People@NZME - Jess Ah Kuoi - Culture & Performance Advisor

Talofa Lava, my name is Jess Ah Kuoi and I am the Senior Advisor in the Culture & Performance team here at NZME. I have been at NZME for a few months and prior to that I was in a bubble called ‘professional services’*. NZME is fun, vibrant and I am learning something new every day! Fun facts? I have been the same exact height since I was 12 years old (a giant 1m 64 cms) and I have 52 cousins on my dad’s side .  

Talk us through an average working day..

Work is super fun and super-fast! My day can change from strategy and planning to implementing a positive culture and back again. For example, we are soon to be launching a Engagement Survey. In this survey employees tell us employees tell us what they want and we execute the change. This can be anything from culture initiatives, diversity, flexibility, up skilling, training and much more! I am also currently working on larger projects such as a employee benefit piece which covers parental leave. NZME was recently Rainbow Tick certified which means we need to taking into consideration Diversity & Inclusiveness in all that we do. This means organising training, carrying out change - we say parental leave now with partner and primary carer instead of maternity leave. Things like that :D. My daily tasks are always varied, different and interesting!

 What has your career path been like? How did you get here?

Uni was a blast (take me back) and where I discovered the world of HR. Ever since then I haven’t looked back. HR struck my interest because if I'm honest, I enjoyed my lecturer and the papers were really interesting. I saw practical skills that I knew i'd be able to use in real life situations such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator and things like assessment centre practicals, supply chain management etc. My first "real" job out of uni was at a Law firm as an HR admin role in a small team. Here, I learnt the fundamentals of HR such as recruitment L&D, documentation and processes such as payroll, contract variations and all of the generalist jazz. I then moved to PwC into a more senior role where I began coaching managers on how to create the best culture and high performing teams. Moved from admin to working more closely with stakeholders around talent retention, engagement, recruitment, employee cycle. And now I'm here - at NZME!

What is best and worst parts of your job?

The best part of my job is having the ability to connect with so many different people from different walks of life and getting to know them them and develop a trusting relationship. The worst is definitely the tough conversations I have to have! This can range from issues, incidents, change.

What do see your job to be like in 10 years? Thinking it evolving to keep up with the ever-changing digital trends.

HR will be disrupted by technology just like all roles in the future. I hope to see more Artificial Intelligence, so HR can work better and be more personable with employees nationally and internationally! I have a vision of AI helping us with people being able to educate themselves on best actions to take SIRI but with empathy and logic.

What’s your WHY? What lights you up! How does this align with what you’re doing now within work and/ or outside work?

I LOVE using my HR skills to teach and upskill the Maori & Pasifika youth in NZ to ensure we have a more diverse workforce that reflects our population. Being half Samoan and passionate about my people I want to diversify the workforce. I believe having a workforce that reflects our population will increase diverse thinking and problem solving.

With a helm of experience under your belt, what is your biggest achievement to date?

Getting a degree – for sure! Being someone who didn't enjoy school I went to uni unsure whether to pursue higher education and after three years of hard work at something i wasn't naturally good at I was pleased.



At which store would you max out your credit card?

At the moment, Kmart! Kitting out a house has never been so easy.

What was your favourite TV show growing up?

Recess and Rocket Power were my faves!

What weird food combinations do you really enjoy?

  • McDonalds fries and soft serve
  • Crispy M&M’s and popcorn
  • Popcorn/ Chips with Crispy M&M’s
  • Pita Pockets for breakie
  • Weet Bix with hot water and sugar

What’s something you really resent paying for? 


What was cool when you were young but isn’t cool now?

Jeans just below the knee with “ROXY” on the butt

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