Last December, Leeann McCallum surprised some of her colleagues at Beca when she showed up at the company Christmas party as the \u2018balloon twister\u2019.\nMcCallum, group IT infrastructure manager at the engineering consultancy, donned her apron with pockets bulging with balloons. She inflated the balloons with a small pump, and transformed these into different shapes.\nMcCallum became a balloon twister four years ago when she was looking for a hobby that she can share with her twin children, a boy and a girl, then aged five.\nOne day she strode to a $2 dollar shop to buy some presents for a child\u2019s party. She espied a pack of 20 balloons and bought it. \u201cI went through that pack in a day, then bought another one,\u201d she says. That weekend, she ordered \u201cproper balloons\u201d from TradeMe and became engrossed in her new hobby, with her children and husband joining in. She enjoyed it so much that sometimes she would sneak into her car on lunch breaks \u201cto make a few things\u201d.\nSome people call it \u2018balloon sculpting\u2019, says McCallum of the process, wherein she fashions several small balloons into a range of interesting shapes.\n\n\u201cMy husband does not enjoy it too much now because of the squeaking and popping,\u201d she says, smiling. Her daughter, however, aims to follow her footsteps. \u201cShe wants to be a \u2018twin twister\u2019.\u201d\nThe weekend activity became more than a hobby, to a point where she stored balloons in the family fridge. \u201cThe fridge is the best place, because the latex likes cool areas,\u201d says McCallum, who now keeps the balloons in an extra fridge.\nNext: The ICT connection\nPage Break\nMcCallum joined Beca a year ago, her second stint with the company. She was on the IT team of Beca for eight years, seven years of which she was infrastructure manager. She left and worked at Genesis Energy, Auckland City Council and Pumpkin Patch.\nIn her current job, she has a team of nine direct reports, with a \u201cdotted responsibility\u201d for Beca\u2019s business hubs in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Thus, she travels every two to three months and works in these hubs for a few days.\n\u201cIt is really to keep in contact and continue building the relationships we have with our IT team over there, understand what are some of their challenges and how we can support them."\nThese days, however, she finds her weekends \u201cpretty full\u201d with bookings for balloon twisting. These range from children\u2019s parties, to corporate events, church groups and family gatherings.\n\nThe business grew by \u201cword of mouth\u201d, she says. \u201cI started off with doing my kids\u2019 parties. Some of their friends would take my balloon business cards.\u201d\nThen, she set up a website and emailed friends about it. Or, what she describes as \u201cunabashed, shameless advertising for people I knew\u201d.\nOne weekend, CIO New Zealand saw McCallum working on her craft at a party for a community organisation.\n\u201cWhat I really enjoy is it is creating and transforming something for the kids or the clients,\u201d she says, as she takes on continuous requests from the children for different shapes \u2013 flowers, dogs, robots, cartoon characters.\nShe finds a \u201cloose parallel\u201d between her full-time role at Beca during the weekday, and as a balloon sculptor.\n\u201cKids can be quite specific on what they want,\u201d she says. \u201cThey want this colour and they want this loop around there. I try to make it for them, and tell them what I am doing so they feel involved, and they have a sense of ownership.\u201d\nIt is the same with IT, she says, as she holds up one of her creations, a bright orange balloon shaped like the cartoon character Nemo. \u201cOur clients know what they want. I just think it is important to involve them along the way so they own it and they have skin on the game.\u201d\n\n\u201cI find the adults are just as excited about the balloons as the kids,\u201d she says. But the adults seem to \u201cchallenge her a little bit more\u201d with their requests for more complicated designs. \u201cThey like Eiffel Towers.\u201d\nThere was one time, however, when her balloons failed to elicit a smile. This was when she was making balloons for the residents of a rest home. \u201cIt was quite a hot day and a couple of balloons were popping.\u201d\nOne of the residents, \u201cmust have got a bit of a fright\u201d, she says. \u201cWhen the balloons popped, he said: \u2018It is just like being in the war\u2019... So I left him alone.\u201d\nSend news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org\nFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap\nFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz\nSign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.\nJoin us on Facebook.