A career outside the city

Holly Baker (2015), just six years out of Ascham, has found boundless opportunity building her career in regional NSW. She has avoided the harsh restrictions of Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdowns, learnt to fly as a hobby and even discovered the joy of living with her parents again, after 11 years boarding, travelling and studying at university. 

Upon leaving Ascham, Holly says she didn’t really have a plan, but she knew one thing: she always wanted to work in agriculture and come back to country. Using the skills of independence that she had developed both via the Dalton Plan and boarding at Ascham, she embarked on gap year before starting tertiary study. She took a less traditional approach and instead of moving to England to work in a boarding school, she moved up north to work on a station in the Kimberley, near Kununurra, WA. Here she had more opportunity than she could ever have imagined to ride horses while learning more about cattle and Australia’s live-export industry. This early start in the agriculture sector planted the seeds for future opportunities in the industry. 

With her gap year over, Holly completed a degree in International Global Studies at Sydney University. In her summer holidays she worked for the live-export company Landmark International (now known as Southern Australian International Livestock Services or SAILS) based in Albury, NSW. This work experience, combined with her time in the Kimberley, enabled her to get a foot in the door at AuctionsPlus, her first job after university. 

Holly describes AuctionsPlus as ‘eBay for agriculture’. She says, ‘It’s a platform that’s been around since the 1980s. They have weekly sheep and cattle auctions online. Instead of going to the yards, an accredited agent comes and assesses the stock on farm, uploads the details and then they have an online auction. They have created a national marketplace. From there they have diversified into machinery, stud sales, horse sales. It has really grown a lot, particularly as the online world has taken off.’

Holly started off as a market operator, providing customer service and helping with the online accounts and building sales. With COVID hitting in 2020 and lockdowns in Sydney, she took the opportunity to move back home to Gunnedah. After 18 months, she was promoted into a role as a regional rep for Northern NSW and Southeast Queensland. Having a base in Gunnedah was perfect, as she could move freely around regional NSW when lockdowns returned in 2021. 

Holly reflects on the move out of Sydney saying, ‘When I went home in the first COVID lockdown it was the longest I’d been at home since I was 11 years old. I had to learn to live with mum and dad again! I also reconnected with people who lived in Gunnedah and as I had a lot of friends who had left Sydney to work in the regions, I found it was easier to keep in touch with them.’ 

In addition, Holly was able take up a new hobby—learning to fly!

Most recently Holly has moved to Dubbo to take a new position as Business Development Manager for Central West NSW at Nufarm, a global crop protection and seed technology company. After working from home the past few years, she is enjoying working in an office again. She is also reaping the benefits of paying rent for a large new house in Dubbo, which is much better value than paying the same for an apartment in Sydney. The switch from a largely livestock-centric role, to learning about how different crop-based chemicals help growers, has its challenges but she is enjoying learning something new and building her knowledge in the sector.

And the best part of living in the regions? According to Holly it’s the people. ‘Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, wherever you come from,’ she says, adding: ‘You only need to know one person to make a start!’ 

With a new job, plenty of friends and family nearby, it’s evident that the country has provided ample opportunities and rewards for Holly Baker—we can’t wait to see what her next move will be! 

Skye Barry (Edwards 1994) 

12 Oct 2022

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