Every day’s brilliant!

Steph Murray is the Operations Manager with The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company, Waitomo Caves. She's enjoying a fantastic career in tourism.

Q:What qualifications and subjects did you attain at school?

I attended Hamilton Girls High School and completed NCEA Levels 1,2,3.  For Level 3 I studied English, Maths, Biology, Sport, and Food & Nutrition.

Q: Outline your career path once you left school?

I particularly enjoyed sport at school and thought about being a personal trainer or enrolling in the Forces e.g. police, navy. I decided, however, to get a tertiary qualification and went to Wintec (Waikato Institute of Technology) where I completed the 3-year Sport & Exercise Science Degree.

In the final year of the Degree I did an Outdoors paper which I really enjoyed. So much that after the degree I then did a one-year Outdoors Certificate at Wintec.

During the holidays I did work experience at First Step Outdoors. It was a great job. We were instructing the kids, teaching them activities like abseiling, rock climbing, and the flying fox.

After completing the Outdoors Certificate I got a job with Black Water Rafting. I started off as a Guide, taking clients through the caves on inner-tubes. There are a range of trips that visitors can take, and we can take up to 12 clients between two guides. 

The job really made me come out of my shell by having to talk to people - stand in front of crowds to brief them on the trip e.g. where we are going and safety briefings. It’s a good challenge, dealing with clients with different abilities and backgrounds, that is people who don’t speak English, or have limited swimming ability. We learn to get the messages across in different ways, for example, acting out the safety processes and making sure they follow our lead.

After eighteen months as a Guide I was promoted to Operations Manager. The opportunity came up, I decided to have a go, and I got it! I’m now responsible for managing the operation's daily requirements. I ensure everything is set up at the start of the day, we have the required equipment and the staff all turn up. I stay there all day and check things run smoothly. Over the peak months we will have 30-40 guides working and I oversee them. I deal with day to day issues and am also responsible for rostering and uniforms.  

Part of my responsibilities also include mentoring. We look after about 10 guides each, keeping them on track with their training and any general issues or support they need.


Q: What have been the highlights for you?

Waking up each day and doing the job! It doesn’t feel like work. I learn lots about different countries from the guides and visitors. It’s like one big family. Getting the manager’s position was a real highlight. It’s been really challenging – lots of learning which I enjoy.


Q: What attracted you to the industry and kept you in it?

I enjoyed caving funnily enough. I also like people and learning new skills. Trips are never the same due to the people and conditions. I’m also outside a lot. The manager’s job has a nice mix – bit of office, bit of outdoors.


Q: Any advice for a school-leaver?

Find something that you love doing and make a career of it. Take your opportunities when they come.