Words and Images by Jason Harman

Guy Hilliard is the inaugural subject for our new Q+A interview style – our first meat, if you will. He is a qualified electrician based in Wānaka, and is currently undergoing his cable-jointing apprenticeship with Power Solutions Ltd.

First things first: why did you decide to become a tradie?

After college, I wasn’t too sure what to do with myself. I got a job at Air New Zealand as a baggage handler, which was a good job, but I knew it wasn’t for me in the long term. What it did teach me was that I liked working with my hands and working outdoors, but I was also looking for something where I would be challenged. I was fortunate in that my dad was an electrician, and he encouraged me to pursue a career in the trades. I was hesitant at first, as I thought I wanted to do my own thing, but I gave it a shot anyway as I had nothing to lose. Once I started, I quickly realised how much there was to learn and how much progression there was in the field – I was hooked!

What’s it like being a tradie based in the South Island?

It’s great, I feel like I’ve found my place down here. It’s got so much to offer in terms of the outdoors, landscape, and lifestyle. One thing that has stood out for me is the sense of community down here, particularly in Wānaka. Everyone I’ve met has been really hospitable and kind, which has been great, as moving to a new place can be tough at times.

Fill in the blank: “When I’m not on site, I’m usually doing _____?”

I’d usually be hanging with friends, playing a round of frisbee golf, mountain biking, hiking, diving, or hunting.

What are your favourite off-site activities, and what is their appeal?

Mountain biking, hunting, and diving would be my top three picks. They’re all things that when you’re doing them you aren’t really thinking about anything other than the task at hand. There’s something about being completely immersed in what I’m doing, especially something I enjoy.

Alright, we’re going pretty well so far, time to get weird.

Guilty pleasures?

Ha-ha chocolate milk. For sure.

Favourite sports team?

It would have to be the mighty Hurricanes.

What will you always buy, regardless of how much it costs?

Chocolate milk. And when I lose a pair, a set of good headphones.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in both your life and career?

I’d consider the family and friends that I have around me to be my greatest achievement personally; my greatest achievement in my career is still to come.

What’s the biggest lesson(s) you’ve learnt throughout your journey into the trades?

I’ve learnt to be more open-minded and that everyone has got something to share that you can learn from. Both things have been instrumental for me in the trades, and they have also helped me in my personal life, too.

Name the most beautiful place you’ve ever been. What’s so special?

Angkor Wat stands out as the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Mum planned the trip, and I did no research, so I had no idea what to expect. It blew me away – the workmanship that went into the temple, the way it’s been preserved – it’s such an amazing place.

Someone steals your Spotify login details. What music would they find? Any embarrassing ones in there? (We’ve all got them…)

I’m not too sure I should be embarrassed because she’s great, but there are definitely a few Adele tracks in there.

If you had to pick a couple of people that have been the most influential in your life/career, who would they be, and why?

I’ve had a lot of people that have been influential throughout my life and my career, but I’d say my parents would be the top for me. Dad, being in the trades already, really helped me as a mentor and taught me how to perform and gel with different crews. Mum’s always been a pillar of support for me; she’s also a teacher, so she’s given me some great advice on how to teach other people – how to figure out how each person learns best and how to cater to their specific learning needs. They both encouraged me to travel, learn, and get into the outdoors, which has left me with several lifelong passions.

What makes you feel more alive than anything else?

Ripping down a hill on a mountain bike makes me feel pretty alive.

What’s been your closest brush with death?

I can’t think of a specific time that I thought I was about to die, but I’ve done some things that, in hindsight, I really shouldn’t have done.

If you could time travel, what year would you visit?

I don’t know the year specifically, but I would go and see the gardens of Babylon – the descriptions of them sound incredible.

What do you hope that folks will say about you at your funeral?

Hopefully, they’ll say I was a good friend and a nice person.

Title of your autobiography?

“What a Guy.”

Paint us a picture: describe your perfect day.

Early morning mission with the boys. The ocean is flat, so we head out for a dive. Visibility is mint and the fish are in abundance. We get a nice mixed bag, go home, cook up a meal, throw some tunes on, crack into a few beers and spin some yarns.

What profession would you pursue if you couldn’t do what you do now?

When I was younger I always wanted to be a pilot. I think if I wasn’t in the trades, I’d give flying a go!