Jonathan Haydon: becoming the best version of myself

Date: 05 Jul 2023

Less than a year out from completing a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and Accounting at Auckland University, Jonathan (Jonny) Haydon is a successful young executive at one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent creative agencies, Bastion Shine.  Through the Staples Education programme, he is also giving back already, he’s a buddy for Lennox Jones, who is studying BCom/BProp also at the University of Auckland.

Jonny’s life today could be from the pages of a glossy magazine! But in his refreshingly honest interview, he reveals that it wasn’t always like this.

When asked about how he felt about graduating this year, a sense of relief was the sentiment top of mind for Jonny. His time at university was tough he said, getting off to a rough start when just weeks into his new course, the country went into a national lock-down. The disruption caused by Covid, and further intermittent lockdowns, were then threaded through his university years causing isolation and making learning hard.

 “Regrettably, university was not an experience that I would cherish forever. Due to spending most of my time in lockdown during two-thirds of university life, I couldn't genuinely experience the university lifestyle. It was a difficult period as I had to spend a considerable amount of time confined to a tiny apartment, limited to only eating, sleeping, and studying with occasional runs.”

He is now incredibly thankful for his degree and for the support he received from the Staples Education Foundation which he noted, has opened up incredible opportunities for him – leading him to his career as a young executive today.  But like so many young people, Jonny didn’t always know what he wanted to do, especially at school. He is upfront about some of the struggles he faced, lacking certainty and belief in himself in particular, before finding the path that was right for him.

“During my time at Dilworth, there was a period when I considered dropping out to pursue a career in a trade. At the time, I neglected what was best for me, lacked a clear vision of my future and was seeking immediate gratification.”

At Dilworth Jonny says he was fortunate to have a support system that got him through and helped him to persevere through school, until in his final year it all fell into place. The friendships he built while boarding at Dilworth pushed him to try harder as he and his group of friends motivated each other. He then started to get better results.

“They say you are influenced by the top five people you spend your time with, fortunately for me I had a group of people who inspired and pushed me to be better every day.”

He is also grateful to all the Dilworth staff that supported him along the way, but he particularly calls out Sandra Griffin (Sas), the school’s Guidance Counsellor.

 “Sas was pivotal in my growth through Dilworth. From the outset at Rural Campus to my graduation she helped me find my purpose and be the best I can be.”

Dilworth has both a Psychologist and Guidance Counsellor who provide additional support for students – they can access these services at any time.

In his last year of school Jonny discovered his interest in business. He improved his grades and was delighted when he was successful in his application for an SEF scholarship. The Staples Education Foundation scholarship provides financial support of $5,000 per year, but also provides a critical support framework to help students succeed at university and beyond. Staples students are given networking opportunities and are matched with a mentor and a dedicated buddy. There is also ongoing training through the Support and Development Programme and two weeks of work experience per year in a profession or industry of their choice – the lightbulb moment in Jonny’s case.

Jonny says the Staples Foundation was pivotal in his success at University, “in the last four years, the Staples scholarship has been one of the most significant blessings in my life, providing me with unparalleled support”. His sponsor Jane played a huge role in his life while at university, as did Karen Bennett, General Manager of the Staples Foundation who met with him bi-weekly and kept him on task “Karen, had a major impact in my university life, catching up on a bi-weekly basis to discuss the little things going on which actually had a huge impact, we were able to deal with things before they escalated."

In 2021, Jonny was given work experience at Bastion Shine, a company who are committed to nurturing the next generation of talent in the creative industry. He received guidance and support from notable figures such as Simon Curran (CEO), Mel Tombs (Operations Manager) and Chris Hotchin (Group Account Director of Air NZ) which have greatly contributed to his personal and professional growth. After his initial work experience, Jonny started out as Junior Traffic Manager and is now Business Manager at the agency, an incredible achievement in this highly contested industry. 

About this time every year, Dilworth’s Year 13 students have the opportunity to apply for the Staples Education Foundation Scholarship. Jonny’s advice to fellow Dilworth students is to go for it, to make the most of the opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be possible and to not to worry about being perfect.

“I hope I made a good example of a Staples student, I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t get perfect grades and sometimes I was terrible at communicating. But looking back on my journey and where I am now, in the best agency in Auckland, guided by the most brilliant in their field, I feel like I’ve done quite alright!”

He also urges others to make the most of every opportunity, to not be afraid of trying new things and meeting new people. “Lean into it all as much as you can. There is so much support around you so don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re struggling.”

Finally, we asked Jonny what he would like to say to Haydn Staples, the Founder of the Staples Education Foundation Board.

“Thank you, Haydn (Staples), for believing in me, giving me the chance to be the best version of myself. I look forward to the opportunity to give back to the Staples Foundation and to Dilworth."

Thank you for sharing your story with us Jonny. You’ve done amazingly well, but you’ve also painted a real picture for us, without the rose tinted glasses. Your story will inspire others to follow in your footsteps, to be ok to ask for help or to change their mind.