Rachael Hoogenboom has finished her degree and moved from university life in Canterbury to a job in the Bay of Plenty.

My view out the window while writing my articles has changed quite dramatically recently, to a busy street full of weekend beachgoers, packed cars with surfboards strapped to the roof, and kids enjoying ice cream. This view is rather different from the quiet neighbourly atmosphere in Lincoln that I called home for four years. But where is this new view you may well ask, and how did I end up here?

When we last spoke New Zealand was in the middle of a nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and I was spending most of my time at the kitchen table completing university assignments. Since then, I have completed my Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree at Lincoln University. I had decided to mix up my last semester papers and do something other than science, so I focused on consultancy, agribusiness, and marketing. Once the student life ended, I spent my second summer in Mid Canterbury working as a crop inspector for AsureQuality. It was great to be back out on the road working with farmers again, with my previous experience allowing me to pick up more responsibility.

My summer wasn’t all work though, as I managed to escape away for plenty of holidays. The first being to Milford Sound, which is an absolute must-do for anyone that hasn’t been. I’d recommend going out on a boat cruise to immerse yourself in the breathtaking environment and feel the tranquillity that the surroundings provide. I ended my summer holidaying in Wanaka. The majority of my time was spent suitably lying by the lake relaxing, the reason being that I struggled to walk after hiking up Mount Roy.

The holiday ended but a road trip to my new view began. Driving from Invercargill to Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty.

While I was completing my degree, I spent a lot of my time networking and applying for jobs, but in mid-September I got a positive phone call letting me know that I had been successful in gaining a full-time position with Ballance Agri-Nutrients. Skip forward six months and I am now living in Mount Maunganui and working at the Ballance head office as a sales intern with three other graduates. Our programme will run for at least six months before we become nutrient specialists and are able to move around the country.

At the moment though we are still fresh faces around the office and are doing our best to soak in all the new information. My first few weeks have involved many different types of training, including vehicle training, which will be especially helpful when driving around farms, foundation training, which incorporates the science of nutrients as well as understanding farm systems, and first aid training, which is always a very important life skill to have. The large majority of our first eight weeks at head office is spent working in the contact centre. The purpose of this time is to gain experience dealing with different issues or enquiries that may arise from customers, merchants, or from other staff members.

From there we can learn how to operate the computer programmes that Ballance uses, such as MyBallance, a tool used to place orders and hold customer details and their fertiliser recommendations. When I become a nutrient specialist, MyBallance is a programme I will constantly be using, therefore being able to learn how to use it before I need it will make my transition from sales intern to nutrient specialist much smoother during an already very busy time of the year.

Following my eight weeks initial training I will be tagging along with some experienced nutrient specialists to learn their tips and tricks of the trade, about how to interact with farmers, what questions to ask to get all the information required to produce an accurate fertiliser recommendation, as well as completing soil tests.

The introduction into full-time working life has been extremely refreshing and enjoyable thanks to the Ballance community and I can’t wait to see what I have to write about next. The sun has been out all day so I think it’s time to hit the beach for an after-work swim, but I hope to see some of you out on the road with my new venture.