Quentin Randall

Living a life less ordinary - Interview by Julian Farquhar

You have been involved with…
I joined the Navy straight from school in 1990…so that’s about 24 years. Wow…over half a lifetime!

What prompted you to start working in this career?
I’ve heard people give many deep and meaningful reasons as to why they embark on certain careers…romantic ideals such as peace, security, and protecting their fellow citizens. At 17 I wasn’t really the idealist…I simply wanted to leave school, leave home, and start my own life.

If you took an overview what do you see as the path to your success?
On reflection, I guess longevity in the hierarchical organisation such as the Navy has been critical. But someone must have seen something in me at some time.

How do you manage your work and home time? How have they worked together?
While I am very much bound to a desk these days, it wasn’t always so. I would often spend up to, and sometimes in excess of 6 months of the year away from home. After 20 years of marriage, all I can say is that it takes effort, and tolerance, and at times, an understanding boss.

Describe to me the most memorable moments, both high and low…
I am not going to depress you with the ‘low’. A high? I can think of so many highs, I really don’t know which one to pick! It could have been my part in rescuing the victim of a shark attack off Minerva Reef in the South Pacific, driving a ship for the first time, or most recently, simply having a document approved by the Board. A high for me is simply a ‘job well done’ that is openly recognised. It is a huge boost for your self esteem.

Tell me some people you admire and how perhaps they reflect on your own life?
I am not one of these people who enjoys reading biographies or looking at great leaders and aspiring to be like them. I stick to real people - the people I know. There are various qualities that I have seen in people I have worked with over the years that I admire, but the one quality that I value is integrity, which is probably a good thing in my line of work.

If you could do it all again, would you do it differently?
So far, things have worked out pretty well. I’d have no reason to do things differently.

What are the most challenging facets of the job?
One thing I really enjoy about the Navy is the variety of jobs and experiences that are offered throughout a career. The recruiting slogan, ‘a life less ordinary’ could never be more true. This brings different challenges, be they physical or mental. I’ve scaled Mounts Ruapehu, Ngarahoe and Tongario in three days, spent 40 days at sea on a small ship with the same 30 people, kept watch on the bridge of a ship through the dead  of the night, suffered through organisational changes, and sat through endless hours of meetings and conferences with politicians and senior leaders in the Defence community. All these roles present different demands and challenges: it is impossible to identify just one.

What would a typical day be like?
At the moment I work in Headquarters in Wellington, so my typical day probably isn’t much different from any other government of corporate manager.

What do you see as your real strengths in this career?
Sticking with the same outfit for 24 years? I’d have to say perseverance. And for undertaking the variety or roles I have in that time, I’d have to say adaptability.

Describe your work environment
Wow…that will be incredibly boring…how about I describe what I am part of? Imagine a single organisation that operates a huge fleet of trucks, flies cargo planes and helicopters and operates a fleet of ships all across the world. And that organisation can pack up and move anywhere, with no infrastructure (roads, telephones, or running water) and build a small town, and sustain that town indefinitely, in a matter of months. The individual parts that make up the Defence Force are not unique - what makes us unique and exciting is that we’re one team that can do it all, on demand. That’s a pretty cool thing to be part of, and events like the Chirstchurch Earthquake bring home the versatility of the organisation.

What skills have helped you the most?
I joined the Navy straight from school - I could read, write, count and play a game of rugby. All the life and work skills I have, I have been given by the organisation I work for. Resilience is probably the most important skill and characteristic the Navy has developed in me.

Leisure, what activities do you make time to do?
Fishing. I love fishing - I have a small boat which I get out on the Harbour and have a few hours of ‘me time’ every now and then. I also like building things - small house renovations, getting stuck into the garden. Its why I brought a Ute. Hardware Store…always need something bigger.

If you could see yourself objectively, how would you describe yourself?
Have you every seen the British TV show Doc Martin? I’ve been describe as Doc Martin. I’m not sure if that is a complement or not.

Quentin  Randall