Natalie Milne

Natalie-Milne.jpg

Global Marketing Manager Zespri

Marketing Kiwifruit to the World

Natalie Milne is global marketing manager for Zespri, New Zealand’s leading kiwifruit supplier. Natalie manages the Health and Nutrition, Zespri Brand and Packaging Portfolios, as well as being Gold Product Manager. This is an increasingly challenging role as working in a global environment requires understanding different regulatory environments, particularly in health marketing.

Motivation for MBA

Natalie’s success is all the more inspiring due to the fact that she left school at 15 with two School Certificates. However, from early on Natalie’s pursued study outside of work, and completed qualifications to diploma level in computing and business management. Her early career saw her work through a range of roles including region wide operational staff leadership roles. After being appointed the Quality Manager at Zespri in 2006, Natalie was keen to develop her knowledge and wanted to learn more. Her manager at the time, suggested studying for an MBA to formalise her qualifications and business knowledge. Natalie selected Massey, mainly because of the background and reputation of the University, but also because of the focus and philosophy of the MBA programme, which emphasises combining academic knowledge with practical experience.

Experience of programme

The part-time nature of the programme worked well for Natalie and she continued her work at Zespri during her studies. During the programme she covered two roles at Zespri, Human Resources Manager whilst a colleague was on maternity leave, and a marketing role ultimately leading to her permanent appointment as Global Marketing Manager. With family commitments, full time work and part time study, it was a very busy time, but somehow, Natalie managed to make it all work.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted but incredibly well worth it,” says Natalie.

Making the decision to apply for the programme was the biggest challenge for Natalie.

“I knew I was going to be facing some serious study. I had completed two postgraduate papers at MBA level previously and knew what I was getting myself into. I had some concerns around managing the workload, and getting up to speed in some of the areas requiring a mathematical base, as I had finished maths at the end of fourth form."

With great determination and a serious amount of effort, Natalie successfully worked through all her subjects.

“Finance and accounting were very challenging but  just required extra focus and when I got great marks it was really very satisfying.”

“If you want to do it you can, you just have to be organised and make temporary sacrifices. You need to be able to compartmentalise your life and remember that it doesn’t just impact you.”

Natalie describes the course as “grunty and high pressure” but with fantastic family support and highly developed organisational skills, she excelled in the programme finishing on time with excellent marks.

Natalie enjoyed working with the group and the programme involves a lot of group assignments, so it was really important to be able to function effectively as a team.  “The ability to work out the strengths and weaknesses of the group and allocate the tasks accordingly was fundamental to our success. The dynamic of the group was great, we had a lot of fun working and learning together, we were all there for the same reasons and everybody wanted to do well.”

Part of doing an MBA is building a network of contacts that continues long after graduation, with fellow students, teachers and industry mentors.

“Our group was a really good mix of people, we supported and energised each other and developed long-term relationships.”

The teaching staff supported Natalie through her MBA programme and she says she particularly benefited from the practical business experience of the lecturers who had spent a lot of time in the field.  “Massey is really good at combining the practical and the academic. It’s so important to be able to understand the theory within an appropriate business framework.”

“You learn a lot, a huge amount and it stays with you, I was worried that I might forget significant amounts of it, but you don’t. The fundamentals  are so ingrained in my every day work that I can’t imagine having to do my job now without this knowledge. Two years on you realise that every single day you draw on some level of the experience.”

“Doing an MBA provided me with the grounding to make better, faster, more informed business decisions. I don’t hesitate and I am definitely less risk averse.”

“I learned that it’s not about the end result, it’s not just the qualification, it’s about your journey through the process that’s important.”

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