"Tertiary education isn't as daunting as you think – there are really good support systems in place."
In the often cut-throat world of film and television, Vanessa Gray is redefining how creative people work by replacing competition with collaboration.
After graduating from CPIT (now Ara Institute of Canterbury) with a Bachelor of Broadcast Communications and a Diploma in Digital Video Post Production, Vanessa set up Hiwa Media, a multimedia creative agency, through which she shares her media knowledge and skills.
"The TV and film industry is generally very cut-throat," she says. "I chose to move away from that attitude and open up my knowledge and resources to try to help others achieve their goals."
Vanessa knows what it's like to not have your dreams taken seriously. She'd cruised through school but in her final year, she floated the idea to her head of form that she wanted to aim for a career in film and television.
Instead of support, Vanessa's suggestion was met with derision; her head of form told her she was destined to work in a supermarket. Fortunately Vanessa didn't believe her for a second but shocked that the very person who should inspire and guide her had been so dismissive, she left the school and enrolled at Hagley Community College.
Later, at the suggestion of her aunt, she enrolled in broadcasting at CPIT where she gained sought-after creative and technical skills, and formed a supportive 'family' with her classmates and tutors that is the basis of an extensive network today.
Vanessa says tertiary study fostered a good work ethic and the ability to time-manage, and she wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
"Tertiary education isn't as daunting as you think and there are really good support systems in place to help you get through your educational journey. Bite the bullet, get that student loan, do what you have to do for a couple of years and you'll reap the rewards later on. Tertiary education can be empowering. I really believe that."
Vanessa talks about collaboration and playing an active role in communities, about upskilling everyone who is willing to learn and providing a platform for new talent."People have lots of different definitions for success, but money or recognition aren't really mine. It's early days but I feel quite happy with what I'm doing."