Lisa Pod­lucky - glacier guide

Adventure - - WOMEN IN BUSINESS>>> -

What? A fe­male guide? Re­ally?

When we think about women in the tourism in­dus­try, peo­ple im­me­di­ately think that we are just the pretty face be­hind the check-in counter, wrong…. us women we can do a lot more.

Be­gin­ning my ca­reer as a guide in the ad­ven­ture tourism in­dus­try, I had a lot of back­fire from many peo­ple say­ing “you’re not good enough” or “you need to be fit­ter and stronger”. I sat on those thoughts for a while and se­ri­ously con­sid­ered whether my ca­reer choice was the right one. At that time, I had al­ways thought that I had to please ev­ery­one else, and do what they wanted me to do. But one day I thought, well hold on…. Is it their life I want to live or my life?

I want to live my life.

En­ter­ing an in­dus­try that is pre­dom­i­nantly made up of a higher male to fe­male ra­tio, I did feel quite in­tim­i­dated. As an ex-glacier guide on the Fox Glacier, I knew I couldn’t com­pete with the guys when it come to strength, but I knew I had other skills from pre­vi­ously be­ing a sea kayak guide in the Abel Tas­man Na­tional Park, that I could bring to glacier guid­ing.

To start off with I was try­ing to do things the way the guys did it, like step cut­ting or hop­ing around the glacier ice like a cat on a hot tin roof, but I found that I was tir­ing a lot faster, I was sore at the end of ev­ery day and get­ting ex­hausted from be­ing out of my com­fort zone by try­ing to be some­one I’m not.

So, ad­just­ing to us­ing more tech­nique I started to gain more un­der­stand­ing of what I had to do in or­der to sur­vive a full sum­mer sea­son, and with that came more en­joy­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment I was in and able to share that with the mass ar­range of cus­tomers we got through through­out the sea­son.

Train­ing felt cus­tom­ized for each in­di­vid­ual guide, with se­nior staff con­sid­er­ing our own per­sonal learn­ing styles which al­lowed for quicker suc­ces­sion through­out the first cou­ple of weeks be­fore find­ing and ad­just­ing our own guid­ing styles to cre­ate our very own per­son­al­i­ties as guides. For me be­ing a vis­ual and hands on learner that was great as I found it a lot eas­ier to pick up the skills needed to be a guide.

At Fox Glacier Guid­ing, a lot of time and thought goes into the train­ing for new guides to en­sure they not only en­joy their time in Fox Glacier but also gain skills and qual­i­fi­ca­tions recog­nised world­wide to ex­pand their hori­zons and open new doors of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

From start­ing out as a Ter­mi­nal Face Walk­ing Guide and Heli­hike guide where the ground rules are set and taught a stan­dard to main­tain through­out any of the work you do, then pro­gress­ing with skills needed to start Ice Climb­ing and Ex­treme Fox Tours where you’re taught rope skills and tools to teach clients the pro­gres­sion of these trips so at the end of their day trip they feel em­pow­ered that they learnt new skills and are proud of them­selves for push­ing them­selves out of their com­fort zone all whilst be­ing in the hands of their ex­pe­ri­enced guide.

For guides look­ing to have a mix­ture of skills from guid­ing on the ice to guid­ing moun­taineer­ing trips, just on the back doorstep of the town­ship and sit­ting on the tow­er­ing cliffs above the Fox Glacier, sits New Zealand’s old­est Alpine hut (on its orig­i­nal foun­da­tions) Chan­cel­lor Hut. From sin­gle day moun­taineer­ing trips to an overnighter, guides chal­lenge them­selves in gain­ing skills needed for alpine guid­ing on Chan­cel­lor Dome – and be­ing to use those skills to guide in other amaz­ing places in the world.

Sounds tempt­ing, doesn’t it?For all those women out there, these op­por­tu­ni­ties are well worth­while. Liv­ing and work­ing in a very di­verse en­vi­ron­ment from wet, cold, windy, sunny or over­cast days. You never stop learn­ing to bet­ter your­selves or your tech­niques.

Meet­ing so many amaz­ing peo­ple from all around the world, the next day is never the same as the one be­fore. Ad­just­ing and find­ing dif­fer­ent ways to guide is a re­ward­ing and chal­leng­ing task and sure not ev­ery day is go­ing to be a walk in the park. And it shouldn’t be any­way – guid­ing re­quires you to al­ways be on the look­out for new haz­ards or how you can help clients to make them feel sup­ported and en­cour­aged, or look­ing for ways to chal­lenge peo­ple in a pos­i­tive, fun and safe way.

From the num­ber of haz­ards to be found from driv­ing down the road in a bus or fly­ing in a he­li­copter or walk­ing around the chang­ing ter­rain of the glacier as a fe­male it can be very dif­fi­cult to get a mes­sage across when you needed to.

We can all un­der­stand that for around 95% of the clients we get through each year have never ever been or seen a glacier be­fore and may not al­ways un­der­stand the po­ten­tial haz­ards that are sur­round­ing them dur­ing their trip, so when it comes to their safety with­out im­pact­ing on the qual­ity of their trip can some­times be a chal­lenge – while adding in there that most of the time you’re deal­ing with peo­ple who have a lim­ited un­der­stand­ing of English.

In the out­doors and in ev­ery­day life you are al­ways faced with peo­ple with all sorts of back­grounds and be­liefs, re­li­gion etc… that should not change any­thing in the way that you treat them. Ev­ery­one is here to en­joy a trip on the glacier and ex­pe­ri­ence the feel­ing guides get from be­ing up there ev­ery day. Sure, you may need to dig out dif­fer­ent guid­ing styles to get mes­sages across which is not al­ways easy, but it’s to gain that spe­cial rap­port with them and give them an ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time.

My tip is to learn a lit­tle about dif­fer­ent cul­tures to find the best way to in­ter­act with your clients. Some cul­tures its not cus­tom for peo­ple to take or­ders or in­struc­tions from fe­males. But know­ing a lit­tle of their cul­ture I was able to use these tech­niques to talk to my clients with­out be­ing dis­re­spect­ful or come across as frus­trated.

I find be­ing a fe­male guide or a fe­male that has a role in the out­door in­dus­try, that we some­times get quite a few sur­prise faces or ques­tions like “are you go­ing to be our guide?” or “wow, you must be strong to carry a heavy back­pack and cut steps with the axe”. I think a lot of peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tion or un­der­stand­ing of go­ing on a guided trip is that it is mainly taken by males, as they are ‘stronger in ev­ery­thing’, ‘know how to deal with dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions’, or ‘they know more.’ But in ac­tual fact us women we hold our own with the men.

I don’t think that it changes their level of trust in the most sense, but if its not in your cul­ture to take in­struc­tions from a woman then I could see that they wouldn’t have the same amount of trust.I would say, that we are very in­spi­ra­tional peo­ple who show that women can do a lot more than look­ing af­ter the kids or house­work.

With more and more women get­ting into the in­dus­try and I find it in­spir­ing at the range of women get­ting into these jobs and of­fer­ing their skills to a work­place. Some of the fe­male I worked with come from vast back­grounds (such as an Antarc­tica field crew mem­ber and Air New Zealand Safety video star, to in­struc­tors to moun­taineers to stu­dents and many more) and coun­tries; from Aus­tralia to Canada to Ger­many to Tai­wan and even the odd kiwi. From sea­soned vet­er­ans to first time begin­ners ev­ery­one who passes through of­fers some­thing unique to a busi­ness.

I hope to see in the fu­ture many more strong women join this fast-grow­ing in­dus­try, to do some­thing you en­joy do­ing. But do­ing it for your own rea­sons. Whether it’s do­ing it be­cause you love and en­joy it, you do it to have an ac­tive lifestyle and not sit in an of­fice all day and make your friends jeal­ous, or be­cause you love be­ing with and meet­ing many amaz­ing peo­ple from all cor­ners of the world.

Your world’s your oys­ter, make the most out of it.

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