Building the plane while flying it: The CERA experience

The CERA experience drew out a range of feelings among its employees. People joined CERA because it represented a unique life experience and career opportunity. It was exciting. It was a challenge. It was a chance to make a difference and help greater Christchurch back on its feet. 

Particularly in the early phases of CERA’s existence, the working environment was dynamic, compelling and exciting but often arduous as well. People from varied backgrounds came together and worked at a frenetic pace. It was a steep learning curve, and there was no precedent to fall back on. Many of CERA’s recovery functions were uncharted waters for its staff to navigate. There was a weight of political and community expectation to get the recovery moving at pace.

Looking back at their experience, many CERA staff noted the importance of ‘looking after yourself’. Despite the message that ‘it’s a marathon, not a sprint’, the natural tendency was to achieve results as soon as possible. As a result, many employees did not maintain a work-life balance. Many CERA staff spoke of running on adrenalin, and hitting a wall when that ran out.

There are a number of key lessons to take away from this experience: the importance of having a sense of humour, supporting each other, asking for help when you need it, and taking time out to recharge and be with family.

Overall, many employees expressed a sense of pride and professional satisfaction in what they and CERA as a whole achieved. The CERA experience was a defining moment in many people’s careers. It was exhausting work, but satisfying, and people grew personally and professionally. Many will never have another job like it.

Represented in these word clouds is an overview of the CERA experience, from those who lived it. 

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