Women of Meridian – Sharalene Shortland

These days, Meridian’s corporate sales lead Sharalene Shortland is open with her boss about her next career step.

“I tell him that I am ready for his job,” she says. “We openly talk about that and prepare and plan for that.

“Previously I guess I just kind of accidently went from role to role. This time I am being quite deliberate, lining up and getting ready for the next step, which is head of sales.”

It’s a change in approach born from many years of gentle nudging from her managers about the customer experience expert fulfilling her potential.

“There have been so many leaders at Meridian who have grabbed me and shown me I was capable of more,” she says.

“If you are happy and enjoy doing what you’re doing, you’ll probably just keep doing that forever.

“I just needed a nudge to remind me that I came in looking for career progression and was capable of that, so I should get on and do it.”

Sharalene (she prefers Shar) has had a customer experience journey that began in the hospo scene in her hometown of Timaru, quickly working her way up to a restaurant manager role at a local fine dining establishment.

“I had a great time, but as you age you realise hospitality isn’t going to get you there.”

The next step was a customer service role at VTNZ. While she was able to achieve her goal of relocating to Christchurch, she soon maxed out her opportunities at the company.

“I remember having a conversation with my manager about the fact I was the top performing and top paid customer service rep in New Zealand. I knew that was my time to leave.”

And so, onto Meridian, where she started – ever so briefly – in the call centre.

“Someone actually asked me about going for a different role while I was still in the training programme. So, I put my hand up for that.”

She began handling business customer queries, which soon morphed into an account manager role.

“Everything I’ve done comes back to that understanding I gained of customer businesses in my early roles,” she says.

“I could actually take the time to talk to customers, understand their business and then wrap need around that.”

“I was an account manager for close to eight years – and loved every second of it.”

Then came one of those nudges from a Meridian leader, encouraging her to take on a project role with the team designing the company’s new billing system. Part-way through that project she was seconded to a corporate sales role in the team she’s now led for the last three years.

“It’s my job to speed things up, remove the barriers and make sure the team have the support they need.

“It was hard at first, not having that customer interaction and my own portfolio. I loved everything about that and felt quite protective of my portfolio because they were my customers. But now I’ve found a way to support that whole segment through the account managers.”

Sharalene is genuine when it comes to the pursuit of another promotion, however, accepting it would come with a caveat.

“For me, the future will have to focus on the values side of things and supporting customers on their decarbonisation journey. It’s not the sales that drive me, it’s supporting customers around climate change mitigation.

“My team is literally on the ground now, working with customers to convert their boilers and remove many thousands of tonnes of emissions from their businesses.

“When I think about the conversations I would have been having as an account manager, compared to the conversations we are having now, they’re worlds apart.

“And if that doesn’t motivate you more, I don’t know what would.”

Sharalene has recently taken up a secondment as contact centre lead to further support her career development.

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.