Melanie Gettins ASA has always thrived in the high-pressure environment of competitive sport, and she uses lessons learned on the field in her workplace.
As an elite athlete, you are constantly evaluated and judged. You face failure, as well as success, and teamwork and communication are fundamental to your gameplay and the decisions you make under pressure.
These are attributes national-level softballer and accountant Melanie Gettins ASA says have proven just as valuable to her in the business world as they have on the playing field.
Gettins is production planning coordinator at Tumu Timbers Limited, a timber processing company based in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
She is also an important member of New Zealand’s softball community, having represented her country at six world championships, playing catcher on the White Sox women’s softball team.
The sport has taken Gettins to the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Venezuela, Argentina, Canada, Australia, Japan and China. It has also earned her a US college scholarship to study business administration and accounting – an opportunity only offered to a handful of female Kiwi softballers before her.
“As much as I love softball, I knew it was never going to provide a life for me,” says Gettins. “It was fun, but it created more bills for me than anything else.”
While she had pondered the idea of business management, ultimately Gettins was drawn to the problem-solving elements of accounting, and liked that it offered transferable skills and core principles that would give her a solid foundation in whatever direction she took her career.
Upon finishing her degree, Gettins returned to New Zealand and secured her first accounting job with a public practice firm. Soon, a chance crossing of paths with a CPA Australia representative identified a new career progression opportunity – a CPA Australia Maori Scholarship.
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While still self-funding her international softball tours to the tune of at least A$10,000 a year, Gettins says being granted the CPA Australia Maori Scholarship took away the last of the barriers that had been holding her back from obtaining her CPA qualification. She accepted the challenge and took the plunge.
Around the same time, Tumu Timbers was looking to take on a management trainee, gaining experience across different business departments. “It was a cool opportunity for a girl who still wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up,” laughs Gettins.
She started in despatch, gaining an understanding of sales, before moving into production planning, followed by accounting. She says taking on the management accountant’s role brought her knowledge of the business full circle by linking it all together from a financial perspective.
By then, the business had grown, and it wasn’t too long before Tumu Timbers needed to expand its operations to meet demand. The company took on more staff to form a production planning team and appointed Gettins as supervisor.
Returning to the production side of the business excited Gettins, who says that, while the accounting role had been great for her knowledge of the company, she’d found it was often about looking back.
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She was eager to be more forward focused, driving better production systems and efficiencies for the company.
“In production planning, you are really in the thick of it, so there is a whole lot of pressure,” says Gettins.
“Every decision you make can waste thousands and thousands of dollars, or it can make us thousands and thousands of dollars, so you feel you have a really big impact on the performance of the company.”
Softball commitments still take Gettins away from her job for four to six weeks every year, and she is grateful to her managers and colleagues for supporting her sporting pursuits.
Although she officially retired from elite level competition since the White Sox were knocked out of the Tokyo Olympics qualifier in 2019, Gettins remains heavily committed to achieving success through sport.
She has recently designed an app that can give softball and baseball teams a competitive advantage over their opposition using analytics. After launching her chartIT app, Gettins took three months of unpaid leave and travelled to the US to promote it and test the market.
COVID-19 has meant a sudden end to travel, so instead Gettins is now concentrating her efforts on developing additional features for the app.
“I’ve created a tool that can literally change how people perceive the sport, so I want to do justice to that,” says Gettins. “It’s taken a lot of time, energy and financial resources to get to this point, which is why I have been so committed to it. I’m all in.”
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One piece of advice
“Embrace the challenge. There’s rarely a reason not to try something. If it could be a great opportunity, then take it with both hands, and if it doesn’t work out, at least you know it didn’t work out, rather than always wondering what could have been.”