Chronicles Of A Career Mum: How To Survive The Balance

Sometimes it’s not all about the destination, it’s about how you got there. I didn’t always work as a business development manager for Squirrel Mortgages. Though I’m enjoying what I do, who knows where I’ll end up. It’s been an interesting journey so far, that’s for sure.

I grew up in Chengdu, China and when I was growing up I never imagined that I’d move to New Zealand, travel the world card counting, train to be an Actuary (who even knows what that is – I certainly didn’t before I googled it) and purchase more than two dozen properties.

I’m a true believer in setting your goals high and doing something you’re passionate about

Balancing work, life, two tiny children and trading property isn’t easy. But if I can do it, anyone can. I started in this country with nothing, not even a word of English. Over the next M2Woman issues, I’m going to tell you how I did it. I’m a true believer in setting your goals high and doing something you’re passionate about. You’ll then feel good about yourself and making money tags along. Anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t do things by halves.

I arrived in NZ in 2001 aged 22, fresh from uni in China and ready to complete a post-graduate diploma in finance in Hamilton. Easier said than done when you don’t speak the language and I got just 28/100 for my first exam. Back in China I was a topJo_Squirrel_LowResIMG_5787 student. After 6 months I knew enough English to get by, and managed to graduate in 2002 but jobs were scarce back then – specifically, jobs for Chinese immigrants in Hamilton.

After what felt like hundreds of job applications that went ignored, I managed to find a job in an Auckland car yard selling second hand cars. How did I do this? By bluffing my interview of course. I told my new boss I knew all about cars and had even had experience selling them, when in reality the extent of my car knowledge was limited to their colour.

I actually might be pretty good at this. Cars, no. Sales, yes.

I didn’t even have a NZ drivers license (however when asked during my interview I enthusiastically said I did). However, my new boss soon forgave me. On my first day I sold a Mercedes Benz to a Chinese girl who knew slightly less than me about cars, which made me realize I actually might be pretty good at this. Cars, no. Sales, yes.

I finally achieved my first real goal – I got my permanent residency, which meant I could look for something else to do as I knew I didn’t want to continue selling cars.
That’s when I met Mr J. He introduced me to card counting and so began my double life, but I’ll leave that story for next time.

Joanne Chen is a business development manager at Squirrel Mortgages. Visit




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