Graduate Story – Maddie Ahern

Maddie Ahern

There is a role for everyone in the Tourism and Hospitality industry. As Maddie found through her time at QRC, it’s not only about the practical hard skills you learn, it’s also about all the management and behind the scenes roles that make a business tick. From content creation to kayak guiding, Maddie has been working with the Waimarino Group since 2019 and loves every minute of it. 

“QRC stood out to me as I was not keen to sit in a lecture hall with hundreds of other students”.


On the couch with Maddie.

Why did you choose to follow a career in tourism/hospitality?

I have a strong passion for the outdoors and tourism has a wide array of opportunities within it, it is not just tour guides and hard skills, it is marketing, event management, sales and more. Tourism has so many facets to it and endless opportunities to grow within the industry. 

Why did you choose QRC?


QRC stood out to me mainly due to its location and immersive study experience, I was not keen to sit in a lecture hall with 100’s of others. As someone who thrives in the outdoors, I was excited to be surrounded by other people with the same passions.

What was the biggest “take away” from your internship experience?

I was faced with a variety of challenges and learning experiences throughout my internship at Over The Top Helicopters. I managed to gain experience in guest services, social media management, sales, day to day operations and more. It was a fantastic experience working for Choppy and the team and being able to be involved in such a diverse range of experiences.

Tell me about your journey since leaving QRC.
Since QRC I continued to work at Over The Top Helicopters for a few years progressing into the position of Operations and Local Sales. I then took the opportunity to work out on the West Coast as Base Manager and Kayak Guide at Franz Josef Wilderness Tours (An amazing family-owned business). I lived in the Franz Josef Glacier Township for 2.5 years, it was pure bliss, an amazing community and secluded part of the country. After a bit of travel, I landed in the sunny Bay of Plenty in my current role.

What role are you in now?
My current role is Office Manager and Digital Marketing Manager for the Waimarino Group (Which consists of Waimarino Kayak Tours, Waimarino Adventure Park, and the Waimarino Education Trust). I have been employed here since September 2019.

What are your main responsibilities?
My role is extremely varied, and the job title does not encompass the entirety of my daily tasks. I manage the bookings for the Adventure Park and Kayak Tours, relationships with Agents, OTAs, IBO’s, RTO’s, Cruise Ships and with other operators. I also manage the social media, websites, and all marketing collateral. During the Summer months I also assist with the guiding of Kayak Tours, utilising my P Licence for the After school Club, Holiday Programmes and Kayak Tours, and lending a hand with the operations of the Adventure Park. The long and short of it is I work alongside the Operations Manager and OSCAR Manager to ensure the smooth operations of the Waimarino Group, including hiring, training, and rostering of staff, marketing, future planning, and business development.

How did your time at QRC help prepare you for your current job?Waimarino Kayaks
QRC gave me the knowledge of the bigger picture of tourism, understanding how each aspect is interconnected. The stand-out papers for me were Operations and Risk Management, Marketing and Sales, Law and Business Development and I have used the knowledge from these within all of my roles. 

What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
My current role is extremely flexible, it is seasonal, and Summer is busy and a lot of work often doing 70–80-hour weeks. Winters consist of a lot of remote work and travel opportunities. Waimarino has a great company culture and community that surrounds it, the opportunities are endless. We hire based on attitude with a skill set as a bonus as the people make the place.

What are your plans for the future?
As the borders reopen and tourism begins to look more like it did pre-Covid19 I will be transitioning into a full time Digital Marketing Role and be based remotely. Focusing on a full re-brand of the Waimarino Group and content creation. Over the peak period I will still assist onsite as needed. This of course will allow me to have the freedom to travel again which I am very much looking forward to!

Waimarino Kayak tour

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

John Cushen, QRC Lecturer
Attitude is the most important thing; you can teach new skills, but you can’t teach a positive attitude”.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Do the things that excite you, create opportunities for yourself, and most importantly don’t forget to enjoy life.

Our courses:
Adventure Tourism Management
Hospitality Management 
Machine Learning

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