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Ambition and drive key to success - 20 year career from carer to manager

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She now manages the village that she cut her teeth on; the village she considers "home" but Tracey is no newcomer to Ryman.

She started with the Company on 15 July 1998 at Ryman's first Wellington village, Malvina Major. Tracey recalls, "The care centre was being constructed and we were working out of the original building which had been the old Burma Lodge. I was doing night shifts and working as a caregiver."

Ryman Christchurch seemed distant then, through the eyes of a young caregiver. It was a scary prospect to meet someone from Head Office. "We hid!" she laughs.

Over the next 20 years Tracey worked her way up the ranks and she can now confidently say she has done every job in the village apart from registered nursing and gardening – and she's planning on correcting the gardening part. "I'd like to try it; I'm sure I can help out with the annuals," she quite seriously suggests.

"I have pulled teaspoons out of jammed waste disposal units, changed lightbulbs, washed dishes and done cooking, laundry, activities and housekeeping.
From the get go, Tracey was ready to lend a hand wherever it was needed. "I put my hand up for all the jobs no one else wanted."

Tracey recognised that this was a company where she could move ahead and she had the motivation to do it.

She enjoyed the setting-up period in a new village - so next stop was Ryman's first purpose-built village in Wellington - Shona McFarlane in Lower Hutt.

It was originally meant to be for six months but Tracey stayed on as a senior caregiver, training new staff and was offered the job of quality assistant.

With her spirit and determination she quickly gained an insight into Ryman policies and the documents they used. "I pushed myself to the limit to prove I could do it."

Always on the lookout for new opportunities, Tracey transferred to Kilbirnie for the opening of Rita Angus. She continued with the quality assistant role which soon mushroomed to quality coordinator for the Wellington area, and audited other villages throughout the country.

In typical Tracey fashion she jumped at the chance to become studio coordinator at Rita Angus, then administrator. In 2006 she took a short maternity leave when she and husband Todd had their son Sam.

Many of the residents at Rita Angus felt like surrogate grandparents during this time and the knitting needles were clicking away late into the night!

It's no surprise then, that when Tracey was offered the village manager's role at Rita Angus in 2009 she jumped at it.

It was a huge challenge. Not only was Tracey one of the youngest village managers, but she was one of the first not to have a clinical background. "I just got stuck in and learnt along the way. It's great with the mentoring now."

Having first hand knowledge of Rita Angus was both an advantage for the new manager, and a disadvantage – "It was personally hard to have worked alongside people and then become their manager.

Six years ago my biggest challenge was saying no. We all want to please people - but it's what's best for the residents. I have never deviated from that."

Still, she considers it one of the best moments in her career. One of the worst was leaving Rita Angus. "I grew up in this village. I invested a lot into Rita"

Moving to manage Shona McFarlane in Lower Hutt was a chance to find herself and spread her wings. She came in as the village manager and built a team around her who were all working for the same purpose.

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"Shona McFarlane was the best thing for me to grow. I got to put it all into action there.

I am very different now, coming back. It feels like I have been on an extended holiday!

It's all about people in this job – making time for residents. I have to put big trust in the team and not blame myself personally. It is still a challenge – I want the best.

I think if you want the best from your staff it starts with kindness. It's hard to get that back if it's lost.

I can drive it and work with the people who want to be there for the right reasons. Those who want good outcomes.

Being positive is essential. It's how you deliver the message."

The next big challenge is managing Rita Angus – coming home. "I've come home. I want it to feel like home. I want the people working here to feel like they are part of a family and to think - is it good enough for mum?"

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