Energy company, Vector, is determined to remove barriers and boundaries around diversity in the workplace. Already in place are initiatives to combat gender diversity head on, with Vector’s Women in Leadership (WIL) programme a prime example. Designed to help women to reach their fullest potential, the WIL programme gives women the chance to gain experience leading projects at the highest level of the business. Another example of how Vector is breaking down barriers is through its award-winning Diversity and Inclusion programme, which is led by Teina Teariki Mana.
Teina Teariki Mana grew up with hard-work and determination instilled in her, coming from a family full of strong, independent women. Through that personal education, she learnt that family and unity are the most important things in a personal and work environment.
‘Diversity,’ she described to me, ‘is like being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance’. Teina has been dancing, alright. She’s danced through life achieving every goal she sets herself. She’s just graduated from studying full-time with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration and has also become a grandmother. It’s amazing to think that she was working full-time at Vector alongside her study and family commitments.
We sat down with Teina to talk about how inclusion can play a key role in everyone’s success.
How would you define ‘inclusion’?
To me, diversity is like getting invited to the dance floor, but inclusion is being asked to dance. I think that’s an important distinction. For me, being a Pasifika female in a fairly typical corporate workplace, I often ask myself how can I ensure my voice is heard when it comes to decision making? To promote diversity of thought, it’s important to ensure all people feel safe about speaking out and knowing they are being heard, and that starts with a willingness to have these discussions at the highest level of the organisation. Inclusion requires a shared willingness to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking. Not everything is going to look and sound how we might expect it to, so being open to different opinions – and being disciplined about that – will help promote meaningful inclusion in any workplace.
What is your role at Vector?
I lead Vector’s community engagement team, and we’re like the bridge that connects our diverse customer groups to different parts of the Vector organisation. We spend a lot of time in the community listening and understanding what it is our customers need from us. I come from a family that’s predominantly women, and we’ve learnt to work hard to succeed in whatever we choose to do. But we were also taught that there is more to work than just coming out on top – you need to connect with the people you’re working with and perform well as part of a team.
You are also studying full time?
I’ve just completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration at the University of Auckland. I had my family quite young, worked, then got married and bought a house. It wasn’t until later on in life that I had the opportunity to further my studies. When I had my first class, I was terrified because I had this feeling of failure straight away and the burden of if I fail, I’m failing my family, my colleagues at work and all these people that have put this trust in me.
After each paper, I was able to successfully pass the next one and the next one and the next one. To be able to get to the end of it and have my final exam – it was just so special for me to get the email saying “Congratulations, we’d like to invite you to graduate”. That was probably one of the most emotional moments of my life. Getting married was emotional, having my children was emotional, but that was an achievement that I can’t explain.
My mum, she was on her own for a long time and to have one of her children succeeding at a University level was something my whole family could celebrate. It’s never just been about me, it’s been about family. Without my mum, without my husband, without my children embracing the idea that I wouldn’t be available for two years and not going to school events. They knew that I was trying to achieve a goal that they will reap the rewards in.
I have full respect for education. I love learning and to be able to do that and balance it with work life was very important. My boss, my managers, and just getting that support from them gave me a bit more confidence. Without them, I don’t think I will ever have been able to achieve what I have over the two years. I am grateful to Vector for trusting and believing in me too.
How did you manage working, studying and living a well-balanced life?
When I was going into my first paper, I questioned that a lot. Studying while working full-time and being mum to five kids was going to make for an interesting two-year period! My first grandchild was born in that time too. I was also sitting on the Board of Trustees for Glen Innes School. I’ve done that for nine years now. I think I’m lucky because my personal foundation is quite strong. I’d always been open with my family, and I had to apologise and say that for the next two years, I may not be there and they understood. They were 100 percent supportive of this dream that I wanted to achieve. But, I must admit, over the two years, I only missed two classes. I missed class because my grandson was born and we were dealing with a major storm. I wanted to experience everything. Having the right connections really allowed me to put time aside for everyone, myself especially. Upon reflection, I reckon it was because everyone around me supported me and wanted me to succeed.
What is the main thing that motivates you?
Right now, I am working in this organisation that wants to create a ‘new energy future’. Essentially, that means preparing Auckland for changes in how we consume, manage and even produce the energy we need to live. It’s an exciting time to be in the industry and that’s really my driver. I always feel lucky that I get to connect and meet a range of people from different walks of life and learn about their backgrounds and how we can achieve an outcome together. In my role I get to be creative and connect to everyone across the business to help achieve goals for different sections of our community. Working with great people also motivates me – and there are plenty of them at Vector! As part of my role, I engage one on one with people and communities, representing an organisation that I care about a lot. I’m just very proud to be associated with Vector.
How do you think other companies can embrace diversity?
With our diversity and inclusion programme, we have a Diversity Council. The people who sit on that council include our CEO, Simon Mackenzie, and two other members of Vector’s executive team, as well as leaders from across the business. The Council regularly reports in to our Board of Directors. Then we have us, a team of ‘doers’ from across Vector – and we make up the Diversity Committee. We’ve learnt that by doing small, but regular and meaningful engagements that promote diversity and inclusion across the business is the best way to keep it top of mind. Our goal is to foster an environment that is safe and enjoyable for everyone and these engagements are a way to get feedback from a variety of employees about how they think we’re tracking. Knowing that we have support from the very top is key to doing this type engagement well and pushing ourselves to inch ever closer to our goal. Our programme is employee-driven and HR supported. I pride myself on that, as other organisations are more HR-led, and people come along if they want to. The benefits of being people-driven is that the grass-roots are constantly informing what types of events and activities are going to be meaningful. So being people-driven, HR supported, diversity council-supported speaks volumes. It’s genuine, authentic and employee engagement is always high!
Who is one person that has really inspired you in your work?
In November, I am going to celebrate 10 years at Vector. During that time, I’ve had three different leadership roles, so I pay tribute to a few people who have given me opportunities. I started as the Accounts Payable Manager and did that for a couple of years. Overall, I’ve had 15 years’ experience in finance and I didn’t feel like that was my place, I wanted to branch out. I did a leadership course at Vector where I was taught that I can’t change my past, but I can certainly impact my future. I got given an opportunity to stand at a presentation as part of our Leadership Programme. From there, I took a leap-of-faith and shoulder-tapped an executive to see if I could get other opportunities. I then had the privilege of applying and being accepted into a new role as Business Risk Manager. There I really learnt to appreciate the business. I spent two years in that space and spread my wings a little bit more. To come into my current role, I ended up doing another leadership program and that taught me to respect myself as a person. Being Pasifika female, I wondered how to get my voice heard. There are so many different people that I’m grateful for in the timeline of my life. Different timelines speak different things to me. All those people I really appreciate. It hasn’t been just one person, it’s been many.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’ve got two. The first is I can never change my past, but I can certainly change my future. And the second is to do something that scares you. The context around that, especially with study, is that the thought of failure really scared me. But I just needed to find it in myself to prove that thought wrong.
For more information about Vector, and details about roles that are available now, visit www.vector.co.nz/womenleadership