Meet the Team

Mary Jensen, Chief Executive

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Mary Jensen (BBSAcEd) has been the Chief Executive of Smart Waikato Trust since its inception in 2009. Mary has a background in regional development, business, education and communications.

Under her leadership the Trust has grown to successfully launch and implement a number of initiatives including FutureForce® Action Network (FAN), award-winning Secondary School Employer Partnerships, Smart Waikato Leadership summits alongside nine annual editions of FutureForce® Careers Resource, endorseMe® Employability Record and managing the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme across the region. Mary is a member of the Waikato Regional Economic Development Strategy’s Labour Market working group and Manu Taki of Waikato Wellbeing Project –Waikato Leader for the NEET Youth target, particularly for Māori and Pasifika.

Sally Birch, Communications Manager


Sally Birch has been with Smart Waikato since 2012, managing digital, social and mass media and utilises her journalism background as the editor of FutureForce® Multimedia.

Linda Nelson Caie, HR and Special Projects Manager


Linda Nelson Caie (MA Psych. Hons) is a human resources specialist with a background in broadcasting. Linda has worked for Smart Waikato Trust since 2013 and project manages FAN events and SSEP.

Anna Allison, Project Support and Communications

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Anna Allison has a background in farming and education and was involved with Smart Waikato at its inception.  She has more recently returned in a project support and communications capacity.

Penny Bunting, Smart Waikato YES Co-ordinator & Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator


Penny Bunting (Bachelor of Business) has been involved with Smart Waikato since 2017, with her work involving video production, event coordination, communications and digital media marketing across a range of initiatives. Penny is also the Regional Co-ordinator for The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme for Smart Waikato, across the Waikato-King Country region.

Erin Gray, SSEP Facilitator

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Erin Gray (BBus), of Ngā Rauru and Ngāti Maniapoto descent, is a Smart Waikato Secondary School Employer Partnership facilitator for the King Country and South Waikato area.  She is passionate about helping people and is heavily invested in wanting to make a difference for her iwi and community.  Erin has a background in business and human resource management and currently owns and runs two of her own businesses in Te Kūiti, alongside her husband and business partner.

Jan Barnett, SSEP Facilitator

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Jan Barnett is a Smart Waikato Secondary School Employer Partnership facilitator who is passionate about helping young people find success on their education to employment pathway. Jan has a extensive background in education, having worked for the Ministry of Education to develop and strengthen relationships with schools and other suppliers.

Maddie Walker, Projects Assistant


Maddie Walker, of Ngaati Porou and Maniapoto descent, is a former Fairfield College student with a background in events co-ordination for ZEAL/Waikato Queer Youth, as well as working in retail. Maddie will also use her creative talents to write and take photographs for the regional careers resource FutureForce® Waikato, as well as supporting the team across all projects. Maddie joined the team via Mana in Mahi, a Ministry of Social Development initiative kick-starting young peoples' careers with support and subsidies for employer and employees. Find out more about Mana in Mahi by emailing