Dr Karen Poutasi, CNZM
Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit
Dame Karen Poutasi says her damehood is a testament to all the people she has worked with over her career as much as it is to her individual achievements.
Poutasi discovered she would become a dame companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit after an email was sent to her during the lockdown. Under normal circumstances, it would be a letter in the mail.
The chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority said the appointment was extremely surprising but equally honouring.
"It really came from left field," Poutasi said. "At the end of the day, any success that I've had is actually through the teams that I've been privileged to work with.
"I think the big thing is, it reflects others' work, and if you're privileged to be a part of one of those teams who is really delivering for New Zealand, then that's great."
Poutasi has been the CEO of NZQA since 2006 and is also the commissioner of the Waikato District Health Board.
She is also deputy chair of the Crown-owned company Network for Learning and chairs the New Zealand Appointment Committee for Harkness Fellowships.
And while she was grounded in health after 30 years in the sector, education was also something she had worked hard on.
"Education is fundamental to our ability to have opportunity and to have equity of opportunity," Poutasi said.
"Without really good education it is really hard to have the opportunity that everyone should have."
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There was no single moment she could outline as something she was more proud about than any other over her career, Poutasi said.
"There have been things that you could point to but no one of them stands out," she said.
"I think it's the pleasure in working with people … to get different things delivered and I think that's what I draw strength from."
Meanwhile, asked what advice she had for others, Poutasi's message was clear: "Go for it, back yourself.
"Young people these days are facing lots of pressure but believe in yourself, go get the skills you need and go for broke."
• Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Queen's Birthday 2006
• New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993