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Westport sailor embraces new career as Navy Education Officer

Westport-born sailor Sophie Barry has aligned her university education with the opportunities the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) can offer, re-inventing herself as a Learning Development Officer for the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

20 December, 2021

Sub Lieutenant Barry, 34, joined the RNZN in 2015 after attending Buller High School and completing a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning at Canterbury University.

She trained as a hydrographic surveyor and in the last two years worked as a business coordinator for Naval Staff at Defence House, Wellington.

She returned to Devonport Naval Base in Auckland to undertake 22 weeks of Junior Officer Common Training to ‘Commission from the Ranks’ as an officer.

She graduated on 18 December from class 21/02, receiving a promotion from Midshipman to Sub Lieutenant due to her degree.

As a Learning Development Officer, she will study at NZ Defence College for two years, undertaking courses in learning development and adult education. When qualified, she will provide specialist training and guidance on learning to NZDF commanders and units across New Zealand.

The work includes developing training courses, developing instructional standards, and providing personal development advice to NZDF personnel.

She said Auckland lockdowns were definitely the biggest challenge of her course, with no leave for five months. 

“After graduation, the thing I’m looking forward to the most is getting back to Westport to see my family.”

Her classmates were amazing people, she said. 

“That’s what I enjoyed the most about the course: the people I have grown close to and made lifetime friendships and memories with.”

In her downtime, Sub Lieutenant Barry enjoys squash, tennis and golf, music, getting to the beach and catching up with friends and family. 

“Sometimes it can be a challenge to fulfil these interests when you are on ship or on deployment, but it’s just about making the most of it when you get the opportunity and finding other interests when you don’t.”

Her advice to others thinking about a career in the services is to talk to those already serving.

“Talk to as many as you can, to get a good understanding of the options and trades available. For me, I want to make the most of as many opportunities as I can and have as many amazing experiences as I can while I am serving.”