The Opportunist

Nicky is a Chief Customs Officer within the Joint Border Analytics team based at the Auckland Customhouse.

Nicky has always been interested in crime and law enforcement and had seriously considered becoming a police officer. However, this changed after meeting family friends who were Customs officers and 27 years later, she’s never looked back. Fourteen of those years were spent in an operational role in the Intelligence team. Nicky loved the excitement of tracking down illegal imports and working in the Pacific training Intel analysts.

Nicky says that although she isn’t someone who has a five-year plan, she’s always kept her my mind open to new possibilities. When given the opportunity to leave the comfort of Intel to join the relatively new Joint Border Analytics (JBA) Team it was a big leap into the unknown. JBA focus on using advanced analytics techniques to assist in uncovering illegal activity and mitigate risks at the border. Nicky leads a team of data scientists and business analysts, an area completely new to her when she took on the role. She had to put her fear aside and trust in her ability to learn on the job. Looking back Nicky says she underestimated her ability to create new relationships in such a technically driven space, however the change has refreshed and challenged her in an entirely different way.

Until I leapt, I didn’t know how much I needed it

Encouraged by Auckland GWN’s very own Jo Hacking, Nicky became the first chair of the Auckland Customs Women’s Network. She saw how few women there were at management level in the operational arm of Auckland Customs and how she was sometimes the only woman in meetings. This motivated Nicky to investigate why women aren’t in these roles and what support system is needed to help them progress further.

The network began looking at the recruitment and interviewing process. Feedback from recruiters is often that women do not sell themselves in the right way for leadership positions and aren’t progressing past the interview stage. In answer to this the Women’s Network have started a mentoring program which will connect women whose paths wouldn’t usually cross. Nicky hopes that the sharing of skills and knowledge will encourage more women to seek and secure leadership roles.

Nicky Woon 

Nicky also shared her thoughts on having men as allies, which is a strategy AGWN is focussing on this year. Nicky prefers to look at this in the wider context, not just in her work environment. She finds that discussing an issue with her male friends helps both parties. You both get an impartial perspective which you can then take back to your workplaces. She suggests welcoming men and encouraging these early adopters. The Auckland Customs Women’s Network have a male sponsor who actively communicates the network’s goals to the top tier and is extremely supportive of their purpose and programme of work.

In Nicky’s mind a good leader is open and honest. They are someone who listens, and who can be trusted to do right by you. As she’s progressed, she sees the importance of balancing the work that needs to be done with the needs of the team. She suggests finding your ‘person’ or ‘people’ who you can be honest with and who will be honest with you. Check in with yourself that you know your ‘why’ and that you’re in the right place. Take the leap!


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