Koko Yukako (she/her)

Health and Safety Co-ordinator

"If you believe the small things can make a difference, it does, and anything you can add value to, do it"

A brief mihi/introduction about yourself

My name is Yokojima Yukako, but everybody knows me as Koko. I work as a Health and Safety Co-ordinator. I am originally from Japan. I moved to New Zealand when I was 18, I came here for university and 21 years later I’m still here, I love it, I call New Zealand home, but my family is still in Japan.

Growing up what did want to do for a job and did you ever see yourself working at Te Whatu Ora? 

I actually wanted to be a nurse. When I was growing up in Japan I had the opportunity to live in the hospital for 3 months when my grandfather was passing away, so I had seen how the nurses cared day to day for my grandfather, I went to school from there and came back to the hospital each day and really enjoyed watching how passionate the nurses were about their jobs and how they cared for someone who wasn’t their family member but looked after them like their own family. But then I came to NZ and studied at university in HR and grew my knowledge and understanding of different cultures and connections and other industries I decided to persue a career in HR, but when I applied for this role I remembered I wanted to ba nurse, so why not. Both my parents are in the medical field as well and when I told them I wanted to apply for Te Whatu Ora they were very very happy

What was your journey of getting to work at Te Whatu Ora?

After I finished university I actually worked for a security company which was a 24/7 operation and in a management role. Working in the field with the security officers I realised how important Health and Safety is for their workers who are working by themselves. Being involved in management and having that knowledge and making a difference in Health and Safety has extended me to where I am now, that passion for Health and Safety. So I have come from a Human Resources world and now to be able to focus more on care and protection and do something about it for them has seen me come to the journey of enjoying the Health and Safety world rather than the broader interaction with employees and making decisions about how they do things in the HR areas. I really enjoy being in a Health and Safety focused career that I’ve chosen.

What attracted you to work at Te Whatu Ora?

The biggest attraction was not having worked in the public sector before I wanted to know what it was like to work in an organisation this large but also how the public sector works compared to the private sector. There is a huge difference and huge challenges and barriers. I am open minded, so being able to adapt is important, but the biggest attraction since starting here is having that support and getting support but also being able to focus on my improvement and development of where I want to go and I think the public sector is gives us that opportunity, where as the private sector that I came from was very focused on the day to day operations. So I really see this role, not just as a job but as a development of what my life is about.

What’s something you enjoy about being part of Te Whatu Ora?

I think I’ve become a “go-to” person, so for some reason everybody knows me. Getting in the lift and people saying “Hi Koko” and I’m like, who’s this person? But I’ve realised just in the short amount of time I’ve learnt so much from here, it’s not just because of what I do as a role but also the support from other departments. I see them as an extended whanau, having that knowledge and being able to engage and connect and give me that strength in what I do. I really enjoy the knowledge I get from everybody here and that knowledge doesn’t just come from the clinicians here but also from the People and Capability team to the other departments, including doctors and nurses and other industry that I had never known of.

What do you love about living and working in Ōtautahi/Christchurch?

I actually moved from Auckland, I spent the majority of my time there but I actually had the opportunity to live in Northland for 2 years, as I married a guy from Northland, and his parents are from Hokianga, so that’s a beautiful place that I always see as my home to be honest. Because I spent quite some time there, that’s where my heart is. Coming to Christchurch was quite exciting but at the same time daunting as I’d never lived in the South Island, but that feeling of living in the city but just going 20 minutes drive it feels like you’re in Northland, with the mountains, river and sea. I’m loving it, I do want to say this is my second home.

What advice do you have for someone contemplating a career at Te Whatu Ora?

I would say, just do it. If you want to make a difference, the public sector can be a little bit daunting to be honest because it can be quite a slow place sometimes, but if you believe the small things can make a difference, it does, and anything you can add value to, do it. It’s a really good place to work.

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