Monica Helbano

Communications Coordinator, HMC Communications - Hamilton, New Zealand

Key Info

  • Bachelor of Communication Studies
  • Public Relations
  • Leadership Communication
  • Brian Perry Charitable Trust Business Management Scholarship
  • Vice-Chancellor's Academic Excellence Scholarship

Why did you choose your degree?

I attended high school at Saint Mary’s College in Wellington and, although I loved sciences, I loved interacting with people more. After being handed a University of Waikato prospectus at a careers day in year 13, I went through the entire book crossing out the courses that didn’t resonate with me. After a drawn-out process, defacing the prospectus with a highlighter and a marker pen, the last major standing was Public Relations. This is the major I chose, along with Leadership Communication, and I never regretted the decision once. For me, high school showed me I could change the world and university showed me how.

Did you have any specific challenges to overcome to get where you are today?

Deciding what you want to do when you grow up is difficult. In the middle of my degree I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. But once I completed an internship at HMC Communications, I realised good PR practice could make a big, positive difference and I wanted to be a part of that. Now when people ask me “What do you do?” I tell them, “I basically help people achieve their dreams.”

Tell us about what a typical day looks like for you.

I'm gaining experience managing clients; helping organisations achieve their business goals and guarding their reputation through public relations. Overall, day-to-day activities include writing communication strategies, carrying out PR campaigns, working alongside traditional media (journalists and reporters), managing social media, writing media stories, running events – the list goes on…

I also coordinate a leadership programme in Hamilton for refugee teenage girls called Girls2Girls Connection. We’ve been growing the project and now have more than 30 high schoolers from refugee backgrounds who participate. This year’s focus has been helping participants gain appropriate skills for a part-time job in New Zealand.

Do you think your degree has held you in good stead?

Definitely! Studying at Waikato University gave me a solid footing for getting into the professional world. The classes, group-work, internships and leadership opportunities help develop the skills and drive to work in PR.

What are your professional goals?

To become a go-to person for organisations who need help with big-picture thinking.

How did your years at Waikato make a difference to you?

University holds so many opportunities for personal and professional growth. The only problem is you won’t catch any of them unless you get off your butt and make an effort. For me, this meant doing something that scared me every day, like talking to someone new, running MCSA (Management Communications Students’ Association), taking the lead in group discussions, trusting people, suggesting ideas that seemed crazy, asking questions, and being open to being challenged. Through these opportunities I discovered what I was good at and what I needed to improve in. So by graduation, I could say I was ready to take on the world.

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