Four years ago Christina Mackay, 40, was a stay-at-home mum with no career prospects. Now she manages a staff of 10 and together they help give tourists the Kiwi holidays of their dreams.
“Being a mother of four boys who are all complete opposites has prepared me for anything. You need to be able to prioritize, organize, sympathize and strategize your way through every stage of their growing up. When my husband and I separated I had three kids under five. I felt nervous at what was around the corner but excited as I knew there was more to life.
“As much as I loved being a mum, I needed to be challenged in ways that put me way out of my comfort zone. I’d previously just done odd jobs so I certainly wasn’t expecting to be where I am now. My memories of my own Mum being able to work as well as bring up a family gave me the courage to try something new.
“I come from a family of eight siblings, three foster brothers and a multitude of cousins who stayed with us. Dad was in the merchant navy which left Mum to bring us all up. Samoan born, she spoke very little English but she always seemed to know how to communicate with people. Even when she was tired, she would always be laughing with us kids and playing rugby, bullrush and tiggy. She sent us all to private Catholic schools. She is my inspiration and she taught me that nothing is too hard if you really want to achieve it.
“In 2007 I started working part-time as a junior detailer for KEA Campers. I was hungry for knowledge and was always asking questions and before I knew it I was a senior detailer. I put my hand up for ATTTO [Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation] training which taught me how to deal with conflict and ways of dealing with people which I would never have thought of before. When I was offered the role of housekeeping manager two years ago I felt humbled and so proud. As I had only just recently returned to the workforce, managing a department was not even on my radar. I had huge shoes to fill as the previous manager had set the standard so high I knew I had to really prove I could meet it and show I was a worthy choice.
“This job has given me more confidence than I’ve ever had, and self-respect. Having so many people believe in me is extremely empowering. It makes me want to continue to strive to be a better manager and team member.
“I love seeing people from around the world setting off to experience a fantastic holiday with our product in our country. We feel so proud when our hard work is acknowledged by customers. They don’t want their holiday to end and they have usually developed a kind of relationship with our campervan and they don’t want to give it back! Their holiday is often everything they had dreamed it would be for so long, and we play a big part in delivering that dream.
“When the summer season picks up and the pressure is on, the long hours and the tourists can be demanding. At the end of each day my team has worked their butts off but they still manage to have me holding my sides in fits of laughter. They are a hardy bunch and because of their hard work and high standards they make me look good, for which I am forever grateful. This strong camaraderie is the reason why many of us stay in our jobs.
“My home life has changed a lot because I am not there for my boys as often as I used to be, but I know they are proud of their mum. Having a stable job has helped me give them a life that they would not otherwise have had. I have achieved a lot in a short time and I believe I’ll continue to grow in knowledge and confidence. There is no chance of me getting big-headed though; my team keeps me well and truly grounded!
“I believe in taking on one challenge at a time and having faith in myself because at the end of the day only you can get to where you want to be.”
Interview by Rosalind Le Bas Walker