Being part of the 2023 New Zealand Plumbing Conference was a real highlight for Sebastian Sekene.

Masterlink apprentice Sebastian Sekene admits to feeling ‘scared as’ when he arrived in Christchurch from Auckland for the annual NZ Plumbing Conference. At 22, he’s pretty sure he was the youngest person there—and soon found himself shoulder to shoulder with the big bosses of plumbing businesses from all around New Zealand.

“I didn’t know what went down at conference and it was pretty cool,” he says. “It opened my eyes.”

Not wanting to be that guy standing at the side on his own, Sebastian decided to step out of his comfort zone and join in with the general networking. “I thought, ‘What have I got to lose? It’s a waste of time being here otherwise.’”

A passing quip with the Marley team during the Trade Show also broke the ice, with Auckland-based Marley National Commercial Plumbing Manager Emma Ngatai since becoming a friend and staying in regular touch.

Before the conference, Sebastian had agreed to be on the Women and Diversity in Plumbing Discussion Panel—which, as it turned out, was to be the very last session on the final day.

“It was at the back of my mind the whole time knowing I had to go up on stage,” he says. “Ten minutes before it started, I had my earphones on listening to gangster music to psych myself up!”

He needn’t have worried. The audience lapped up the session, empathising with the panellists’ first-night nerves, laughing along with their jokes, asking them heaps of questions and loving the honesty of their answers.

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Sebastian participating in the women and diversity panel

If Sebastian thought his moment in the limelight was over, he was wrong. Next minute he was back on stage again—this time at the 2023 New Zealand Plumbing Awards Night, having won a Plumbing World Scholarship worth $1,000, one of three presented to Masterlink apprentices for making great progress in their training.

By now he was in the swing of things and took the chance to give a speech.

“I want to thank Master Plumbers and Masterlink for giving me the opportunity to come to this conference and see what it’s all about,” he said.

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Sebastian revelling in his 2023 Plumbing World Scholarship win!

“I was so scared coming down and not knowing anyone pretty much. Thank you to my bosses Dale and Andrea and especially Tom [Poole, Heron Plumbing Contracts Manager] for always answering my calls when I need help.”

Sebastian also thanked the Marley team, to hoots of laughter. “You befriended me when I’m like: ‘I don’t know anyone here, can you please look after me? I’m just a little boy in a big man’s world right here."

He finished by saying how great it was to be at the event. “And my mum’s going to love this,” he said, holding his trophy aloft to cheers and whoops from the crowd.

The following Monday it was down to the earth with a bump—straight back to work and the Auckland traffic. “Busy, so busy, and flooding again,” he says.

Sebastian Sekene is a 22-year-old Masterlink fourth-year plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprentice, hosted by Heron Plumbing in Auckland. He currently works in the commercial division of the business.

This article first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine June-July 2023