New Leadership Network member and proud Westie getting things done

While some may be content to sit on their laurels for a spell having completed a master's degree in psychology, new Leadership Network member Seraphine Williams is now three years' deep into a degree in medicine, all the while holding down a part-time job as a smoke-free coordinator with Te Whatu Ora. “I’m a doer," she says. "If I plan on doing things, I’ll get it done. That’s the way I work.”
Seraphine giving the peace sign with hills and a wide river behind her

Seraphine: "I’m a doer. If I plan on doing things, I’ll get it done. That’s the way I work.”

Seraphine pushes back at any suggestion of it being a crazy move – it is clear she thinks it would be far crazier to not follow her calling.

She says she wants to live a life with impact.

“And I saw medicine definitely being a way that I could do that.”

She doesn’t see the years already spent studying towards a different vocation as a sunk cost.

If anything, she credits some of the wisdom gleaned during six years of studying psychology as having helped her make her brave decision to pivot.

“One of the things I learnt was instead of looking at your investment look at the outcome you want instead.”

The thinking allowed her to remove any obligation to continue following on one path, simply because she’d already expended a chunk of time and energy getting herself to a certain point along it.

“That’s why I decided to change. I thought, ‘Why not?’.”

Seraphine standing in front of a shrine

Seraphine in Japan during a visit to the country with her karate club

Seraphine is a proud Westie, hailing from Tāmaki Makaurau, Hikurangi, New Lynn – or Te Rewarewa, as she prefers to refer to it.

She reckons what makes the area special is its mix of people.

She grew up among families of “all ethnicities” who shared a common lived experience, living “pay check to pay check” while trying to make the most of life.

She says the mates she played with on the neighbourhood’s streets taught her big life lessons.

Some she watched spiral out of control and get into trouble, while others dove into deeper waters and worked towards bigger things.

“Being around that, being exposed to it, made me appreciate people from all walks of life.

“Everybody has a reason as to what gets them into those situations, and it is usually not of their own accord – it’s often a system and environmental fault: families breaking down, job insecurity, it can be anything, you name it.”

From a young age she knew education was her ticket to making a difference in communities like the one she grew up in.

Seraphine is four years deep in her medical degree and is set to embark on a rural medicine immersion programme in the Wairarapa.

She’ll continue holding down a part-time job as a smoke-free coordinator with Te Whatu Ora – the national health authority – while studying full-time.

Her day often begins at 4.40am, and then she’s at work an hour or so later, where she puts in a few hours before she hits the wards at eight. The gym, family and friends are squeezed in after work and study.

She shrugs off any suggestion that she is either some kind of superhuman or an insomniac.

“That’s what my life looks like, in general, and I think it’s a good life – I don’t think it’s anything crazy.

“I’m a doer. If I plan on doing things, I’ll get it done. That’s the way I work.”

Seraphine engaged in a conversation with a fellow Leadership Network member

Seraphine at the Leadership Network induction earlier this year

During her time as a student of karate, Seraphine travelled to Japan with her club. It sparked in her a curiosity for Asia, so when a friend suggested the Leadership Network to her, she decided to apply.

"I wanted to understand more about Aotearoa's connections to Asia; my family's connection to Asia; and what Asia can teach me about supporting people's health, particularly tangata whenua."

Her goal with the network: “To build on my own cultural competence around the different Asian populations”.

“And that way, when I see Asian peoples in the system, I’m at least better at serving their needs than I would have been had I not joined the network.”

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network equips New Zealand’s next generation of Kiwi leaders to thrive in Asia. We provide members with the connections, knowledge and confidence to lead New Zealand’s future relationship with the region.