as among her best.
‘Napier is a friendly place,’ she says, ‘with fantastic weather. And I’m really happy to have a qualification that measures up against one I might have got somewhere else.’
Originally from Kaitaia, Mandy had university on the medium-term planning horizon when she finished school and left New Zealand to work and travel abroad.
On an exchange programme, she worked several seasons at a summer camp in Tennessee and went on to head an equestrian centre in Kentucky.
‘I grew up with horses and became a certified instructor in the US. As it turned out, I had seven years there.’
Returning to New Zealand five years ago, she was driving with her partner through Hawke’s Bay when, impressed by the opportunities the region offered for outdoor pursuits, the pair decided to make it their home.
Mandy decided that to get to the next stage in her career then having a degree would be beneficial.
‘I always had it in the back of my mind to get my degree no matter where I was. When I started really looking into getting a visa to work overseas, I realised it would be a lot easier if I had one. It puts you one step ahead in the process.’
Mandy started at EIT with the New Zealand Diploma in Business, and then staircased to the degree programme. She dovetailed full-time study with working flexible hours for The Nest at Home Childcare, a company offering home-based childcare services.
Both programmes, she says, offered plenty of study options, even within the management role.
‘I could tailor classes to the areas I was interested in, and the lecturers were right there supporting my choices. They’re still there for me. When I go on campus, former lecturers stop and have a chat.
‘A big university could be a much more sterile environment.’
Since finishing her degree last year, Mandy has also been working for KooGa NZ on a project basis, a sportwear manufacturer who recently relocated from Auckland to Hawke’s Bay. She takes on a variety of tasks, such as designing and improving operations, and shapes her hours to both companies’ needs.
Although done with study for now, she hopes to explore other options in the future – ‘probably something orientated towards environmental planning, I am interested in that area’.
In the meantime, she’s looking forward to her family joining her for her graduation in March.