Finding a Future through TupuToa

sally Forgavai with TupuToa presenters

(Sally Forgavai (left) with TupuToa staff presenting at AUT Employability Lab)

Pasifika people seemed invisible in the corporate world to Sally Fogavai when she first started studying and that made her unsure about looking for internships or jobs in corporate environments. Therefore, she never applied for office jobs because she was scared of rejection – especially having only worked in customer service roles.

“Originally I couldn’t imagine making it into the corporate world. I think, because we don't see many Pacific Islanders in these environments, some students like myself, feel intimidated or feel that we don't belong in those spaces,” says the AUT final year information systems and data analytics business student.

However, a conversation with a friend about the TupuToa programme gave her the courage to think differently.
“He was doing accounting at AUT and told me how he got a role at Deloitte through the TupuToa programme. He spoke highly of the programme and hearing his experience really encouraged me. So I applied last year,” says Sally.

The TupuToa Internship Programme provides professional opportunities for Māori and Pacific tertiary students in corporate, government and community organisations. TupuToa partners with businesses to offer 12-week paid internships to tertiary students. They demystify the application process, supporting students through it. Then TupuToa navigators support the students through the internships

Sally landed an internship over the summer of 2021-2022 in the Pricing and Analytics team of insurance company Ando, where she discovered the corporate world was not as daunting as she originally imagined.TupuToa intern Sally Fogavai

“What I found was a supportive environment where they knew that everything was new to an intern. I came to realise people in the office understand how you’re feeling because they also have been in the exact same position. They want to help you and see you succeed.”

She found her TupuToa navigator encouraging and helpful.
“You can contact your navigator about any worries, challenges or questions.  TupuToa encourages you to be independent but you know they are always there to support you.”

This can be about anything from providing advice and encouraging interns to network during their placement, to having in person catch-ups or helping negotiate a salary for a role once the internship has ended.

Through TupuToa Sally says she was able to see Māori and Pacific people together in corporate spaces doing great things. It has given her the confidence to pursue a career in the corporate world.
“There may not be a lot of us, but we are there. Successful and thriving. I see team leaders, directors, partners etc.”

Internship turns into part time role

Her internship is now over but Sally continues to work part time at Ando while completing her degree. Her role in the Pricing and Analytics team revolves around helping with the company’s data migration process, including interpreting data, identifying trends or patterns and analysing results using statistical techniques, as well as filtering and ‘cleaning’ data.

Sally believes that if you put a lot of effort into something you truly want, it will come to fruition. She is testament to her belief. Sally started studying when her daughter was three months old and battling cancer. She is now two years old and on her way to recovery. Sally says studying was a good distraction and a coping mechanism for and meant she could keep learning and growing.
“I needed to do something for myself that would help both of us.”

She describes Tuputoa as giving her a “burst of energy”.
“Tuputoa has given me the confidence and belief that as a Pacific person I can thrive in corporate spaces. I see the other interns that went through with me and they are showing the same self-belief.”


TupuToa's internship applications close on Wednesday June 1, so don't hesitate. Apply now here. What is the worst that could happen?

TupuToa also run a Māori cadetship programme. Find out about the internship and cadetship programmes here.

AUT E Lab 3Need other help?

AUT talenthub is a recruitment service offering internships and graduate roles to AUT students.

For help with CVs, cover letters, job search, networking and career decision making, visit our Employability and Careers services through Elab Online. This is where you can book for a workshop or make an appointment that can be online or in person.

Not gone to Elab Online before? It's easy, click on the link, then put in your student name and password and you're in. You then look for Events where you'll find the workshops and appointments. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Written by Employability and Careers writer Angela McCarthy