What to export when you're exporting

Auckland Viaduct, 09.08.2019

Lewis here. I'm now onto job number 2 of our travels. Much like the first job at Auckland Council - I'm not too sure how this one fits with the "gap yah" ideals of going full-hippy in a van...

I've just started working for New Zealand's Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) team. This is a government advisory department aiming to grow companies bigger, better and faster for the good of New Zealand. My role as a Research Analyst fits nicely into this as I provide insights for brands looking to identify markets in which to export their product or services.

Everything has gone fairly swimmingly so far and I'm glad it's been worth it because GOD-DAMN the application process was difficult. Having speculatively contacted an agent about the incredibly vague role (“experienced research specialist for a big company in Auckland”), I very much got the vibe that she didn't feel I had the experience. I should note that this IS definitely a step up from anything I’ve done previously, but after weeks of, as Jane calls it, “complaining” about my tedious admin role, I thought that I’d better give it a go. I’ve met some great people at the council and I’m actually incredibly good at my job (this is in no way a brag) due to my years of SAP training at Thames Water, but unfortunately it’s just not for me, and I fear if I have to process one more warrant of fitness I might just lose my mind. Luckily I managed to talk Bridgette (the recruiter) round through numerous phone calls and insistent emails, she eventually caved and interviewed me in person. She kept reminding me that they wanted someone with 8-10 years of research under their belt, and I kept reminding here that I couldn't get that in the one week between the discussion we were having at the time and the interviews for the role...

I completed some pre-testing (the usual excel related stuff plus some fairly fun logic puzzles) before being briefed to produce a report identifying a new international market for an imaginary olive oil company, by Monday morning. Brigette said that if they liked my report, NZTE would invite me to present my findings next week. Given that it was Friday afternoon when they set me the task and I’d already completed a 40 hour working week, plus 15 hours of commuting, this wasn't really something I had a lot of time, or inclination, for. However, Jane was on hand to whip me into action and remind me that it was a great opportunity (and that she didn’t want me whinging anymore...). It’s amazing what you can do with a little will power and the internet, and I was soon a certified expert on international olive growth and health food trends in China. I completed the report over the weekend and went to work on the Monday, exhausted.

Monday afternoon rolled around and I was contacted to say that NZTE would like me to present my findings, in PowerPoint form, to a team of 10 people that Friday. I was a mix of excitement and exhaustion. Given the usual interview prep required (and the aforementioned commute and working life), this was far from ideal. The next few long nights were spent refining my slides, redrafting my presentation, and brushing up on my slightly rusty interview skills. By the time we got to Friday I was pretty much mad. What was I getting myself into? Was it really worth my sanity?

Just as I was about to head to the presentation, I received a call and a text and an email and a voicemail from the Brigette - not normally a good sign! She informed me that they would have to reschedule for Monday as a senior person was off sick. I was pretty torn by this point - on the one hand I was relieved as I felt underprepared and unbelievably tired, on the other, my body was coursing with adrenaline to get me through the final push and I just wanted to get it over with. I managed to keep it together and resolved to dedicate the weekend to some R&R, rather than go over and over my presentation and stress about the interview questions. In hindsight this was the best decision as I managed to get some rest - rather than giving off the vibe of a sleep-deprived, pseudo-jetlagged lunatic in the interview...

I know that this wasn't an easy time for Jane and I thank her for doing literally everything to make my chances of getting the role as good as possible. With zero time for life admin I was more reliant on her than ever and I'm grateful (and sorry!).

I got the job and it's great! The work is both challenging and interesting, involving lots of strategic collaboration with my (mostly European) teammates to figure out a hugely broad range of business issues involving companies selling everything from craft beer to bull semen. Yep. Weird.

(Barely) Working Title: How to retire in your twenties


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