Girl bosses who brunch is a series which seeks to celebrate the achievements of incredible Pacific women. All of my chats with the various girl bosses take place in a café and we discuss anything and everything ranging from their journey to success to how many people they pashed on the weekend (jokes, kind of). It is my hope that in sharing stories about successful women, this will inspire others to do better and be better.
Toakase Vulangi is a qualified Lawyer, she has just completed her studies to become a Chartered Accountant, is a former president of the University of Auckland’s Commerce Association for Pacific and Maori, and is currently employed at Deloitte as a Senior Consultant in the International Corporate team. I am so honoured to have her on the blog! Meet our newest Girl Boss, Toakase Vulangi.
“I feel weird talking about myself, let’s talk about you” she looks at me curiously, attempting to re-direct the topic of conversation. It doesn’t work. So she tries a different approach. “English is not my first language. I have to google words to see what works,” she laughs. Prim, proper and utterly articulate Toakase, isn’t fooling anybody. She is extremely intelligent, stunning and if you hadn’t noticed, very humble. But alas, on her second cup of coffee, she looks at me and says, “Well, um ok…”
Toakase is from the beautiful Tongan island of Vava’u. She lived in Tonga with her parents and three older sisters until her mother was sadly diagnosed with Cancer. “My mum passed away when I was 9 years old. We moved to New Zealand after that”. Despite the devastation of losing her mother at such a young age, Toakase, with the support of her amazing family, was determined to succeed in this foreign and cold little country. And that’s exactly what she did.
An outstanding student, she graduated from the University of Auckland with a conjoint degree in Law and Commerce, majoring in accounting and finance. Her love of numbers and order was something that she appreciated from a very early age because she spent a lot of time with her father, he previously worked as an accountant in Tonga. “ I can’t really explain it but I just really liked it when things balanced, like debits and credits. (Laughs) Does that sound really geeky?” Totes.
But that’s ok because when Toakase graduated from the University of Auckland, many employers were very impressed by her outstanding finance-savvy smarts and strong work ethic. As a result, she was offered a highly sought after position at Deloitte. Deloitte is a world-renowned company, which offers professional services in; audit, tax, technology & systems, strategy, performance improvements, risk management, corporate finance, business recovery, forensics and accounting.
As a Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Corporate International team, she is exceptionally talented and enjoys the fast-pace and ever-changing nature of her role. “I really like my job. I like it because it’s constantly changing and evolving. So it’s important to be up to date with everything”. As the only Pacific person in the Corporate International team, “it’s quite obvious that I’m a minority but I don’t like to think about it too much. Complaining about it isn’t going to get me anywhere. You can’t think like that. You have to believe that you’re just as good as anyone else out there and prove it.”
Toakase understands however, that because our culture places such a huge emphasis on attributes such as humility and respect, it can often be quite difficult for young Pacific people to appreciate their own potential, particularly in the workplace where there are hierarchies and power imbalances. When discussing the impact that her culture has on her work, Toakase says, “Sometimes I have to actively think and remind myself not to be too humble and overly respectful in the workplace. That sounds bad but what I mean by that is, as a Pacific Islander, I feel as though I shouldn’t tell older people what to do. When I first started working, it was such a roadblock and that’s because of the way that I was raised, you know, we respect our elders. Otherwise, it’s considered rude. But I had to keep reminding myself that other people don’t see it the same way that we do. So once I stepped out of that way of thinking, I actually gained the confidence to stand up and voice my opinion. It’s just something that you need to get over; otherwise people will walk all over you. And they shouldn’t, because you know that you deserve to be there”.
This brave, intelligent and strong young woman from Tonga has definitely deserved to make her mark on the international business scene in New Zealand and she wants more Pacific people to join her, “we definitely need more brown faces in this industry”. To encourage Pacific people that may want to follow her lead, Toakase’s words of advice are, “Don’t pay attention to negative perceptions that people may have of you. Don’t let that hold you back. What it all comes down to is; despite the negativity, we need to believe and prove that we are just as good, if not better. I think a lot more young Pacific people need to be reminded of that”.
Toakase plans to work overseas in one of the international Deloitte offices. She hopes to move to the United Kingdom or America so that she can continue adding to her already extensive international tax portfolio. We have no doubt that she will continue to shine and succeed anywhere she goes.
Cannot thank you enough for your time, words of wisdom and good laughs. We wish you all the best and are very excited to see all the amazing things that you will continue to achieve.