Capital fits the bill
Wellington ticks all the boxes for Bianca Grizhar, of Germany
After living in Shanghai for seven years, Bianca had had enough of a fast and furious lifestyle and decided to look for a new home. She drew up a list of criteria for her next destination and started researching her options.
“I was over Shanghai, and I was looking for a place where I actually wanted to live permanently – I’m a very analytical person, so I made a list of things the new country I was to move to needed to fulfil.”
That list included clean air, clean water, friendly people, healthy living and a Government which supported all of that.
“Surprisingly, few countries actually met my criteria but New Zealand ticked all those boxes.”
Today, Bianca couldn’t be happier. She rents a home in the Wellington suburb of Aro Valley and works as product manager for Wellington tech firm Raygun. In her spare time, Bianca enjoys live music, shows and festivals, and travels around the country in her campervan.
“There were many things that drew me to Wellington – the city itself is beautiful, it has spectacular views of the water, there’s fresh air, the outdoors… the only thing you need to worry about is getting caught out in the rain,” she laughs.
“In the first place I lived in Roseneath I’d walk to work along the waterfront every day, rain or not, it was so beautiful.”
Being a tech guru, Bianca also loves Wellington because it supports creatives.
“I saw the tech ecosystem here and compared to China or the UK it was so much more of a community. I remember going to the BizDojo and that community approach to tech start-ups really appealed to me, there was so much support for each other.
“There were all these different organisations, like Creative HQ and WellingtonNZ, everybody is super supportive and helps each other to do well in their early stages.
They are supportive not just in the work sense – the people here are open, when they say ‘how are you?’ they actually want to hear the answer.”
On her very first visit to Wellington one summer, Bianca knew that New Zealand was where she wanted to live.
During this visit, she had a job interview at Victoria University of Wellington through a friend of a friend. Bianca found out she got the job while she was in China and was able to apply for residency through it.
Bianca worked at Victoria University in research commercialisation for three years, while also setting up a business consultancy on the side. When that job ended, Bianca went back to Germany to work in the tech industry.
“Product management was still in its infancy in New Zealand then, so I decided to go back to Berlin for some more experience in that field.”
Three years later Bianca came back to New Zealand for the 2020 summer. She had started making connections to work here permanently, when the pandemic struck.
She returned home once again, this time to hunker down during the pandemic before heading back to Wellington in October 2020.
“I was among the rush of people coming back here in time for Christmas, it was extremely stressful but I was glad to get back here,” says Bianca.
“There were many things that drew me to Wellington – the city itself is beautiful, it has spectacular views of the water, there’s fresh air, the outdoors… the only thing you need to worry about is getting caught out in the rain.”
Things have since fallen into place – though prepared to live anywhere in New Zealand for work, Bianca managed to land a job in her beloved city of Wellington.
And her role at Raygun is a good fit.
“I was approached by a number of recruiters and ended up interviewing with a lot of non-tech companies that are now interested in methodologies, structures and processes we have in tech companies because they can see the advantages the approach has had and want to implement it into their organisations.”
However, Bianca decided to stay true to her passion, product management within the technology industry.
“As product lead at Raygun it’s my job to translate the company’s business strategy into product development, and it’s also handling a lot of the operational day-to-day work to make sure we’re reaching our goals.
“Part of the plan is to hire and train more product managers for our team, so no day is like the other and it’s great!”
While Bianca is heavily focused on her career, outside of work she’s enjoying the Wellington lifestyle.
“I love the sea but I am terrified of swimming in it. I do like live music and going to shows and music festivals - it’s not Berlin but I like the intimacy of smaller shows and prefer cultural events over clubs these days, so the night scene in Wellington is great for that.”
Bianca also enjoys the freedom her campervan gives her.
“It’s cliché but I’ve probably seen more of New Zealand than many Kiwis, and right now I’m planning a trip to Wanaka, which I’ve never done in winter before.”
Looking back, Bianca is grateful for the opportunities she’s been given in New Zealand and is glad she made the choice to come here.
“I do miss my family, we keep in touch regularly and they are happy for me to be living here, even my 85-year-old grandmother totally understands that Wellington is home now,” she says.
“Originally, my brilliant plan was to live half the year here and half in Berlin, but that is on hold due to the pandemic, and to be honest, if I had to pick between the two, it’s definitely here.”