The first 15 years of Lisa Tai’s career have the makings of a blockbuster movie. As a leader within Deloitte’s forensic team she has helped uncover dubious criminal activities, tackle fraud, and fight white-collar crime.
Her latest role within the global organisation also has great movie potential. As creator of Deloitte’s Pasifika Services team ‘Pås Peau’, the AUT alumna is now leading a crusade to empower Pacific communities and boost Pasifika representation within Deloitte and beyond.
“Our focus is on providing more opportunities for Pacific people to join Deloitte and building capability and capacity across Pacific communities. This is my full-time role at the moment and I love it,” she says.
“Deloitte and professional services need more Pacific people – we’re severely under-represented. We bring different perspectives, experiences and values that contribute positively to our clients’ needs and challenges. Large firms like ours have an impact to support wider societal outcomes, and therefore it’s really important that Pacific peoples have a voice and are represented.”
Born in Suva to a Rotuman mum and Fijian/Chinese dad, Lisa and her family moved to Auckland in the late 80s. “We didn’t have much in terms of material possessions but my parents worked really hard to make sure we had what we needed. I was a good student at school and did well but never really thought about what kind of career I wanted. I didn’t really come from a background where people thought of ‘careers’ - everyone was just focused on getting a secure job that would pay the bills.”
But a full scholarship to study at AUT marked the start of an exciting journey. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Business, Economics (“I excelled in economics at school and figured I should do something I was good at”), developing skills and forging relationships that have helped get her where she is today.
“I thrive in group and team environments and really enjoyed the small nature of the AUT classrooms. “AUT prepares you for the workforce through soft skills like group work, presentations and research. It’s an important time in your life where you’re essentially transitioning into the workforce, learning new skills and meeting new people.”
After graduating, Lisa “fell into forensics” when she was asked to help out on some forensic projects at McCallum Petterson, the boutique firm she’d secured a job with which later merged with Deloitte.
“At the time I had no idea what forensics was, but once I started, I was hooked. I really enjoyed it and never looked back.” A secret to her success is keeping things simple. She has just three workplace criteria: Do I like the people? Is the work interesting? Am I making a positive impact? “I’ve been lucky that all of my roles have ticked all of those boxes.”
In addition to her responsibilities at Deloitte, Lisa works with the Pacific Business Trust (she’s currently on secondment as an interim general manager). It’s another role she’s deeply passionate about.
“I see so much potential in our young Pacific people. They can, and will, have a really positive impact on the New Zealand business and corporate landscape. I help Pacific Business Trust with several programmes but my favourite is HATCH Pacific, which supports young Pasifika who have a business idea they want to pursue. We guide them on how to start, what to think about, and how to put their business plans together. Founded on Pacific values, the main aim is to instil confidence in our young people.”
It’s fair to say that Lisa has aligned her life’s work closely with her favourite quote: If you waste your gifts, you’re insulting your ancestors. “Our ancestors, families, and parents have worked so hard to get our generation ahead, and it’s up to us to realise that opportunity and make the most of what we’ve been given. The cycle continues when we then build on the foundations for the next generation.
“It’s really important to think about the legacy you are leaving behind.”
This story was originally published in Insight, the magazine for AUT alumni and friends. Read the most recent issue of Insight for more stories of groundbreaking research and great AUT graduates who are making a difference around the world.