Hady Wenham: Lessons learned from my first job

Suzanne Winterflood
Hady Wenham: Lessons learned from my first job

Beauty entrepreneur Hady Wenham talks shoulder pads, Twink, and the boy’s club as a 1980s loans officer.

Soigné and sophisticated, Hady Wenham seems born into the beauty industry. She owns and runs two companies: Forme Spa, which has 10 award-winning day spas in Auckland, Hamilton, and Wellington; and Spa Solutions, an import and distribution business.

But with Hady, appearances are deceiving. She’s a relative latecomer to the world of health and beauty, having already racked up successful careers in advertising and travel before buying and developing the Forme Spa brand.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve

Her first job, straight out of school, was the least glamorous of all her subsequent roles. It also gave her a precocious confidence in her ability take on a challenge (as well as a lifelong acceptance that she can’t make a decent cup of tea).

Here, she shares some of the highlights, lowlights, and learnings from that initial step on the career ladder:


Hady Wenham

My first job was as a loans officer for NatWest Finance

It was in Hamilton in the 1980s, and I was 17. I’d completed 6 months of a finance degree and, after work experience in an accountant’s office, realised that it just wasn’t for me. So I jumped at the first job I saw advertised.


I progressed to a senior role earning the hefty salary of $7,000 per annum

At first I was doing secretarial work. I was soon interviewing people for loan applications and monitoring the amount of vehicles a car dealer had on the car lot versus the amount of debt that we were underwriting.


It was a boy’s club

The girls made tea – well, except for me, as mine tasted so horrible – and went out to buy the men lunch: scones, sausage rolls, and other fine fare. The Office Manager smoked like a train at the next desk. Yet I enjoyed it!


Twink was my friend

There were no computers. I used ribbon typewriters and telexes and microfiche. I had bottles of Twink in white, blue, and yellow to match the paper.


Teenagers shouldn’t interview adults who need a loan

In hindsight, I don't think it was too appropriate for someone with the life experience of a gnat to be judging whether someone was a suitable candidate for a loan. Particularly a teenager with big blonde hair, shoulder pads, and a short skirt. It was the 80s, remember.  


The job taught me some unexpected lessons

I didn't ever imagine that first job would lead to where I am now, but in the year I was there it created self-confidence and tested my capabilities. I learned that when someone else has faith in you, believe them and believe in yourself.

Now I’m an employer, that early experience reminds me not to underestimate someone because of their age. I was given the chance to take on a level of work that most people wouldn’t consider a school leader capable of.

Hady W pull out quote

A genuine work ethic is important, no matter what the role

Do whatever you’re doing to the very best of your abilities – even if you aren't enjoying it, give it 100%. Then move on to something more in line with what you’re aiming for.  


There’s more career pressure on young people these days

Times were different then. We thought about clothes and going out, not about our careers and what we wanted to do long term. I feel there is so much pressure on teenagers now to decide early on what sort of career they want. I think life is a journey that has all sorts of twists and bends, and you just never know where you might end up.

SEE ALSO: Why women don’t negotiate the salaries they deserve


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