Coming out of high school, Brier O’Shea didn’t know what to do – so she went back to school. “I lived in London for a year working at a private boarding school,” she explained. It was an ideal situation, with the school providing her with accommodation and food along with a monthly pay check. By the time she returned to New Zealand she had visited thirty countries, made lifelong friends and had unforgettable experiences.

Upon her return she decided to complete a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in marketing and management, at Lincoln University. “It gives you a good foundation of knowledge in various areas, which has helped me get to where I am today,” she said. O’Shea applied for the Countdown graduate program in her final year of study and began in February last year. She worked her way through the merchandise, logistics and operations divisions, developing her skill sets, but eventually landed on the produce department. “I knew this was where I wanted to pursue my career,” she explained. “The produce team’s key focus and passion is to deliver fresh, quality produce to our consumers, and it is an area full of opportunity and growth.”

With a father in the fresh food industry and a childhood spent in Balclutha and rural North Canterbury, O’Shea had held a passion for fresh food for many years. “I was fortunate enough to have a lot of exposure to the industry, and had my fair share of factory work,” she said. “While I didn’t see the immediate benefits of these experiences, it helped shape me into the person that I am today.”

Further than hands on production experience, O’Shea believes her success comes from her abilities as a communicator. She makes sure she does regular store visits and makes use of avenues such as Facebook – meaning Workplace by Facebook, Countdown’s award-winning internal communications tool. Also important is the creation of a personal brand. “That was the best piece of advice that I received from senior leaders,” she said. “Your personal brand is what you want to be known for and how people will remember you, so it’s important to leave a lasting impression.”

For O’Shea, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the work that her team does behind the scenes being executed at a store level. “It is a collective effort from all departments and at the end of the day we know we have done our job when we receive positive feedback from our consumers. What motivates me is seeing the offering that we present to our customers.”

O’Shea has no plans to move on from Countdown any time soon, with ambitions to become a Category Manager. As for long-term goals, they are forever changing, but one thing is for sure: “I am certain that I want to grow my knowledge and career in the produce industry.”

Away from Countdown, O’Shea enjoys anything to do with the outdoors, whether it’s going out on the jet ski, fishing, or a bush walk – “I am very much a country girl at heart.”