Stepping into Leadership

Watch Dan's story here

After already having experience in the IT sector, Danilo (Dan) Mercado decided to study online with Open Polytechnic to complete a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management to assist him with advancing to the next stage of his career. 

Studying online allowed Dan to balance his full-time work schedule and home life. “I currently work in IT support and help staff with their computing needs such as issues logging in or assistance with software. We are essentially the first line of communication if something goes wrong.”

Of his decision to study the Graduate Diploma in Strategic Management, Dan says that he wanted to learn the skills to help him move into a more senior role in his workplace.

“My motivation was to advance my career, most likely into an IT management role or some other form of management role in the future.”

Flexibility around studying

Dan’s choice to study with the Open Polytechnic, New Zealand’s specialist provider of online and distance learning was an easy one, as it allowed him the flexibility to continue working full time while also completing his qualification.

“I chose the Open Polytechnic for distance learning mainly because of my busy schedule. I work full-time so having the option to study in the evening was really helpful. I also couldn’t see myself learning inside a classroom and I needed the flexibility of learning at my own pace.”

When reflecting on his experience at the Open Polytechnic, Dan commends the staff for their approachability and the convenience of having everything online.

“The fact that everything is online is a real bonus because everything is accessible. Being able to complete my work or check my course progress across various devices was helpful because I could access it at any time of the day or night.”

Employer support

The support that Dan received from his employer, NIWA, played a big part in enabling him to work towards achieving his qualification.

“I was really lucky that my employers supported me and my studies. They were really supportive of my personal and career development.”

“What I really enjoy in my job is that not every day is the same, and I do so many different things. I discover a lot of different things from different staff members and I interact with both internal and external people.”

Applying learning to real life

Learning the relevant skills that can be applied to a management role helped Dan get a deeper insight into what opportunities he can pursue in the future.

“While I was studying, I was lucky that my manager nominated me to step into his position while he was away for six weeks. I was able to apply the skills that I had learned about leadership and management when it came to my relationships with staff.”

Dan says he gained benefits from every course he completed towards this graduate diploma. The project management course gave him insights on how to create a high-quality report to his colleagues.

“The strategic management course gave me a better idea on how to organize myself and differentiate or look into a problem from a different perspective and find a better solution on how to approach issues or problems.”

“I learned that communication is an essential part for management. Listening to and interpreting what staff are saying is a key element for building and maintaining relationships within the team.”

Career growth

Since Dan has completed his qualification, he has had the opportunity to take on a more senior role focused on IT Asset Management within his workplace.

“When I received the news that I was promoted it felt amazing. I was so happy because I could see the fruits of my labour being harvested, which was a really fulfilling feeling for me.”

Looking into the future, Dan is working towards moving into a management role where he can apply the skills that he has learned and will even consider undertaking further study if necessary.

“Now that I have graduated and secured my promotion, my future career goal is to be offered a higher management position. I’m definitely willing to complete some more study if that’s what it will take, anything to secure my goal.”


At his graduation ceremony, Dan’s personal highlight was having his family there to watch him walk across the stage and receive his graduate diploma.

“When my family attended my graduation, they were really happy for me and proud of what I had accomplished. I was excited that I had finished my qualification because it’s quite hard working full-time and studying at night.”

“I’m so grateful for all the people who supported me during my time at the Open Polytechnic. My wife, my manager and NIWA. I want to say a big thanks because without that support I don’t think I could have accomplished what I did.”

For anyone looking to study, Dan’s advice is that it’s important to choose a course that you will enjoy, and not to study just for the sake of it. “After finishing my study, it made me understand that learning new things is a good experience, and even better when you can apply it to your work. I think the main benefit that I have taken from this experience is that it has made me open my mind, and I’m excited to see what happens next.”

After finishing my study, it made me understand that learning new things is a good experience, and even better when you can apply it to your work.