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Interview with an Expert

ALanNa DICK 
ENGAGEMENT DIRECTOR - North America 
EDUCATION NEW ZEALAND


What was your dream job as a kid and why? If it changed, what led to that decision?
I bounced all over with job ideas as a kid. One minute it was a horse trainer, but I couldn’t clean the horses’ hooves because it scared me. Then I wanted to be a hand model because someone once told me I had nice fingernails. I think it was a good lesson in recognizing there are many different types of jobs out there, but it wasn’t until high school when I started job shadowing before I considered what field I wanted to enter as a career.

Tell us about your first international experience and how that influenced your current career choice.
I was born in Wellington, New Zealand, so my first international experience was when I was six months old and my family moved to Maine. My mom, who is from the US, met my Kiwi father on a backpacking trip in Europe. Traveling was in my blood from the beginning and we returned to New Zealand as a family about every four years. It was my first experience in education that influenced my career path. I enjoyed the field of education and the idea of continual learning, but I wasn’t confident that teaching in a classroom was my calling. After two years of teaching middle school  in Phoenix, Arizona with Teach for America, I decided to explore the world and figure out someway to combine education and my passion for cross-cultural connections.

What was your first job in international education?
I had been backpacking in Australia, South East Asia and New Zealand and when I ran out of money I went to live on my brother’s floor in Wellington. I started looking for a job, preferably something that combined education and travel or cross-cultural experiences. I started as Agent Travel Coordinator at Education New Zealand, and through this first position, I visited and soaked up all the information shared with the education agents. I co-led four different familiarisation tours to education providers across the country from primary schools to English Language providers to seeing student projects in action at the institutes of technology and polytechnics to visiting all eight New Zealand universities and understanding why so many US students choose New Zealand as a semester study abroad destination. 

Describe a typical day/week at the office at your current job.
I am so grateful for Zoom video conferencing! My typical day begins around 8am with emails and project management for the ongoing initiatives my team is working on. Around lunch time I take a longer break than most and get outside of my home office to get food, bike, run, swim or go to a yoga class. I’m back online in the afternoon to prep for my evening meetings which in the summer, start at 5pm Eastern Time which is 9am New Zealand Time the next day. This is a typical day when I’m not on the road attending conferences and regional meetings in international education or conducting institution visits and attending study abroad fairs.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Talking to students and advisors! I love sharing information about New Zealand education and interesting facts or opportunities for students to connect with and become inspired to learn more about. The best part is reconnecting with New Zealand study abroad alumni who are so eager to tell me about their experience and how it has changed their life.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is thinking big picture in the day to day. I imagine many remote workers, especially in international education, get bogged down in the tasks of checking things off the To Do list without looking up from the computer screen to contemplate the bigger themes and trends in international education. How does it all relate? Can we approach this more strategically? Without the opportunities for “water cooler talk” in the office, I resort to setting up brainstorming sessions on video conference which feels contrived, so I am always eager to attend sessions at conferences and engage in discussions with other international educators.

Is there a value or principal from another culture that you have embraced and applied to your own life?
He aha te mea nui o te ao

What is the most important thing in the world?
The Māori proverb: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

Do you have a career mentor or someone that you consult with about career growth?
How has that person influenced your career growth?
My manager, Amy Rutherford, has been an amazing career mentor. My first event with the Global Leadership League was a pre-conference session, Women in Leadership in International Education. I had requested to attend and Amy thought it was a great idea and participated as well. Amy understands and sees the value in a variety of formal professional development opportunities but also takes the time to identify projects or opportunities for me to work on. Having support from my manager and the organisation is tremendous for my skill development and career growth.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self in high school or college as it relates to your career?
Explore more jobs and careers. I took the initiative to job shadow at a PR company in a nearby town when I was in high school but why did I stop there? My advice to my younger self in high school and college is to ask more questions. Read more interviews with leaders. Learn about others’ journeys to better understand its not a linear path to a specific position.

What type of hobbies or activities help you balance your work/life experience?
It isn’t easy to strike a balance between work and life, especially when work is in your home. However, getting out of the office mid-day for exercise makes my afternoon work experience much better. During my lunch breaks I try to run, swim or bike because I am usually training for a sprint triathlon. My first triathlon was the Kapiti Women’s Triathlon at Raumati Beach in New Zealand, where my aunt and uncle live. My other activity right not is improv classes. I made a business case for professional development for the seven-week Improv 101: Beginner class. I was thrilled Education New Zealand accepted my business case and sponsored me. It has been a wild ride and I’ve loved learning the improv basics, getting out of my comfort zone, and improving my public speaking and confidence.



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