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Liston College Old Boy - David Feary

Dr David Feary (class of 1994), Technical Director at MRAG Ltd, London

Diversity, community, and hard work. These are the main things that I know have come from my time in Liston, I have taken to heart and have propelled me along my journey.

For me Liston was always a diverse place. Having grown up in Ranui, within walking distance to the college, and part of the church on Swanson Road, being surrounded by a multicultural landscape was what I considered normal. This mirrored what I remember of my time in college, whether surrounded by those with a Polynesian background, or Irish, or Yugoslavian, or even those from the North Shore of Auckland (they always sounded so different from us westies), my youth and teenage years were spent bouncing between groups, and more importantly, being made to feel like I belonged.

Community just naturally led on from that – I learned it well from my parents Brian and Janet, who always had an open door and ready smile for anyone coming into their lives – of which Liston simply enhanced such learnings. Whether it was during my earlier years playing handball or football during the lunch breaks, or in my later years hanging out after school and weekends with friends. This community was also important to me in providing support during my early university years. I was lucky enough to go through at the same time as two others in my class - Alan Brannigan, who was always destined for the heady heights of entrepreneurship and is now Co-Founder and CEO of Jupl, a very successful NZ-based technology company, and Walter von Dincklage, who is a very successful Network Administrator at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School.

Hard work was just something that was a natural part of being at Liston. The push came from the headmaster (Mr Huckle loomed large during my time at Liston), my teachers (I can truthfully thank Ms De Souza for instilling in me a love for zoology and the interest in taking it further into university), and my classmates (David Pereira and Peter Adams always seemed so much further ahead than me while Joseph Bosnich seemed to have an answer for everything). I took that need for hard work with me and it has kept me pushing for new things ever since. I also see that in my two younger brothers who both went through Liston – that sense of trying to be better, but also putting in the hard yards, has led to their success - and their big brother being so very proud of them. My brother Daniel, runs an international business selling doors around NZ and worldwide, while my youngest brother John, is sole owner of a tattoo studio. Both have done well for themselves and have taken that willingness to work and strive from their time at Liston.

I was never a sportsman – my short size, diminutive build and the big glasses perched on my nose didn’t lend itself to being a star of the 1st XV, the soccer team, or any other sport. So, I did the other thing that I could do – worked hard for my grades, took the lessons seriously and pushed myself to learn as much as I could in my time. Not to say I was anything less than a straight B student, but that hard work ensured I could get into university and kept me going throughout my many years in the academic world.

I managed to get into Auckland University and completed a BSc in Zoology – “thanks Ms De Souza”. Fortunately for me, this involved several field trips to the coastline, which is where I found my passion, and promptly made sure I got good enough grades to take on a MSc in Marine Biology. One year on campus followed by another year living at the University of Auckland’s field site, Leigh Marine laboratory, and I was hooked. After graduating with my Master’s, I spent a year as a Field Technician - lots of kayaking up and down Auckland estuaries collecting mud, invertebrates, and some weird looks from the local dog walkers. Then I applied and was accepted to complete a PhD in Australia, moving to Townsville in 2004. The following 4 happy years were spent bouncing between Australia and Papua New Guinea, diving, counting fish and enjoying the warmth of the tropics. Again, although I wasn’t the most brilliant of students, I worked hard and made sure I was surrounded by the best people I could find - understanding that project management and people skills were some of my best assets for ensuring work gets done.

My sisters Nicola and Bridget are soundly to blame for me wanting to further my interest in travel, both having already lived in the UK and Ireland and sending home all these amazing pictures of Europe, the Middle East, and the United States. This led me to apply and be awarded a 4-year postdoctoral fellowship in Dubai with the UN, working with a small group of like-minded marine postdocs, examining the newly built Palm Islands, and determining the best way to make sure they were sustainable (hint, don’t build them in the first place). At the end of that I was able to bounce back to Australia and spent another 4 years as a postdoc at the University of Technology, Sydney. We then moved to London (my partner is British, and she was ready to go home after several years of being away from her family) and I was employed by the University of Nottingham on a 3 +1-year lectureship.

Four years of commuting back and forth from London to Nottingham led me to pursue other ways of keeping my head in the marine world, but also making a living. In 2018 I took on a position at a private consultancy, MRAG, which specialises in working on global fisheries in London. My work at MRAG is now soundly based on providing governments, marine organisations, NGOs, and companies with the best advice for managing their fish stocks, the habitats they utilize and the environment they exist in. It’s a job based around managing timelines, people, and expectations, but also working with groups, striving towards a goal, and providing a work atmosphere which makes people want to come back again and again for the service. It also means (albeit not as often) some travel overseas and working within a range of diverse cultures and time zones. Although I couldn’t understand French in school, my hour a day on the underground to get to work has been put to relatively good use - Mon français n'est pas très bon, mais ça y arrive! 

Throughout it all, from living in the wilds of Papua New Guinea, the wildly eccentric Middle East, the crazy and exceptionally humid northern Queensland, or here in London, the three tenets of my time at Liston - diversity, community, and hard work – have done me well. My hope is to instill such values in my two sons – Leo, who has just started primary school and Louis who is a year old - to allow them to see the world as a place to learn, grow and build their own lives.

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