Jobs at DOC: Kirsten Ralph, Commercial Manager

Department of Conservation —  13/06/2014

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Kirsten Ralph, Commercial Manager, National Office.

Kirsten Ralph on a mountain, with a range in the background.

Enjoying the snow

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Lately I have been preoccupied with the joys of business planning. The rest of the time I have been working to instigate the concept of account management for businesses that we work with and trying to recruit some neat people into the Commercial team.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

We get to apply business frameworks and thinking to the far more interesting area of conservation. Businesses are good at building up assets and then using them (without damaging them) to make more. The difference is that instead of money in the bank we are looking for more conservation.

The best bit about my job is:

There isn’t “a” best bit, there are lots of best bits about my job. I am part of one of the most important pieces of work in the world trying to keep the world green and blue, trying to make sure people value what we have and start looking after it.

The tiny bit I contribute is using some of my business experience to generate a better return for conservation. Day to day I get to talk about interesting things, see beautiful places and work with fun down to earth people!

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Some kind person nominated me to act as a DOC representative on one of the heritage trips to the subantarctic islands. It was a trip of a lifetime. I fell in love with the islands, especially Campbell Island. Words cannot describe how magic the islands are. The scenery is amazing, the seals cute and sea lions a little unnerving. I have never sat for so long as I sat watching the penguins at Macquarie Island, it was just fascinating.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

Tim Fraser, even when he isn’t here I can sense him resisting my “no”. I admire his creativity and way of pulling together concepts in a completely new and creative way. I also love how he keeps people connected and makes people feel welcome and happy.

Kirsten Ralph planting some trees.

A 40th birthday present

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is:

It’s not really a stomping ground but a place that my soul feels good in. When we go there, even the dog walks taller. We have a small patch of hill over-looking the end of Queen Charlotte Sound. We never really intended to buy it but, being kid free and South Islanders, it meant we felt we had a foot back home. Overlooking the Mount Oliver reserve we can see waterfalls, look out over native bush and then down over the Sound checking out the boats and ferries. Time is slow, even doing the dishes is fun.

Kirsten Ralph in her kitchen in Queen Charlotte Sound.

The kitchen in the Sounds

My best ever holiday was:

When I was much younger, having nothing to do, I walked into a dive shop and asked if there were any trips for novices. Yep they had one, with a bunch of trainee dive instructors, going to White island – ideal!

It was magic. One of those local dive trips that beats the tropics. The fish were everywhere and the rocks covered in anemones, seaweeds and all sorts of weird and colourful life forms.

One night dive, the phosphorescence was like a light show. Nobody wanted to get out so, to conserve air, some kind soul threw all the plastic chairs off the boat and we sat there watching.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

I decided to enter a half marathon. I can’t remember much, so the run must have been fine, although the end did require some mental effort.

In my spare time:

I try to play with my kids, Kyah (8) and Kade (4). We are renovating our house and the builder is Matt my husband. So as soon as I am off work duty I am on kids duty and he is on building duty. Kayh and Kade have both decided to take up soccer and I have joined the ranks of the weekend sports parents.

My secret indulgence is:

Well they aren’t secret—everyone that works with me knows coffee is the mainstay of life—to be savoured and enjoyed regularly.

Those who are around the charity chocolate box about 3.30 in the afternoon will know that chocolate also means quite a lot to me and, on especially bad days, could just about be devoured before getting back to my desk. Really, the hard choice when it comes to chocolate is which one is the biggest.

Kirsten Ralph on Macquarie island with penguins in the background.

Trying to look official as a DOC representative on Macquarie island

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

Actually I heard it as part of a Sinead O’Conner song but it is a little older than that: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change. The courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is: 

“Just breath through the nose” this was after a discussion on the difficulties of encouraging decision making on a topic incorporating some risk in a government department. I have used it during many work situations since.

In work and life I am motivated by: 

It’s the people around who get things done. Especially those people who are always doing things for the community—the ones who manage to have four kids, go to work, turn out muffins for the play centre, be on the PTA, and turn out edible meals for families in need and then have time to coach the local team. Plus they don’t yell at their kids.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

I include myself in this, as I am a long way from where I would like to be: Stop consuming, recycle and reuse.

Kirsten Ralph with her two children at a waterfall.

A scenic interlude on a rainy ski day

Question of the week…

In my next life I will:

I always said the best thing to come back as would be my father’s cat. She ruled the roost. My father fed her by hand, let her sleep on his chest and, if she was asleep on his knee he wouldn’t move for fear of disturbing her. He pretty much did anything she meowed for. She returned the favourite with adoration. I, of course, have no recollection of my childhood being anything like that.