Innovation Officer at Wellington City Council, Jaime Hayden is a woman you want to have on your team. Plus, she’s always laughing.
Smart, humorous and with a sense of wonder that reminds you of a really big kid in a grown-up human body, she is as quick-witted and inclusive as she is gentle and genuine. Jaime has been working for the Wellington City Council for over three years (City Innovation team for over two). After meeting at a TEDx event, Jaime has popped up all over the place in Wellington, through mutual friends to operating at Biz Dojo to volunteering at Kaibosh Food Rescue on the same shift as me. Similarly, she has zig-zagged through her career. Jaime loves a great Netflix Series, whanau and travel. But what makes an ‘innovation’ officer and what brought Jaime to the place in life where she calls Wellington home?
Jaime has been living in Wellington (aside from her OE) for 10 years. While she didn’t go to school here, Jaime considers herself a Wellingtonian through and through “My heart and soul is in Wellington" she explains.
"Smart, humorous and with a sense of wonder that reminds you of a really big kid in a grown-up human body, she is as quick-witted and inclusive as she is gentle and genuine"
"Jaime considers herself a Wellingtonian through and through “My heart and soul is in Wellington" she explains"
Jaime was born in Hamilton, grew up in Rotorua and studied at high school and in tertiary education in Palmerston North. Her parents, she describes, as ‘salt of the earth’. Her father started out as a lineman in electricity for the county and worked his way up to be a regional manager for the electricity grid. “Mum worked administratively in different roles. They now live in Tauranga. Dad is a consultant and Mum runs a souvenir shop on the high street. My Summers now involve going up there and working in the shop. Ever since I got back from London I think it’s the coolest thing. Whenever I come home after the Christmas break I end up with, like, twenty Kiwiana T-Shirts” Jaime laughs.
School Days: "I once made a teacher cry"
At Freyberg High School, in Palmerston North, Jaime was talented at a range of subjects across the board but would sometimes let her frustrations get the better of her. She once made her teacher cry by complaining that the school work wasn’t hard enough, something she now regrets (she has friends who are teachers). “I’ve always been into learning. I liked Maths, Classics, History and Photography. However, I wasn’t very good with the institution of school and in my last year (I only studied to 6th form) decided to pursue my creative outlet. When I left school, I studied Photography” she says “Ansel Adams, Ans Westra, Man Ray - all these people inspired me.”
“I don’t mind change, I just hate the transition”
After completing an advanced diploma, Jaime moved to Auckland where she helped at a studio with re-touching and assisting on other work. She remembers that when her parents dropping her at her Aunty's house, she cried (Jaime was 20). Her father, growing exasperated, reminded everyone that she was an adult. “I don’t mind change, I just hate the transition” Jaime laughs. However, she didn’t love the solitary nature of working professionally in photography. “I was too lazy and too young. I needed to learn more about life. I wasn’t dedicated to it and didn't take photography seriously enough” Jaime says.
Moving to Wellington
After two years of working full-time in photography, Jaime decided to move to Wellington where her parents had moved. “I decided to move from Auckland, and quickly realised I was very happy here in Welly. I took a job in a call centre, which I had worked in while studying, just to be here. At the call centre job, I met some great people” she says.
"I like helping people and connection. I used to think that meant I had to help people in a vulnerable place. However, I understood myself enough to understand I am not a person with the strength to do that on an everyday basis"
Next, Jaime took an advertising job at The Dominion Post for two years before deciding sales were not where her heart was. In around the end of 2008, Jaime resigned and decided to study social services work. However, not long after starting studying, Jaime realised she “couldn’t do that, because I’m a big emotional ball” Jaime chuckles. “Fundamentally, when I look back, I like helping people and connection. I used to think that meant I had to help people in a vulnerable place. However, I understood myself enough to understand I am not a person with the strength to do that on an everyday basis. Going and seeing people in vulnerable places was confronting. You needed to be very stoic to manage it emotionally.”
The Big OE - London Living
Jaime moved to London where she got a job in administration. Her final job she had was working as an EA to a Director of the Design Council, which “really opened my eyes.” The Design Council is an advisory council in the UK who advise on major projects, such as the Olympic Park, applying design thinking methodology. Jamie liked that it incorporated helping people, critical thinking and that it wasn’t bound by bureaucracy. “It peaked my interest in how I could work in the community without specialising in a particular thing without a technical background,” Jaime says.
A New Dream: "I decided I wanted to work at Wellington City Council"
On the way home from Heathrow to Wellington, Jaime decided she wanted to work at Wellington City Council. She arrived home and saw a job advertised as an EA. She applied for the job but heard nothing. Then, two months, later, she saw the job again advertised. She applied again, making her application more about how passionate she was about working for the council. In the interview, she was congratulated on reapplying for the job for the second time. She was open about the fact she wanted to use it as a foot in the door. “That is where I met the ‘Head of Innovation’. I focused my passion towards relationships, innovation and communication, finally focusing my skills” she says, laughing.
The innovation team focus on economic growth outcomes in many ways, particularly with the tech, social enterprise and creative sectors. They’ve partnered with Biz Dojo to create Collider, helped with TEDxWellington and work to make the innovation and work of Wellingtonians visible to city Councillors.
“I want to be as relevant as I can be” Jaime explains about the innovation team. “I want to reach out to people and ask “What can I do to help?” In my team, we try to be approachable, accessible and relevant. I’m now working directly at Biz Dojo a one day a week so the council has a presence there, with these small innovative start-ups. We are changing a perception of the council. We don’t have one set focus because we want to be flexible and adaptable and seek to understand what the sector need. We aren’t into making people fit into our box”
“I want to be as relevant as I can be” Jaime explains about the innovation team. “I want to reach out to people and ask “What can I do to help?”
Outside of work, you’ll find Jaime at Lamason. “It’s unpretentious and has great baristas”. She also rates Arborist, KK Malaysia and going for walks on the South Coast, Botanical Gardens and Otari-Wilton Bush. "My favourite secret is going to the playground on The Crescent in Mount Victoria. It has the best view of Wellington and the biggest slide" she says "I’m a major child at heart. Anywhere I can see the ocean but be outside walking is ideal for me in this city. I feel really blessed to be in the position I’m in at the moment, helping make Wellington more awesome.”
If you want to get in touch with any of your thoughts or ideas on innovation across the city, you can find Jaime at The BizDojo every Wednesday or contact her directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want more cool stories about Wellington and exclusive snapshots of life in the city, subscribe to the blog (above), follow onYouTube, Instagram, Twitter and add me on Snapchat (residents_welly).