Women of Meridian - Rachel Herangi

Fittingly, it was her time in a photography lab that helped Rachel Herangi develop as a person, and exposed her to a new career.

After getting prepared to study for career in journalism, life for Rachel, Meridian’s Head of Customer Care & Delivery, took a different path. Rather than moving straight from school to more study, she instead took on a role as a photographic laboratory technician.

And it was through exposure to customers, that this self-confessed extrovert soon discovered a passion for being front of house.

“What I realised was that, while I loved being in the lab, I actually loved the people interaction more. And I learned pretty quickly that engaging with people, finding solutions for their needs, and coaching others to do the same was what really filled my cup”.

After extending these skills into a stint at office management, a chance encounter with a Meridian employee who spoke highly of the company, set in motion a series of events that brought her to the heart of customer service in Meridian’s contact centre.

Since joining Meridian in 2006, her experience has been typical of that of many of the company’s long-serving staff. She’s been given opportunities to prove herself and learn new skills and is now in a senior leadership position, running the largest team in the company’s retail arm.

“I’m so privileged that working for Meridian gives me that sweet spot of that intersection between caring for customers, the people who support those customers & business outcomes, and also helping to drive our business forward as a senior leader”, Rachel reflects.

Born and bred in the southern suburbs of Ōtautahi-Christchurch, Rachel feels a strong connection to Ngā Kohatu Whakarakaraka o Tamatea Pōkai Whenua (the Port Hills), where she likes to roam with her whippet-staffi cross rescue dog, Mango.

Growing up, she loved science, biology, English and always thought that she would move into further education.

“I’ve always felt a sense of disappointment that I didn’t ‘stick to the plan’ and go to university. It was always going to be part of my journey - I loved learning”.

She assumed entering the workforce would be temporary before enrolling to study.

“But I never did. So, I guess my story, particularly for other women striving to grow in an organisation, is that it’s always been a secret shame that I’ve carried. And, actually, I want to own that. It’s never held me back. There are other ways to develop yourself as a person, that you can practically apply and add value to a business - whether it be ‘making people awesome’ or contributing to critical business outcomes”.

“Some of the best leaders I know, are those who have experienced what it is like to support customers first hand. You take that with you throughout your entire career as an important anchoring point, helping frame business outcomes around the human experience. It also helps provide a deep empathy for our frontline heroes- who are so incredibly skilled at what they do”.

The old adage of, ‘look after your people, and they will take care of your customers’ remains true.

A mother of three, Rachel is particularly appreciative of the way the company has supported her through her maternity leaves and return to work.

“It something I felt really safe to do without my career stalling, I’ve still had opportunities afforded to me to grow and develop into bigger roles.”

It was on maternity leave that Rachel uncorked a passion for supporting and advocating for wahine. She trained as a breast-feeding peer counsellor so she could support positive and empowering birth experiences and breastfeeding journeys.

Rachel has a strong affinity for working mothers “and Meridian mothers in particular” who juggle part time work with parenthood.

“Someone on 20 to 25 hours per week, you can guarantee they are working their butts off,” she says.

“A really powerful way that people can grow and unlock a whole new set of priorities is by learning to balance family life and their professional identity. It’s a really tough transition finding your feet back in the workspace”.

The two core values she holds dearest - authenticity and connectedness – shape the ways she approaches leadership. Rachel says this is complemented by working for an organisation with a strong purpose and vision around doing what’s right for its customer and New Zealand as a whole - a perfect fit.

“Leadership is intuitive and humanistic, but you also need to constantly learn and do the work” she says. “Fundamentally you need to be a good human and apply those skills authentically.”

Rachel uses her favourite whakataukī to make a final observation about her career: Ehara toa i te toa takitahi, engari, he toa takitini" – my success (or my strength) is not that of a single person but instead the strength of many.

Meridian is an equal opportunity employer with Advanced GenderTick accreditation. To learn more about working at Meridian, check out our careers homepage.

Women of Meridian is a series profiling some of the amazing women working across our company, with a focus on those in roles traditionally held by men. It’s about raising the visibility of these women, and the opportunities that exist here and across our industry. As the saying goes: if you can see it, you can be it.