Decision to go to university ‘huge call’

Clare Perry's advice to anyone thinking about making a big life decision was "just go for it"....
Clare Perry's advice to anyone thinking about making a big life decision was "just go for it". PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Clare Perry made a "huge call".

In July 2019, she left her job in the public sector after nearly 40 years.

Three years later, the 58-year-old is off to university for the first time.

Growing up on a farm near Lawrence, Mrs Perry never considered any form of tertiary studies.

"It wasn’t on my radar - it just was not an option."

She left home at 16 to move to Dunedin to join the Department of Social Welfare, which later became the Ministry of Social Development, and "never left".

While she really enjoyed the public sector life, her Dunedin-based brother, Ross Young, had recently started InvestaMatch - a platform connecting small to medium enterprises with people who could provide capital for growth.

She wanted to get involved with the business rather than "just being a supporter on the sidelines".

Now, she is the company’s business relationship manager, liaising with its clients.

Looking back, it was a "huge call" to make, but she wondered at the time whether she wanted to be working in the public sector for another 10 years - "I didn’t, so I quit."

There were some days when she wondered why she had made the decision, but that was only the "very odd day".

Mrs Perry joined every networking group she could find in Dunedin to build relationships and grow her knowledge of the private sector.

Last year, while at a Otago Chamber of Commerce event, she was listening to a presentation about the University of Otago’s new bachelor of entrepreneurship.

"It got me thinking that I needed to learn more ... I didn’t really know as much as I wanted to."

She went to a meeting at the university to talk about doing the three-year course, but was told she should do the 15-month master of entrepreneurship instead.

After giving it some consideration, she thought "if I don’t start believing in myself now, I never will", so she enrolled.

Despite not having a previous degree, Mrs Perry got into the course because she had sufficient life experience.

Last week was Mrs Perry’s first week in the classroom, which she described as "mind-blowing" and made even more interesting by Covid-19.

"There was so much to think about - my brain was buzzing every night when I got home."

It was decided the class would meet in person, but as more people caught the virus fewer people were showing up to class.

She did not think balancing work and study would be a problem because the course designed for people to carry on with their day jobs.

She would be spending a week a month in class and the rest of the time would be spent completing assignments.

While it was only her first week, Mrs Perry would not rule out taking her studies further.

"That might change quickly once I start handing in assignments, but I’m really excited," she said.

Her advice to anyone thinking about making a big life decision was "just go for it".

"I don’t regret it at all ... It is a great opportunity to expand your mind."

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