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News > Collegians > Cam McLean on food, coaching, music and St Paul's memories

Cam McLean on food, coaching, music and St Paul's memories

Cam McLean turned his passion for science and food into a career. Read about his journey from the dairy farm to making contributions to industry, music, and coaching.
1997 Waikato Secondary School Champions - Cam as goalie
1997 Waikato Secondary School Champions - Cam as goalie

When Cameron McLean (Hamilton House 1993-1997) worked on the family dairy farm in Gordonton as a youth, a highlight was walking into the house to the smell of homemade scones. Not only was he interested in the taste, but he wanted to know what turned them a good colour of gold, how to make them smell cheesier and ultimately how could they be made at an industrial level at a consistent quality —he wanted to know the science. This curiosity in science and food took him to study a Bachelor of Technology majoring in Food Technology at Massey University, Palmerston North, after a gap year in England.

After graduating, his work focused on technical roles such as product development and process improvement across the food flavour and ingredient industry in New Zealand, Australia and briefly in Indonesia. Now, he works for MiTech as a Capital Solutions Consultant in their sales team. He helps advise customers with their equipment selection which delivers traceability and compliance solutions. This allows food products with a “best before date” or barcodes to be quickly identified, and isolated when there is a quality issue with the batch. He solves these manufacturing challenges within the food and beverage sector and across other diverse industries including aluminium, timber, fertiliser, and animal feed. "I still enjoy the buzz of working at the coalface with customers and forming productive relationships which solve our customer challenges," he says.

Cam attributes his love of science to time spent in the laboratories of St Paul's with teachers including Mike and Judy Shaw. He has a fond memory of a science trip to Glenbrook Steel Mill in 1995 which sparked an interest in how chemistry could play such a crucial part in making industrial grade steel. Ironically, the plant is now a client of Cam’s! 

Cam lives in Auckland with his wife and two children and is deeply involved in their academic, sporting, and musical pursuits. Reflecting on his time at St Paul's Collegiate School, Cam recalls the influential role of his coaches and teachers in shaping his approach to coaching and life. "The coaches at St Paul’s created a foundation of performance and training while maintaining a balance of the demands of school and life," he reflects.

Observing successful coaches like Gary Henley-Smith, Paul Wilson, and Michael Groom enriched his understanding of achieving excellence in sports and life. "I used to watch and listen carefully around school to see how other coaches achieved their success with their teams. I would try and figure out if there was an opportunity to take a snippet of it and apply it to my game," Cam notes. He also remembers the leadership of Mr Steve Cole, whose passion for excellence and ability to select the right coaches left a lasting impact. "Steve Cole’s leadership, passion, and enthusiasm to achieve excellence were always inspiring," Cam recalls. Coaches such as Hugh Barton, Warren Gatland, Peter Kirsten, and Nic Pirihi, alongside managers like Richard Calderwood and John Oehley, provided not only technical guidance but also much-needed humour and balance during his school years. "These coaches were quite brilliant and could inject humour to lighten the mood when needed," he says. Cam remembers coach Peter Kirsten often smiling and referring to him as the ‘human sieve’ when the hockey ball eventually got past him in goal and Steve Cole referring to him as ‘runs’ when he had a great game of cricket. “Mr Cole helped me find the balance when life was busy with sport by telling me, ‘Don’t worry, it will all come right’,” Cam reminisces. It was this attitude which ultimately set up in his final years at university, where Cam was recognised for his sporting success with Manawatu Hockey by being awarded the Massey Blues Awards two years in a row. To give back to the world of sport, Cam is working towards a level 1 cricket coaching qualification as well as developing the young hockey goalies at his daughter’s school. "It’s been great to coach my kids’ teams and to give back my sporting experiences to help them tackle the highs and lows of a season," he shares. “My coaches always helped me strive for excellence and to give things my best shot. Then self-reflect, reset and go again. This is an idea that I teach my teams now.”

Music also featured prominently in Cam’s journey. Under the tutelage of Nigel and Shirley Williams at St Paul’s, he gained the confidence to learn music and became proficient in both piano and trumpet. The initial motivation to learn the trumpet was to play the Last Post, which he now does at his children’s school. He is now part of the Helium Project, a group of talented musicians producing synthesizer and string-laden ambient sounds. The group produced music for Matariki with a song dedicated to each star and has performed this at large Auckland events. "Nigel and Shirley Williams gave me the skill and confidence to tackle everything from performing at Christmas parties, weddings, and cathedrals in England, to larger audiences more recently," Cam says.

In addition to music, Cam remembers the academic progress he made at St Paul’s. “I still can recall the lab experiment write-ups in the class with Mike and Judy Shaw or Ken Francis, and their patience and encouragement to get the work done even when I had missed many scheduled classes," Cam says. The spiritual guidance of Chaplain David Hollingsworth, who later officiated his wedding, was another cornerstone of his St Paul’s experience. "Chaplain David Hollingsworth was so good at inspiring faith and could always make me think to be better," he recalls.

All these experiences, plus the transformative experience at Tihoi Venture School, including

the 40-hour solo, underscored the financial sacrifices his parents made for his education, motivating him to make the most of his opportunities. "It helped me focus and motivated me to get stuck in and make the most of it." 

Cam was one of our visitors at Fieldays to the St Paul’s site where he caught up with past teacher Paul Wilson. Cam is a brother to Sarah Wright (nee McLean) 1998 – 1999.

 

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