Deborah Pead, Founder

Creating Careers

And the world's longest roll call to 'past girls'

When I started Pead almost 22 years ago I wrote down five goals:

1. Build a business

2. Deliver excellent brand building communications

3. Create an environment that builds careers

4. Back myself

5. Have a lot of fun along the way.

With my goals and purpose sorted, I cashed in a life insurance policy and opened for business. #4 ✔

Our track record of staying at the top of the game during the past 21+ years speaks to the success of #1 and #2 ✔✔.  But what is less obvious is the wonderful careers that have been created in tandem with building terrific brands.

And what better time to reflect than on International Women’s Day on some of the notable alumni who have been through “The Pead university of PR”.

Many of our alumni have gone on to start their own consultancies, some lead agencies, several have gone on to start a business and others have risen high in their ranks. A few have even gone on to become clients, which is one of the reasons you want good leavers, and you give the smart ones a great send off!

And because it is International Women’s Day I’m focusing on those who identify with the pronoun She/Her. So everyone else who has been through the same university can just cool their jets for now.

The Self Starters

Leanne Wilkins a super smart and dedicated practitioner who was right beside me during some hair-raising comms moments that included strikes and salmonella. Leanne left Pead to raise a family and open her own consultancy Duo PR where she was the PR force behind the Lewis Road Chocolate Milk success. I would love to say I taught her all she knows – but that’s far from the truth.  A natural born communicator and a wonderful person.

Jen Ferguson a communicator with an attitude – albeit an eff -you attitude which went down a treat with the tech media who thought they were gods back in the era. Jen was never malleable enough for agency life (IMO) and her and her good man have subsequently opened a successful award-winning chain of Brew shops in London. Hops Burns & Black.  If I had to pick a PR army, I would want Jen watching my back.

Jane Torrance has the rare history of being first a client, then a colleague and a now contractor. Jane’s organisations skills make a spreadsheet run for cover and many of the templates we use today were originally created by Jane some 20 years ago. Jane now runs her own consultancy, is mum to a talented daughter, keeps a beady eye on her partner's growing empire and contracts to Pead. She’s our Hotel California – she may never leave.  

Greer Bland was always a winner. Enthusiastic sense of humour and buckets of chutzpah.  She was the ringleader of chaos and mayhem and a few PG’s. But she could always charm her way out of trouble. She left us to broaden her skill base in Australia and then came back to launch successful PR agency – Undertow – which she runs with the support of another of our alumni – the fabulous Gina Williams-Folau. Between them they run a good operation and I have a lot of respect for their work.

Becky Erwood had two stints at Pead, one before marriage and London and one after with husband, ababy girl and a suitcase of shoes to envy in tow. Becky’s strong managerial skills and her admiration for the success of our client, My Food Bag, initiated the move to start her own business and she is now a co-owner of the successful food start-up, FED.

Angela March had a fast and furious time with us and led a big team with impressive results. Another terrific operator we lost to travel, but she returned to NZ and eventually opened her own Hamilton based PR consultancy – Brain Child

Leandri Smith successfully combined motherhood and a career and runs her own PR consultancy in Tauranga and Kristen McCarthy, a quiet achiever who has untold patience for difficult clients - in a nod to her maiden name - started People’s PR and runs her consultancy out of Westmere.

Agency Leads

It says something about the people we hire and the leadership skills they learn at Pead that so many of our alumni go on to lead another agency. It’s always sad when you lose a leader, but the reality is you can’t meet everyone’s career aspirations within one business and some need to move on for their own professional development.

In recent years we have lost the amazing Lucy Fox who has go neon to lead PR agency Thrive and who recently became a mum to a baby boy and the talented Sian Church (nee Edwards) who has gone on to not only run Sling and Stone New Zealand, but also produce two beautiful children.

Angely Cullerne started as an intern and ended up as our tech/gamer ninja before we lost her to a love interest and Australia. Angely is a respected practitioner and went on to run Spectrum Communications in Sydney before joining Amazon Web Services Australia as their Comms Manager. She is now back in NZ and her and her husband have moved to the country, where she is mum to a little boy and a new baby girl. One to watch…

Mihika Gujral was another tech wizard who needed to spread her wings and in Australia she ended up co-running Archetype PR and is now head of Googles Cloud communications across ANZ. In addition to her pr smarts, Mihika had a wardrobe to die for and her effortless style was admired by many. 

Clients and Highflyers

Casey Mead – one of our foundation colleagues, left Pead and NZ for global PR triumph and became a Travel PR queen – ruling the oceans as lead PR for the big cruise lines before throwing in her lot with a company that has changed the way people travel. G Adventures leads the way with authentic life-changing travel adventure and Casey is their Global Communications Lead. Now based in Canada, Casey’s work takes her to every part of the globe, a role for which she was born. No-one can network quite like Casey,  nor party quite as hard. Casey and I (and Nicky Preston) still hold the Pead record for running from one end of a cruise ship to another – at 2 a.m. and under the influence of turbo juice.

Hailey Ryan, a most determined woman who is goal focused and achieves them all. Hailey ran a remarkably successful team and used to spend a lot of money at Pead –mainly on lunches celebrating the wins.  She is a great problem solver, (she conjured up designer rip off short orange jumpsuits for the Tui gals at the drop of a hat). She has great courage and is a respected motivator of people.  I always said we would end up working for her. And we sort of do. She is now an executive with one of our clients and I enjoy my regular catch ups with Hailey. She rented my city-based car park off me for a year and paid me in champagne – my kind of woman.

Nicky Preston – another super smart operator and a great flautist – although you will have to drag that out of her. Nicky and Casey made an effective team (hence the midnight sprints down a ships corridor once we had seen the media to their rooms). Nicky extended her career in London and Sydney and now enjoys a leading role in Vodafone NZ as a communications specialist. Prior to Vodafone, Nicky was our client at Uber NZ and gave us the most exciting briefs.

Candice Robertson introduced a new level of sophistication and leadership into our corporate offering and into our contracts. She was a great balance to the gung-ho pioneer days and I will always be thankful for the thoughtful quality that offset the true grit of the time. Candice went on to study an MBA and is now mum to two gorgeous girls and Head of Communications at Stuff

Esmée O’Brien – our ice queen. The coolest blonde in the business and one of the smartest. Esmée was brilliant under fire – you wanted her on the team when clients had issues to manage. She led a formidable team and had amazing patience – even when foreign multinationals would make nonsense changes to a news release that made no sense in English. Esmée left Pead to raise a family and then joined one of our clients Kordia and we happily reported into her. Esmée now heads up Communications for Datacom.

Parveen Ebrahim (nee Chiba) brought the perfect blend of Food PR and corporate PR skills to Pead. She could calm the most excitable of clients with her zen-like composure. She joined us out of uni and I remember her final exam results, straight A+'s and one A. I asked with mock concern if she felt like a failure with the simple A. Her mock shame in response, and her results got her through the door. Parveen loved the world of Food PR. She left us to become a PR highflyer in Hong Kong – a career I have no doubt she will return to as soon as she can drop her two high energy little boys off at the school gate.

Casey McConnell (nee Angland) was always destined for success. Her quiet focus and bucket loads of smarts was outstripped only by her relentless fitness. Casey represented us at a young leader’s conference in Boston one year – she then had to beat off the job offers from other agencies. And like most talented Kiwis she was lured by international opportunities and ended up in Canada where she reeled in a top bloke is now making waves as the lead of Brand and Reputation for Google Canada. I love that the two Caseys have connected in Canada and I’m anticipating an expense claim from their old girl’s reunion.

The enchanting Jen Mann who reminded me of a fairy was a delight in the office – a wonderful laugh and sadly we lost her to the world of fashion.  Her talents now see her as Group Marketing Manager for Barkers.

Rachael Everitt was a creative spark in her time at Pead, everything she touched turned to fun. She so impressed one of our clients, Invivo, that they made her an offer she could not refuse as global marketing lead for their wines. Such a significant role, a career goal and one of the few times when although we were sad to lose her, we were cheerful about her illustrious career move.

I thought we had lost Rawinia Dolan to the coast and kindy when she left us for a long maternity leave – and after two children we have happily reconnected with Rawinia as a client with Human Synergistics.  

Sam McKenna – I wanted to cry when she left – a real trooper and one of the nicest people on the planet who is now senior global marketing manager at Les Mills International. And clearly Les Mills likes our style – another one of our young stars Molly Wilson joined them after the most exciting OE ever, Burning Man on steroids.

Claire Matafeo – always so focused and whose baby pic used to win a prize and many admiring comments at each office baby shower.  Claire has not only produced a blue eyed mini-Claire in gorgeous Sophie – but is also the senior communications specialist with St Johns.

Ann Thornton who ran some of our biggest events and charmed almost every town council in NZ for permission to park the Xbox road show and NZs biggest truck. Now off to explore the country in a motor home. Parking will be a walk in the park by comparison.

Our fashionista, Jacqui Kenna who came from the Waikato, and could make a pair of gum boots look runway ready, was a great PR lead for Beauty, Fashion and Luxury Dahling. Jacqui now heads up PR for Maggie Marilyn.

Other colleagues who have gone on to do wonderful things in their career is Dianna Mannion – the office beauty who is wowing the world of luxury in Australia after a run in London. The adorable Bonnie Smail who presented me with a book I treasure – “A Thousand Women in History" – also spread her wings to Blighty and has come back to run the Halberg Awards among other PR projects. Amelia Haysom left the world of agency life for an independent career in creating beautiful experiences. Amelia styled my daughter’s wedding and as with everything she did while at Pead – the results were perfection.

Emma Bakker – who runs the comms for Weight Watchers in UK and has two gorgeous baby boys, Kate Carthew, a fabulous woman who has PR and comms in her DNA, now heads up media and comms at Monash University in Melbourne.

Sarah Phillipps now a mother to two and an amazing operator and who reminded me of the challenges of combining work and motherhood when on a business trip she opted for a hot bath, room service and sleep instead of testing every gin joint the town.

And I am about to get into hot water of my own with leaving out a bucket load of names – but this roll call would not be complete without mentioning the fabulous Emma Norton – who left us and NZ for a PR career in London and is now raising a family in the multiple locations of Singapore, London and Majorca. Whenever I catch up with Emma – wherever we are in the world – I am reminded of our work hard party harder early days. Mecah O’Merah – another super smart operator we lost to the UK.

Who can forget the champagne swigging triplets who had a permanent table and massive bar tab at Depot. Kate Berich who won the inaugural Bauer Rising Star award is back from the UK and combining career and motherhood with two of the most beautiful children who are paying her back for all the trouble she gave her mum.  Hannah Morgan who left PR to retrain as an early childhood teacher, but the PR force is strong in her and we happily still connect with Hannah who is a new mum and contracts to our client Computer Recycling and Brittany Birch (Eb) who is now back from flying high in London and is juggling career and motherhood and developing a brand from a farm in the Kaipara district.

Shuk Yin Liew, who persuaded NZ to love Malaysian food is now blazing a PR trail in Australia and Olivia Starrenberg who put her French language degree she completed while an account manager at Pead to great use and is now on the United Nations Internal Communications team in Geneva.

And the mums Louise Thompson and Jessica Mathias who we have lost to nappy valley, for now – but they have far too much PR grunt under their hoods to take roots there.

Siobahn Waterhouse is one of the hardest working PR practitioners, she is always thinking and went on to run her own independent consultancy, focused on the arts – Fahrenheit Publicity. What an operator!  No cover story too hard for her.

Felicity Monk– one of the finest writers in the agency – the issue was stopping the clients from falling in love with her, Dianna Vazich is one of the best story pitchers and still telling and producing exceptional stories at Newshub – and all with a baby boy on her hip.

More notable talent we lost to telly land is the ageless and effervescent Nicole Wood is Publicity Manager at TV3 and a mum to a mini-Nicole, Lulu.  I suspect Nicole has sold her soul to the devil. Who can look that good and that young all the time?  And it was fabulous to learn that the seriously smart Rachel Howard who now heads up Cooperate Communications for TVNZ after a career in London.

Our Posh Brit - Gabby Brunton who went off piste in NZ for a while and is now a PR Specialist in the world of wine.

Brittany Fernandez/McGrath is now International Service manager at HansaWorld

And then there is a gaggle of gorgeous gals in London, Sydney and NZ currently making their way through the ranks.

Gifted Olivia Price is an associate director of Sustainability and Purpose at Headland in London, Madeleine Wong, now with Countdown, who will forever be remembered for her stunning wardrobe in every shade of pink. The sassy Alex Everitt, now back in London after a whirlwind freelance stint with us – we miss you.

The never missed a beat Alexandra Roger-Shewan (another new mum) and Eden Martin who is retraining as a social worker but still freelancers to us – thank you both.

Nicole Haysom – who if she ever gave up PR could win Master Baker – she used to whip up the most wonderful cakes after a busy day strutting her PR stuff.  

Ellen Drower who was with us for a short time and we would have loved to keep forever, but London and Tourism NZ was calling. Ellen is now marketing manager at Weta Digital.

The amazing Leah Iro who has a heart of gold, the wonderful Lauren Atkins, the sweet Gabby Yarrell, the fun Lucy Houghton, the ambitious Sarah Prigg,  the composed Ellen Dorset, the playful Paloma Harvey, and those great Otago graduates who broke hearts in Auckland Hannah Hill Parker and Katie Grant.

The stunning Victoria Ellis is now a Comms manager based in Rome and she should moonlight as a travel guide – she knows more sights to see than a Roman.  

The always ready to help Amber Gosbee and Polly Atkins who is now external comms manager at Meridian Energy.  Then there is Mikaela Street who has insightful tales to tell about stars of Hollywood’s silver screen and not forgetting our other American, Keely Allen who cooked up a storm every Thanksgiving  Day. I was sorry to say goodbye to the talented Louise Paulin and to Nikki Lombaard the most determined person and beautiful soul who used to be of the one of the last to leave the office.  She left no stone unturned.

I have a soft spot for Anna Reeve who became pregnant shortly after joining us and who saw more of the ladies loo than her desk. Gosh she had a tough pregnancy with her twin boys, but she soldiered on and still managed to look like a million dollars even at an advanced stage.  In addition to being a sought-after influencer, Anna and her pals have gone on to launch the popular low calorie premium spirits drink Pals.

Then there was the ones we borrowed – Naomi Scroggins who hailed from London and showed us a touch of London style and glam for professional hair care products and flash events. Sadly, Blighty called her back! And Laura Bardell  who taught us a trick or two about Travel PR.

And where would any PR person be without a great admin team chasing up time sheets and tracking down receipts and approved quotes for monthly invoices.  We’d be lost and in the poor house – that’s where.  So here’s to the long-suffering Swedish Elin Angven, now HR adviser at Auckland University, Jenny Lyn Wright, Melissa Bult BurnsTreena SalthouseNicola CrawshawAshlea Jones who stopped my brother in his tracks and she is now Ashlea Pead and selling up a real estate storm in Tauranga, Gemma Copas and the tenacious Nafisa Asad.  Often the unsung heroes in an agency.

Most of the women mentioned here left with a bucket of skills, confident in the knowledge that you can have it all (you simply must be well organised and it helps to have the right partner), a great reference and in no doubt they have had some of the best PR training in their career.  (✔ #3) They also leave with gold class partying skills.  (✔ #5) We in turn have held on to the best gift they gave us in exchange – a generous contribution to our leading reputation.  

And on reflecting on how well they have done, it's little wonder we have been at the top of the game and with a great reputation for 22 years

If they were Vikings – they would all be Shield Maidens.

Winston Churchill said 'We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give'.

When I finally exit stage left, I will know that there are generations of PR people – whether they are still at Pead or who have moved on – who are building the good name of our profession.

Our newcomers tell me a year at Pead is like three years at University and I know that the partners and senior team who lead the agency today and who are shaping the future of Pead, share my commitment to creating great careers as well as delivering great PR that provokes action.

A big champagne cheers to all of you on International Women’s Day.


A lot of grapes died in recalling these notes from the archives of my personal memories.  If anyone feels excluded or unfairly represented, I would love to natter with you about it over a glass of bubbles (top shelf thank you). You pick the time and place.  And it’s your shout.

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