Teina Teariki Mana, Community Engagement Manager at Vector, has been enjoying what feels like a month-long celebration since she graduated with a Postgraduate Diploma in Business from the University of Auckland.
For Teina, this success is shared with her family: "I didn't do this all by myself. Yes, I did the late nights and the assignments but I had a solid foundation – my family. I knew, if I fail, they will be the ones to pick me up, and I pay tribute to them."
Teina's journey to her postgraduate diploma began with a piece of advice from a former manager – if you aren't going to be overlooked for development and promotion, you are going to need a qualification.
"I've been quite lucky, my career has been progressing and I've had lots of support from executives. I've had three different leadership roles at Vector and I've been able to achieve things without a document to validate that.
"But I thought, 'what if the next opportunity comes along and I'm overlooked?' Having a postgraduate diploma has solidified what I've learned and will help my future career."
The path to her diploma has been a personal and emotional one for Teina. Raised by a single mum and becoming a young mother herself, Teina is the first in her family to graduate from university.
"For me it was very special being able to achieve something I never thought I could. I appreciate education even more and that it does open doors."
Family, community and service are at the heart of Teina and her success. Whilst studying, working full-time, being mum to five children and grandmother to three, it's hard to imagine how she found the time for her community commitments.
She is currently a First Foundation Mentor, on the Board of Trustees at Glenn Innes School and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Vector.
"For Cook Islanders, service to your community and family is in everything we do. It brings a huge honour to be able to study at the University of Auckland and complete my qualification.
Achieving something I never thought I could, making my parents proud and for them to see that one of their children has achieved this in their lifetime - that was priceless."
"Since the video of my story came out, people have been telling me that I am a role model for Polynesian women. I'm grateful and humble to tell my story. If someone sees my story and they think 'I want to study', that my story connects with them, I am so grateful for that."