From archaeology to glacier guiding

A day in the life of Fox Glacier Guiding Customer Services Manager Christina Paterson can include a helicopter trip across the Southern Alps or crawling through an ice cave on the iconic Fox Glacier. “It’s crazy how diverse my job can be,” she says.


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

At high school I studied arts, music and history, achieving NCEA level 3 and University Entrance.

Q.       Outline your career path once you left school.

I worked and travelled for two years after leaving school – tour guiding in Australia, summer camps in America and bar tending in Europe.

Back in New Zealand, I went to Otago Uni where I studied archaeology. Once I had completed my degree, I had already worked hard in voluntary lab positions and at Otago Museum, so the path seemed set for museum work.

I was employed at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch for two years. They were great in helping me develop in my career and passion for the visitor experience. After two years I moved on to work at Fox Glacier Guiding.

Since arriving on the West Coast where I work as the Customer Service Manager, it has been anything but the quiet life! Being in the midst of a tourism boom, it has meant there has been heaps to get involved with. From starting Mt Cook Glacier Guiding to IT systems and opportunities to grow my team with ServiceIQ qualifications – it is actually crazy how diverse my job and any job in the tourism business can be!

Q.       What have been the highlights for you?

People. The people I have worked with and have met through my work, many of whom are now good friends.

But also the countless helicopter rides over the main divide with the view of Mt Cook. Crawling through an ice cave on the iconic Fox Glacier, hearing the ‘old boys’ swap war stories at the Museum or that one time I fed the tarantulas at Otago Museum. Yeah, I would class that stuff as a highlight. 

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

New Zealand tourism has a really diverse range of people working in the industry. Everyone is united in showcasing the best of what New Zealand has to offer, which makes for this incredible buzz when you come to work every day.

Q.       What are the challenges for young people? 

There are so many options that sometimes it’s hard to know which one to follow and everyone has advice to give…

Q.       Any advice for a school-leaver? 

Don’t worry too much if you don’t know exactly what you want to do in the long run. I think as long as you work hard and make the most of the opportunities that come your way you will have an awesome career/lifestyle. Likewise I also think it is essential to find an employer who wants to work with you, because that helps you to enjoy and grow in your work. Despite what my parents told me, you do spend a lot of time at work, so ideally you need to enjoy it (most of the time)!