Tuesday, 12 October 2021 11:55

Mentors can make a huge difference

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Ash-Leigh Campbell Ash-Leigh Campbell

Mentors have played an important role in young Canterbury sharemilker Ash-Leigh Campbell's outstanding career.

Ash-Leigh was the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Fonterra Dairy Woman of the Year award in 2020. In August, she completed a three-year term as chair of New Zealand Young Farmers.

She was a finalist in the Women of Influence Awards (Rural) in 2019 and the inaugural winner of the NZYF Excellence Award in 2016.

Last month, Ash-Leigh was one of four businesswomen to win an emerging director award from the Institute of Directors (IoD) Canterbury Branch. Each recipient receives $1,500 towards governance development courses, a year's complimentary membership of the Institute, a board internship and mentoring from an experienced director.

Ash-Leigh will serve her board internship with health insurance provider UniMed. Chair Jane Huria says the board is very pleased to welcome her as an emerging director.

"Ash-Leigh is an outstanding Ngai Tahu woman. She is hard working and strongly values based, and we look forward to having her join our team."

Ash-Leigh names Huria as one of her mentors.

"Straight away I have half a dozen mentors of mine that pop into my head - Sam Robinson, Sharon Angus, Catherine McMillian, Traci Houpapa, Carmelle Riley and Jane Huria," she told Dairy News.

"Not sure if it is by accident or on purpose that five out of the six mentors, I've had support me on my journey are female.

"I think women are incredibly supportive of supporting others to strive for leadership roles. Mentorship doesn't need to be formal but knowing you can make a phone call and send an email to someone for support or guidance is what it's all about."

Ash-Leigh says the IoD award is significantly important.

It enables her to sit around a boardroom table with experienced directors and to listen and learn in a safe environment.

"The 1:1 mentorship that will also be provided by Jane Huria, the UniMed board chair will be invaluable as well as the $1,500 towards an Institute of Directors (IoD) course which will enable further opportunities to network with others attending the course," she says.

"I haven't decided what course I will do yet. I have already completed the governance essentials and financial essential courses through IoD," she says.

Ash-Leigh is "pretty relaxed' about wat future director roles come her way.

Right now she is focussing on ensuring success as a sharemilker, having gone variable order sharemilking this season with friend Jason DeBoo under their company name "Partners in Cream" Ltd.

Baptism By Fire

Chairing NZ Young Farmers for three years was "baptism by fire", says Ash-Leigh Campbell.

"My ethos and mentality for the first 12 months were sink or swim, so I just got on with it," she tells Dairy News.

"I thought I had just gotten comfortable around the boardroom table, and then along came Covid-19 and it wreaked havoc causing for the first time ever in history of the competition the cancellation of the 2020 FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

"It certainly wasn't a smooth and easy ride but the experiences and lessons gained from the challenges are invaluable.

"I am also thankful to have been able to kick start my exposure and understanding of governance and strategy at such young age due to the opportunities NZYF provides.

“NZYF plays a key role in developing and nurturing the future leaders of the sector.”

Ash-Leigh believes isolation is one of the biggest challenges facing young farmers today.

Therefore it is incredibly important for young farmers to be active in their local community, not only for their well-being but for the sense of belonging, she adds.

“Being involved in my local Young Farmers Club in Dunsandel enabled me to connect with like mind people, learn a few skills on and off the farm, personal development, a few social shindigs and connection to industry opportunities and employers,” she says.

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