Welcome to my regular "My Light Bulb Moment" series, highlighting a 'blinding flash of insight', business, cultural and sports leaders have experienced, and how this changed their lives.

Fiona Kingsford is CEO designate for the industry training organisation Competenz. This industry training organisation helps New Zealanders build skills, careers and businesses through developing and managing national qualifications which learners work towards on-the-job.

Brought up in the rural community of Waiau Pa as the youngest of six and a farmer's daughter, Fiona left school at the end of sixth form to study hotel management.

Establishing her career in several industries, including media, food manufacturing, emergency services and hospitality, Fiona also studied in the evenings to complete her Advanced Diploma in Human Resources and worked towards a Bachelor of Business.


"While hard," Fiona recalls, "working fulltime and studying was extremely rewarding as I was able to apply what I was learning every day."

Lightbulb moment

Although Fiona was becoming more and more successful in what she was doing, "I had come to a point in my career where I couldn't see a connection between my work and personal satisfaction".

This all changed in 2009 when she accepted a role as a human resources and change management consultant at Competenz.

"Becoming involved in an organisation that is focused on growing people's skills, capabilities and careers felt really rewarding.

"It resonated with me and it was at that point something clicked inside and I realised my passion was to provide opportunities for people to grow and develop.

"When you work in an organisation that inspires you, you're motivated to get out of bed every day and make a difference in people's lives."

When Fiona started the Competenz contract in 2009, there were 18 people in the team. Six years and five roles later, Fiona now works with 180 employees to manage the national training needs of 37 sectors in New Zealand's economy. She will take over from John Blakey as Competenz chief executive when he retires at the end of the year.


Fiona's advice is to "find what you love to do and follow that passion. If you can combine your passion with what you do every day, then you have the winning formula."

Learning on the job - be it through an apprenticeship, employer-supported study or, as it was for Fiona, seeking an MBA, is a rewarding way to expand your knowledge and increase your skills.

This ability to research, learn and apply up to the moment theory in a practical real world setting, ensures you can maximise your impact in your chosen career and industry and make positive, practical and lasting change over the long term.

Says Fiona: "Not only are you improving yourself and your ability to do your job, it's a valuable opportunity to earn while you learn."

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