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Nicki Nicol CA, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of New Zealand Rugby and project leader of their Respect and Inclusion project, has built a career that allows her to combine her accounting skills with her love of sport.
"I have always been a fan of the All Blacks and rugby, and now I'm completely immersed in the world of rugby. I really wanted to contribute to New Zealand's sporting culture, so when the opportunity to be part of the national game came, I threw my name in the ring," Nicki says.
From the office to the field
After discovering that working with numbers came naturally to her during school, Nicki completed her commerce degree at Auckland University to further her knowledge and open-up the doors to exciting career opportunities.
"I had an affinity with numbers at school, so studying commerce and accounting was natural to me. I've spent most of my career in commercial roles and I really enjoy seeing how numbers can tell the story of how the organisation operates," Nicki says.
She says the skills she's learnt from roles in organisations including Cooper & Lybrand and BP have set her up for success and enabled her to transform her sporting interests into a career.
"My background in accounting has helped me right through my career in sales teams, B2B, B2C, retail and category management. When you look at trying to drive results, it's not only about focusing on the customer, but also understanding the commercial or the financial inputs and outputs," Nicki explains.
"Financial skills are a great foundation for many roles as you get to learn those critical skills that are essential for growth and development."
Tackling diversity with NZ Rugby
Working in the sporting industry has given Nicki the opportunity to use her accounting skills and industry experience to tackle the pertinent issue of diversity in a largely male dominated sport.
"What I love is the breadth of the role. You get to meet people from all walks of life who are involved in rugby, and I think just hearing their stories about the role that rugby plays in their lives is really powerful. That's what gives me the inspiration to keep doing what we're doing."
Having demonstrated a passion for people and the rugby community, Nicki was chosen by New Zealand Rugby's Chief Executive Officer Steve Tew, to lead the Respect and Inclusion project. This program is to change the culture of rugby and make it more welcoming and inclusive.
Nicki was also tasked with the challenge of increasing diversity within the game and organisation, and safeguarding individuals' physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
"We have the human capability and resources to deliver a strategy across the organisation and change the culture around New Zealand rugby. If we all change a little, we can change the face of rugby a lot, and that is quite exciting," Nicki says.
As inclusiveness sits at the heart of New Zealand Rugby's goal of providing a safe environment for all people, Nicki is passionate about providing support and encouraging New Zealanders to tackle bad behaviour and banish taboos.
With the growth of women in rugby increasing to double digits in recent years, New Zealand Rugby has been prompted to work towards creating a more inclusive environment by investing in community programs.
"What we try to do is provide the support and resources to the regions to create a positive experience for women in rugby. For us, it's about building the women's game up, and we are very proud of the team as a nation," Nicki says.
Creating positive change with sport
As the COO and project leader of the Respect and Inclusion project, Nicki says she loves her job because she is able to create a kinder and more inclusive environment.
"What I love is the breadth of the role. You get to meet people from all walks of life who are involved in rugby, and I think just hearing their stories about the role that rugby plays in their lives is really powerful. That's what gives me the inspiration to keep doing what we're doing," Nicki says.
"I've realised the reach and influence of an organisation like New Zealand Rugby is hugely powerful. When you think about the potential impacts, this is a pretty fulfilling role."
Nicki encourages future accountants to find something they are passionate about, and step up to the challenge of making a difference.
"Do what you enjoy and take a bit of a risk. Challenge yourself to create an environment of positive change."
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