I have always wanted more. Today it's called a ‘growth-mindset’. But growing up in South Taranaki, this type of thinking wasn't always considered the 'right' answer. While my classmates dreamed about lifestyle properties, I dreamed of high-rise apartments. While they played guitar and drums, Mum sacrificed to get me classical singing lessons. While they planned to be farmers, I planned to be the Chief Executive of Fonterra following after fellow Hawer-ian, Craig Norgate.

If nothing else, I've always stood out from the crowd.

I’ll never forget the night Mum handed me a prospectus for Dilworth College, an all-boys boarding school based in a strange place called 'Remuera'. I  imagined Remuera to be a hick-town in the middle of nowhere – not realising that it was indeed in the middle of somewhere. She strategically left me to read about the Dilworth Scholarship while she went to pick up dinner from the local KFC with my siblings (I had a growth mindset in other ways too).

She didn’t give me the prospectus to ask whether to apply for the Dilworth Scholarship or not. Rather, it was her way of saying she'd already applied and we were off the next weekend for an interview.

It looks like Hogwarts, and it was like Hogwarts in that Dilworth was the most transformational experience of my life. Through the kindness of people I have never met, I was afforded an education beyond my previous conception. The school enabled me to achieve all I had ever and never dreamed of, including — Consistently Best Speaker at the Model United National Association for both 2009 and 2010; representing the Epsom Electorate at the 2010 Youth Parliament; and taking classes a year above my age level, which allowed me to be Top Scholar (effectively dux) two years in a row.

On the musical side, I continued singing and won awards for my performances in school shows, travelled the North Island succeeding in competitions, and a clear highlight – singing in the backing chorus of Andrea Bocelli's 2008 concert at Vector Arena.  

I began courses at the University of Auckland while still at Dilworth and was then fortunate to be offered a full scholarship, aptly named the University of Auckland Scholarship, to study opera singing and economics. Mum cried when I called her to tell her about the 3-year award worth in excess of $50,000. To be honest, $50,000 was likely more than our annual after-tax household income.

I imagine she cried again when I called 2 years later to say that I planned to give up the last year of the scholarship and leave Auckland for the University of Waikato. Which part of the news set her off I can't say. While this move didn’t make short-term financial sense – I wasn’t satisfied with the learning I was receiving at the former institution, and needed more. It was a long-term investment that I believe has paid off.

As well as being involved with national management consulting competitions throughout University, I continued studying singing and gained lead roles in productions. I sang professionally with the New Zealand Opera Company in their 2014 production of La Traviata, appeared at the Rotorua Lakeside Concert in front of over 30,000 people and was in the chorus behind Dame Kiri te Kanawa and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at Vector Arena the night before the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final.

Strange looks are still sent my way when people hear that my qualifications are in economics and music – it’s an eclectic mix. Yet, I always knew that both sides are important to get where I want to be. One needs to be both creative and have business acumen to back the creativity up. This is what led me to the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, which has allowed me to combine both sets of skills. 

Wanting more led me to the Auckland Young Professionals (AYP). Aligned with my growth mindset – I started as the committee member responsible for sponsorship, within eight months I had secured the Vice President’s role and the President’s role four moths after that. I am incredibly ambitious for AYP and I look forward to achieving our vision of becoming "the most engaged young professionals network in the world".

Mine is a story of learning, growth and development.  I am always looking to discover the next chapter in this story. Might you or your organisation play a part in it?