Growing up in Wellington, and studying Fashion Design at university, Annabelle Cole perhaps wouldn’t have expected to have ended up in Auckland working as Woolworth New Zealand, Countdown’s Logistic Graduate. “I had several jobs I wanted to have growing up, from wanting to be a heart surgeon to an architect,” reflected Cole.

“Looking back on what drove me to wanting these roles, though, it’s definitely the impact that they have on people and our societies. From a young age, the people around me, and doing the best I can for them has been a strong motivator.”

During her tenure at university, Cole undertook two honours dissertations. The first one looked at how New Zealand’s apparel industry adapted to globalisation, and the second considered the potential future of the New Zealand apparel industry.

“Learning from the past and considering how we can adapt and grow for the future is something that I really enjoy doing and is vital to my role. Supply chain is a very fast-paced area and is undergoing a lot of change globally. It is very exciting to be able to bring my adaption knowledge from the fashion industry, and also my reflective mindset, to what I do every day.”

When speaking about her transition to the Countdown Graduate programme, she cited her interest in the company due to its concerted efforts in helping Kiwis and its team of employees. Furthermore, she admired the focus that Countdown placed on women in leadership, supporting vulnerable community members, as well as its focus on early careers. “I wanted to work for an organisation that would see the strengths that I could bring to a role, and that would also be prepared to invest in me and provide me with new opportunities.”

In her role since February of this year, Cole has been lucky enough to work alongside big teams of people across Countdown’s distribution centres and support office, as well as consider the implication of her personal actions and the businesses actions has on all of these people. “I really enjoy getting to work with a diverse range of individuals, with lots of different perspectives. I am really driven by the impact that Countdown can have as an organisation and love being able to consider every day how my actions, and the decisions I make, impact our wider team.”

Although Cole has found passion in and had no trouble committing to her new role, it has not been without its challenges. “Learning how to connect with team members, who have different approaches to my own, and learning how to bring people on board, to my ideas, has been one of the most challenging aspects of this year so far, but also one of the most rewarding.”

“One of the best pieces of advice that I have been given is to be true to yourself. Being able to share my beliefs and perspective at work is an important part of my identity and wellbeing. Although at times, my team makes decisions that don’t align with my personal beliefs, knowing that the thoughts I have are valued and are considered is important to me.” Being involved in a team always brings a fresh perspective and the opportunity to collaborate. Ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and motived enough to share is the mark of a good leader. “To me, motivating people is about empowering them and providing them with the support they need to succeed,” shared Cole. “Giving individuals ownership of their work and valuing their opinions allows them to take pride in their work and motivates people to do their best.”

Cole is passionate about environmental sustainability, social responsibility and art and design communication as a field of change, and likes to spend her time outside of work reading, visiting art galleries, admiring architecture and going to the theatre. Cole cited her mother as one of her most significant role models. “I have been very privileged to have grown up with such a strong female role model, especially one that considers the implications of our actions on our wider society.” Perhaps this is what has encouraged Cole to become such a caring individual.

“I am passionate about providing young women and girls with the power to make positive changes in their communities and to develop themselves and their abilities. I volunteer as ranger leader, with GirlGuiding New Zealand, where I find it very rewarding to be able to work with young women who are learning about our world and societies, and who can make a stand for what they believe in and cause real, meaningful, sustained change if they wish to.”

Cole said that as she progresses through her career, she would like to stay happy and proud. “I want to look back on my career through all aspects of my life and be proud of what I have achieved for the businesses I work for and the teams I work alongside.”