Q&A with Allison Murray-Travers – winner of Industry Assessor of the Year 2021

We spoke with Allison Murray-Travers from Hair Technique, who took out the Industry Assessor of the Year at The Industry Awards 2021.

How did it feel to win Industry Assessor of the Year?

It felt fantastic! I was very pleased, given the industry assessors are a highly qualified and highly motivated bunch of people who do a tremendous job in the industry. I’d known since November that I was a finalist, and with all the hiccups of the awards being postponed until February and then cancelled, it’s been a long time waiting for it to come. 

It was really disappointing not to be able to have the big awards show in Auckland, that would have been just fantastic. I’ve been to The Industry Awards over the years, so I know what a fantastic evening it always is. It would have been fabulous to have been at the event and won the award there. Nevertheless, I’m really delighted with my win.

Despite not being at the awards, how did you and your team celebrate?

I thought about having my team come to my home and have a few drinks and nibbles, but as it was a Sunday evening, I didn’t want to intrude on people’s personal time over the weekend. My staff work really hard and deserve their days off. So, in the end I decided I’d just be home on the night.

My sister and brother-in-law were over, and  because my award was the second to be announced, I knew I was a winner early in the evening. It was really lovely to have them there because we’re really close as a family. My brother-in-law does assessing for Competenz, so he understands the whole assessing thing. We had dinner and a really pleasant evening.

We watched the rest of the awards, and there was more excitement down the track when other Whanganui winners were announced. It was great.

What makes you passionate about being an industry assessor?

I’m passionate about people being qualified for the job that they do. I’ve always believed you need to have a target for whatever you’re doing in life, so to be able to say “I’m qualified” is a big thing for me. That makes me passionate about the assessment process.

I’ve been an industry assessor for over 30 years. I’ve been through the process myself when the qualification changed. When we changed from trade certificate to national certificate, I actually sat my national certificate. I sat my assessing units and went through the process to gain my assessing qualification. So I’ve been through the assessment process that our industry and apprentices go through.

I’m very much passionate about qualifications. I was very involved with HITO, helping to develop their advanced trade qualifications – I hold an advanced cutting qualification myself. It’s the process of qualifying that I’m passionate about, and therefore I’m passionate about assessing.

Allison completing her Advanced Cutting practical assessment

What do you attribute your success to?

Longevity and passion, I think. I’ve been in the industry for a long time, I’ve been in business for a long time. As you go on in life, you learn different skills and you pick up different things. My longevity in the industry makes me passionate about doing things right. 

I don’t know how you measure success in assessing, apart from if your candidates give you good feedback afterwards. I think testament is when you’re giving feedback to somebody who isn’t complete, and the manner that it’s delivered should make the person want to come back and complete their qualification. It’s a big thing for me, when somebody is incomplete, and how that part of the process is handled, and that the person is left in no doubt about what they need to do to complete the qualification.

How do you stay up to date with industry changes in training and assessment techniques?

I make use of everything that HITO offers to assessors – to upskill and stay up to date with training processes and qualifications. It’s easy to keep up to date with everything being online, it’s just amazing. You can be at home on the couch on a Sunday night and be trawling about something on the other side of the world!

I also credit a lot to my younger staff at work – they bring things up and I’m like “what’s that?”. They are really up to date with things and therefore drag me up to date as well. Not that I need dragging, but they sometimes bring a whole different perspective to me, so I’m very grateful for my young staff.

I believe if you’re researching something to read – I’m a great reader. I read papers and documents – printed stuff easier than online sometimes. I am also quite a visual person. I try to stay up to date in a manner of ways.

I’m also in the salon 30-32 hours a week on the floor working, which is a very big thing for staying up to date. Even though I only do what I want to do these days, I have four staff who do a wide variety of work. There’s always things happening, they’re constantly being challenged and I’m challenging myself.

We have a pinboard out the back that we can pin images on – styles, looks, things we love. It’s a very visual thing. We talk about what’s on the board and how we would go about recreating them. Some of that pushes into my assessing world, as when you’re assessing, you’re assessing to industry standard, but also acknowledging the relationship between fashion work and what will fit into the assessment.

Our industry is such a changing industry. Every week there’s something different. I’m sure if you went away for six months and came back, you’d be asking “what’s this? What’s that?”, because things change so rapidly!

Allison completing her Advanced Cutting practical assessment

What would your advice be to other industry assessors to be successful and to win awards?

The first encouragement is to enter – put yourself out there and enter the awards, because you need to enter to win! Put yourself on the line. My business has been a finalist in the business awards twice without being a winner. It’s not about winning, it’s about entering, measuring yourself and putting yourself out there. I would encourage any other industry assessors to do that.

I think that while assessing is all about the hair, it’s also all about the process of assessment, empathy and putting yourself in the candidate’s shoes so you can feel what they’re feeling on the day. You’re not there to be their friend, but the process needs to be as friendly as it can be for the candidates.

I’m not there to be pedantic or picky, I’m there to assess to an industry standard. It’s all about your attitude, and realising that as I get older, young people get younger. Things are different in the assessment room these days – we talk about mobile phones for the hairdressers, models and clients, and what their place is on assessment day – years ago that was never a thing. 

What advice or encouragement would you give to someone who wants to become an industry assessor?

I encourage people to put themselves out there and do it. I encourage them to look at the process of how you can become an industry assessor, which involves completing assessor units, so it won’t happen overnight. 

I have an ex-staff member who I’m still close with, who I mentored through the process of becoming an industry assessor. I’ve got senior staff now, where if they said to me “I think I want to become an assessor”, I would definitely encourage them to go for it. It’s not for everybody, but if you feel you want to do it, definitely investigate the process. HITO are always helpful and are always looking for new assessors. 

You have to stay current and be working to be an industry assessor. So the moment I retire, I can assess anymore, and that’s okay because it’s about being in the industry. We need younger people and more assessors coming on board all the time. 

Having a mentor, who is currently an assessor, can be a really big help. They can advise and help iron out little kinks when they come up. I’m pretty sure every assessor would be happy to give their time to mentor a new assessor coming in. 

Allison completing her Advanced Cutting practical assessment

How did you find the process of entering the Industry Awards?

I entered during lockdown in August 2021, which was quite sudden and there wasn’t a lot of warning for. I felt I needed to get something productive out of it, so I thought I would enter the awards. I had been toying with the idea, but life gets busy. I had considered entering the business awards again, but it’s quite a big thing to do. I decided to enter for Industry Assessor of the Year, because that’s just me. 

I printed off the criteria and started writing. My son and daughter-in-law in Auckland are great people to push things around with. We went back and forth until I was really pleased with the end result. It was great having them look at my entry from a purely analytical point of view and making sure I was meeting what the criteria was asking for. I probably couldn’t have done it so well without them. 

Using people from outside your circle to help you with parts of the process you aren’t so comfortable with doing by yourself is really great. Utilising the people around you for their skill set is really important. You can get so involved in the process of entering that you don’t get it working in the order it should, or you can get caught up in the little things if they’re not your strength. 

When the entry closing date was extended after I had already submitted my entry, I was considering going back and reworking what I had submitted. But then work got busy, so I thought “you’ve already done it, just let it be”. In the end, that was the best thing to have done. 

What would you say to somebody that’s considering entering The Industry Awards this year?

I would say go for it, enter, do it. I think it’s revived my enthusiasm for entering the business awards again, which is really good. I’m now thinking I should be doing it more, and encouraging staff to enter some of the creative awards. To see lots of people from Whanganui having success in the awards is fantastic. 

Time is the harshed part about entering – people who enter the awards put in hours of their own time to put concepts together and make it all happen. It’s not until you put yourself out there and enter the awards that you realise how much everyone is putting themselves out there. I think it’s something you should try to find the time to do. 

Time is an awkward thing in our industry, everyone is always busy. But if you can find the time to enter the awards, it is well worth it. I have found the same thing in previous years when entering the business awards. The process of entering is invaluable – it can make you realise how you can improve, or what you’re doing well, or help you extend your skill set by challenging yourself. Not everyone can be a winner, but if you complete your entry and enter the awards, you’re a winner for doing that! It’s all about putting yourself out there. 

I would encourage anybody, for any of the categories, to enter. If you find something you think you’re good at, or could do well, then go for it!

Industry Awards