Life’s Lesson

Wanting to know more and achieve more, Marketing Manager Nikki Newton-Cross decided it was a good idea to turn her 20-year industry knowledge into a professional certification. Little did she know at the time just how valuable this life-changing decision would be.


Demonstrating diversity as a marketing manager across multiple disciplines and industries has been my career focus. Over the course of my 20-year career I have come to realise that in order to be successful in this, one needs to have knowledge of so much more than just your immediate area of practice. And, to be a successful people manager and an effective leader requires both practice and knowledge. It’s not all instinctual.  

 In pursuit of this ever-changing, ever-growing knowledge base, a year ago I embarked on an academic journey that would see me expand and hone my industry knowledge. A decision that would later mean I could easily adapt during a time of hardship and uncertainty within the marketing industry. 

 This is a story of how by investing in myself, I’ve been able to reinvent myself more easily. 

 Driving between meetings one day I heard a radio advert suggesting I could turn my management experience into a nationally-recognised degree, without going back to the classroom. Researching further, I found that Otago Polytechnic’s Capable NZ offered a suite of qualifications from Certificate level to Doctorate, across a wide range of subjects. Targeted specifically at professionals wanting to deepen their understanding in an area of their work, either to grow their knowledge base or advance a career.  

 Life however, at the best of times, is frantic. Juggling work, marriage, two kids and life beyond all of this while trying to fit in study-time was going to be a huge ask. So, the fact that Capable NZ’s offering allowed for truncated time, meaning I’d get my qualification in shorter time based on receiving academic credit for what I already knew. For me, this was achievable. 

At the time of enrolment for my bachelor’s degree in Applied Management, I was working for a retail organisation as head of a department managing community partnerships, sponsorship and events. I was eager to broaden my horizons in a role I took immense pride in, at a business I respected. Over the course of my 10-year career at the company, I had built up a team of loyal and dedicated staff around me, who together we delivered meaningful work. I had the practice but wanted more still. 

My intention with a degree – that would only take 10 months to complete – was to grow my understanding of general management and leadership practice, and to develop new knowledge. 

Plus, by choosing to major in Event Management it allowed me the opportunity to demonstrate my skill and experience within this field and to learn new theories and methodologies to improve my practice. 

Life’s curveball

Several months down the line, things were progressing as planned. That was until Covid-19 happened. 

 None of us know what is around the corner. 12 months ago, I couldn’t have known that New Zealand’s unemployment levels would dramatically rise, or that there would be an abundance of marketing managers looking for new roles. Nobody could have foreseen the devastation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and that sponsorship, event management and creating sustainable communities would all but stop overnight.  

 Two weeks into the nationwide Lockdown, my team and I were made redundant. To be made redundant is a reality many people face over the course of a career, and in our new Covid-19 world it’s even less surprising. It is, however, something nobody is ever really prepared for. To say there was a lot of hurt and stress would be an understatement. Having been with a brand for as long as I was, built up relationships and become invested, only to be fated by a pandemic, was a bitter pill to swallow. But I wouldn’t let it take hold, I was determined it wouldn’t be my story, instead of sadness, my story is a tale of a silver lining.   

 On April 20 I turned 49 years old. That same day I presented and passed my bachelor’s degree with Distinction. And, following my presentation I was asked if I’d consider working for Capable NZ to assist others with their academic journeys.  

 I liken working toward this degree to preparing to run a marathon. It takes time and effort; it requires an eye on the end goal and a relentless attitude to just keep on plodding on. Keeping a positive attitude is necessary and then suddenly, the finishing line becomes visible.   

The work done while undertaking this learning is collected as your ‘body of evidence’. Presenting this work to an academic panel is the final stage. I presented two weeks into Lockdown, via Zoom, four days after I was officially made redundant.   

 I had three facets of my life colliding: redundancy, completing my degree and the impacts of Covid-19. The world was rapidly changing around me, and I knew to survive I would need to change with it. In my presentation I quoted Steven Hawking who reportedly said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”.  Lockdown gave me an opportunity of time, redundancy provided a need to reinvent myself, and my academic journey provided personal confidence in my ability, new learning and skills to redefine my career direction.   

 I’ve accepted a new exciting role which brings together all my experience, knowledge and skill, in a sector I’ve never worked before. I’m excited. I will undertake a master’s degree through Capable NZ and life is looking a lot more optimistic.  


This article was originally published in the June/July 2020 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

About Nikki Newton-Cross

Nikki Newton-Cross (BAppMgt) is a Business Manager & Academic Facilitator at Otago Polytechnic’s Capable NZ.

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