Meet the unsuspecting introvert. Marketer Nikki Neate, of Pic's Peanut Butter fame, shares her story in this final of a four-part series highlighting various female introverts in New Zealand business today.
No wallflower is our Nikki. Gregarious enthusiast, glam shoes and exotic spectangles to match, and her own admission that - in a fashion sense at least - she can't and won't do casual. Not for anything. Once described as "The Energy" by hackathon co-conspirators, Nikki Neate is not backwards in coming forwards re sharing ideas, speaking her truth, or talking in general come to that.
All quite the disguise for a self-confessed introvert, albeit that none of it is an act. Nikki embodies introvertism in the classic Carl Jung sense; in how she is able to produce mental energy for herself and what eats that energy up. According to Jung's basic definition, introverts prefer minimally stimulating environments and need time alone to recharge. We may also consider writer/poet Charles Bukowski's (who didn't mince words) assertion: "People empty me. I have to get away to refill."
"I love being out and about with people, chatting with them. That is something I really do enjoy ...but afterwards, I have to go home and hibernate, because it's also so incredibly draining and tiring," explains Nikki, who absolutely treasures being completely alone.
"I could, I suspect, spend my entire life in my own company if I had to. Simply because I can always find things to do, just me. Although it might cause problems at home, as my husband by the same definition is an extrovert, refuelling his energy being around me and others. Neither he nor our two kids can understand my fascination for escaping to the garden frequently to tend the roses."
So, how does a woman so protective about getting time to herself manage to create a successful fast-paced career that she adores?
Mum dissuaded Nikki from early social work ambitions, perhaps understanding her character better than she did herself back then, warning that it would likely kill her. Instead, the sophistication of London called after graduating in the Arts from Auckland University. Living and working in London for nearly two decades, Nikki talked her way into an impressive arts coordination role before the allure of successive high-stakes jobs in UK television swept her onwards.
Arriving home in 2014, Nikki became Pic's Peanut Butter's first marketing manager. Her seven-year tenure there has covered an incredible period of massive growth in terms of domestic and international sales, new product development, and the opening in 2019 of the purpose-built factory come crowd-pleasing tourist attraction that is Pic's Peanut Butter World.
Nikki Neate learnt from experience how to manage pressure alongside personal wellbeing. She had to, following stretches in her youth where she was physically and mentally unable to do anything for weeks except rest and rejuvenate; the price of not listening to her own needs.
She has since taught herself how to tackle audacious goals sustainably - with both hands, by trusting herself and taking things one logical step at a time. She has also learnt from Pic, she says, just how far enthusiasm can take you.
Known as something of a "mother hen" to the ever-expanding Pic's team (although quick to point out her preference for "glamourous aunt"), there is obvious irony in alone time loving Nikki also being people centric.
"I think I've probably got, compared to some, a relatively high emotional intelligence. I can walk into a room of people and very quickly pick up the vibe, sense when something is not quite right with something or someone. My next thought is what can we do to make that a bit better for them?
I don't assume how another person is feeling but by taking a minute to consider how that might be, or how I might feel if I were in their shoes, well it enables me to put myself out there for them. Most importantly, while I can empathise, it's not about me, so listening to them is vital as experience is all unique."
Empathy is a strength common to many introverts, as is wanting time in your own head to do your thinking. Nikki, however, equally loves the next phase: the coming back and collaborating, the creating together.
To anyone viewing being an introvert as a reason not to do stuff, she shares: "Spend time thinking for sure, but not too much". Then - her own personal mantra - "just start, and keep going."
At the time of writing, Nikki Neate was coming to the end of her longstanding tenure as Global Marketing Manager at Pic's Peanut Butter. To shake things up a bit, she has since chosen to take on a new role with Proper Crisps, another exciting New Zealand food company who like doing things a little differently.
This is the final in the four-part 'When Quiet Women Succeed' article series, where inspiring New Zealand women share insights into their journeys as introverts working and reaching success within their chosen fields.
Image: kindly supplied