Kate Stewart – Her Story

The confidence to create my career 

Next Level graduate Kate Stewart on taking charge of her future in agriculture, following the AWDT leadership and governance development programme. 

“I have a checklist now to vet any new opportunities that come my way. It’s called the ‘is this what Kate wants and is good at’ checklist.”

For Kate Stewart, Next Level was about taking ownership of her new career. At 24-years old, the Palmerston North local and Dairy NZ regional consulting officer was considering new leadership opportunities, but unsure of where to turn next.

Knowing that the decisions she would make in the coming years would echo throughout her career – Kate saw Next Level as a chance to genuinely pause, reflect on her strengths, form a network and chart a path that would deliver for her, and the industry she loves.

In Kate’s words, “I was ready to put in the work to really understand myself and how I could make a positive impact. I needed the self-confidence to stop worrying about what others were saying and doing, and just walk my own path.”  

Across the six-month leadership and governance development programme, Kate notes three key takeaways that really made an impact for her. 

  1. Strength finding. “I had always known I was a people person, but learning to lean-into that as a strength was new to me”. Understanding that her strengths lay specifically in building consensus (or “harmony”) and developing people was empowering for Kate. For the first time, she could clearly articulate her own why and what she brought to the dinner or boardroom table. It made her hungry to keep improving and building on that strength – like actively looking for her own and other’s biases and taking responsibility for teamwork tasks. 
  1. Learning alongside people I admire. “Because we were all on this journey of self-development and growth, we relied on each other. We used our shared experiences, stories and personalities to make the learning real.” Armed with a better understanding of her own strengths as a communicator, Kate could see other traits play out across her Next Level group. Learning to lead in a way that would resonate with analytical and detail-orientated people for example, was a chance to take her new insights and apply them in a safe, supportive environment.
  1.  Support throughout the programme and beyond. “It was like having my very own group of cheerleaders – encouraging me on and keeping me accountable to myself”. Having gone through a transformative experience with her new “tribe”, Kate had found a group of woman who share something special, regularly check in on each other and are on-track to continue growing together.

With Next Level under her belt, Kate is looking forward. Having already passed on her vision of inspired, connected leadership to the next generation of agri-professionals at the Massey University Awards, her sights are now set on a governance role. It’s no surprise that she now has a plan to find it, and get it. 

She also has a checklist for vetting any new opportunity that comes her way – the aptly named ‘is this what Kate wants and is good at?’ checklist. All the best Kate! 

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