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Source: University of Waikato

Thomas Wakelin’s journey has been anything but typical. After leaving Tauranga Boys College, he attended Toi Ohomai, where he graduated with a Diploma of Business.

In 2016 he transferred to the University of Waikato and studied in a variety of ways; online, part-time, full-time and on-campus in Hamilton and Tauranga. Throughout his studies he also worked to gain industry experience, which would become valuable later.

Throughout high school, Thomas knew he wanted to study business like many of his mentors. What he didn’t know was what part of business he wanted to enter. Unsure of where his strengths lay, Thomas gave a little bit of everything a go.

It wasn’t until his fourth year, while studying at Waikato Management School under human resource management professor Mark Harcourt where Thomas discovered his passion for HR.

“That semester was a defining one for me; I haven’t looked back since”.

Off the back of this class and needing to find an internship as part of his degree, Thomas reached out to his contacts. Through his network, he landed himself an HR internship at NZL ContainerCo at the Port of Tauranga.

This role helped him put the knowledge and theories of human resources into context, with real world examples. Thomas flourished and others began to notice.

In what would have been his final year of study, Thomas was offered the opportunity to take on the sole HR role at Pak n’ Save Papamoa. To bring focus and expertise to his new position, Thomas studied part-time, while rolling out a new innovation, performance and feedback tool across the business.

On top of this, Thomas was busy developing his network. He did this by leveraging his friends and family’s business connections, attending university career expos and becoming an active member of the Human Resource Institute of New Zealand.

Since graduating from the University of Waikato in 2020, Thomas is now People and Culture Adviser at nib Health Insurance. He has quickly proven himself in the role, and was successfully nominated as the NZ Functional Representative for the implementation of a new human resource information system for the entire nib Group.

Thomas attributes some of his success to the University of Waikato, which he says supported him throughout his study journey. “I didn’t have to compromise the quality of my learning and I had the resources and support available the whole way through, which facilitated my success.”

The rest, he owes to his mentors and networks. Without them, Thomas wouldn’t have had the same opportunities.

“Get out of your comfort zone, don’t wait for something to fall in your lap. You need to get yourself out there networking,” he says.

While it may not have been a typical journey for Thomas, it has been a successful one.