An interview with Kerri Fergusson, Compliance Response and Investigations, Auckland Council and active AGWN member
What brought you to a career in the public sector?
It was a dare! I’d returned from the UK and caught up with a friend from school who told me he was joining the police. He challenged me to apply and as I’d always been sporty and outdoorsy, I thought it might suit me and it really did!
Tell me about your current role and what you most enjoy about it.
I am currently a unit manager for the Compliance Response & Investigations unit in Auckland Council. My teams respond to complaints of non-compliance of the Resource Management Act, Building Act and bylaws. This includes noise complaints, urgent pollution as well as dangerous or insanitary buildings and illegal construction work. We prosecute under these regulations and have had a lot of success with some significant cases.
I love managing and working with people who are passionate. Being across different teams brings variation to my day and I value the work we do, keeping the environment and people safe.
Have you experienced any challenges during your career and how did you overcome them?
I’ve seen people placed into management who were ill-suited for the role and the negative effects this has on teams. I was once told to lower my performance as it made my peers feel bad. I suggested it wasn’t me who needed to change, and this didn’t sit well with me ethically. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t long before I moved on, I think it’s important to know when to leave a situation.
To maintain my energy, I constantly reconsider what I want in a role and am open to change. Have a plan but revisit it often.
Wellbeing and having a work-life balance is important to me. I once had a manager who expected me to work after hours, and I had to be firm with him about my boundaries. I have a line drawn between work and non-work time and keep to it.
You went back to university to complete your masters – would you have any advice for anyone considering returning to study?
I love to study! I completed my master’s in Fraud and Financial Investigation. This is based around transnational organised crime and specialises in anti-money laundering and combating financing terrorism. My interest in this area comes from my time with NZ Immigration in the Immigration Fraud Team.
Before undertaking more study, consider if it will enhance your career. You’ll need a good plan in place to assess and choose the most appropriate course. Make sure you have a real interest in your chosen area. Another thing to remember is that formal qualifications are not always necessary. It might be that you can achieve your goals using the opportunities you have on hand where you are.
Has there been a particular mentor that you have looked to for inspiration or guidance?
Yes, some informal and others from afar who I would look to emulate. Keeping in mind how I felt in certain situations in the past both good and bad has shaped my approach to leadership. I remember at the police a male colleague received praise for my work. My manager told me that giving me the credit would send the wrong message as I was new.
For me, the best mentors will help you look at situations from different angles, encouraging you to arrive at the answers yourself. This has helped adapt to new work environments and roles. Having someone you can just vent to without any expectations is also important. Connecting with other likeminded people is a must and helps you realise you are not alone!