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Student story

Daniel Stack

20 July 2023

"The course teaches you a way of looking at work that nothing else can really match..."


Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Psychology

Master of Science in Applied Psychology

Health, Safety & Wellbeing Coordinator and Marketing & Proposal Coordinator, Cosgroves Ltd


Why did you decide on organisational psychology as your career path?

I was particularly interested in organisations because most people shape a lot of their life around work. So, I wanted to learn how to make work a place that people actually want to be.

How do you accomplish that?

Industrial and Organisational (I/O) Psych teaches that nothing in an organisation ever just “happens”. The structure of organisations, jobs, and individual tasks can be adapted and improved.

A positive culture is the result of dozens of interconnected factors such as recruitment, onboarding, structure, leadership, and team support, and all of this interacts with people’s unique characteristics. Being able to recognise all of those features, and actually having the tools to untangle all of that in a way that makes sense to other people has been extremely valuable for my career.

How did your undergrad degrees set you on that path?

I majored in Economics & Psychology with a focus on understanding why people think and behave the way they do. Psychology in general teaches you to always think about why someone might be acting in a certain way. Economics teaches that we are constantly making calculated decisions because everything, including how we spend our time, has an opportunity cost.

So that’s why you wanted to do postgrad study?

When looking at Postgrad, the APSY (now I/O Psych) course at UC looked like the perfect combination of my two majors and set me up for the exact career that I wanted to get into. Every paper had an emphasis on using data and research to inform organisational decision making, but the fundamental purpose of this was always to make workplaces welcoming and positive environments for people.

What was the best part about it?

The course teaches you a way of looking at work that nothing else can really match. So if you have a passion for understanding people’s behaviour and also for improving people’s lives, then organisational psychology is a fantastic field to enter.

Tell us more about your career so far.

The level of autonomy and freedom is great. Because I use data to inform next steps in Health, Safety, and Wellbeing, I can provide evidence as to why certain changes and new initiatives will work well in our company. The APSY programme was all about taking a systematic approach to HR and organisational development which has equipped me with the perfect skill set to be in a role such as this.

What do your HR and Marketing roles involve at the engineering firm?

Health and Safety involves making sure people have the tools they need to stay safe in the office and during site inspections by collecting, analysing, and presenting data. This keeps everyone engaged and helps to make our procedures as good as they can be. Wellbeing is a new addition to my role and really shows Cosgroves’ commitment to looking after their employees. This year has been a lot about collecting information through interviews and surveys to determine the best way for us to make a real difference in workplace wellbeing.

I also write material for our website and create supporting documents for professional tenders. My role is often taking highly technical information and describing it in an approachable and engaging way.

Finally, I coordinate marketing initiatives such as attending Uni Expos and creating social media posts capturing the great stuff that Cosgroves does for employee health and wellbeing. This helps us project our positive workplace culture to potential recruits.

And that’s partially come from your time with Student Volunteer Army in a similar role, right?

I started going to Student Volunteer Army weekend events about halfway through first-year and I joined the exec in 2016 as an In-Schools Mentor; this was the first year we ran the UCAN Volunteer Programme. This was a series of three workshops targeted at high school students, equipping them with the skills and support necessary to start their own volunteering initiatives. In 2017 we created a new role, Impact Officer, which aimed to capture the social benefit of our events and display these in a clear way to various stakeholders such as sponsors and members. I took a year off between finishing Undergrad and starting my Master’s, and came back into the In-Schools Mentor role in 2019.

That’s a pretty cool legacy to have made.  

I loved the feeling of contributing positively and it was so refreshing to find a group of students from diverse backgrounds who all came together to help out.

The club scene was a massive surprise for me, and I met some of my best friends through the Student Volunteer Army. No matter your background or interests, there is certainly a club that will make you feel welcome and help you to meet a group of like-minded people.

Do you know what you’ll like to accomplish next?

I would like to become a Wellbeing Specialist. It has become a bit of a buword recently with companies competing for staff and trying to increase retention, but implementing an effective wellbeing programme is actually very difficult.

Awareness of organisational psychology as a discipline is definitely increasing throughout businesses in New Zealand. It is still more common in other countries to see the specific words “organisational psychology” used in job adverts, but companies in New Zealand are starting to recognise the specific skillset that it provides and the value of having this within their team.

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