Consulting internship benefits will last Hehea a ‘lifetime’

Friday, November 12, 2021
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[Pictured: Kaunanga Hehea Tukuafu-Vaioleti]

“The impacts and benefits the internship has had on my country and the Pacific region is one that will last a lifetime,” says Kaunanga Hehea Tukuafu-Vaioleti after completing a work placement with a leading global provider of consulting and engineering services.

Through the Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI), the Tongan Master of Applied Economics (Public Policy) student had the opportunity to intern as a consultant with Tetra Tech International Development.

The work placement concluded with former Tongan construction company CEO, Hehea, being offered full-time employment in the provider’s Markets, Clients and Strategy department.

About Hehea

As a participant of the 2021 WLI Leadership & Mentoring program, Hehea had the opportunity to complete a tailored work placement within an Australian or Pacific organisation, building her networks and her leadership and professional skills.

Prior to taking up her internship, the Australia Awards scholar from the University of Adelaide was the first female CEO of her family-owned construction company.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems with a minor in Economics and an MBA in Finance.

A strong advocate of private sector development, Hehea represented the Tongan private sector at a Public-Private Dialogue hosted by the National Reserve Bank in 2011.

She has also held roles as Assistant Treasurer for Tonga Chamber of Commerce and Secretary of Tonga’s Manufacturing Association.

On her return to Tonga, Hehea plans to pursue a career in government where she hopes to foster innovative policy approaches that empower local businesses, enhance cooperation between public and private sectors, and contribute to Tonga’s longer-term economic growth.

About the internship

Over May 2021, Hehea joined Tetra Tech International Development’s Markets, Clients and Strategy department.

“The internship helped me get out of my comfort zone and work with professionals who are implementing and delivering projects to not only improve the economic situation in Asia and the Pacific, but the country of my inheritance, Tonga,” Hehea explains.

In this capacity, she contributed to research, business development and project management. She supported the Tetra Tech International Contractor Representative for the Tonga Justice Sector Support Programme and Tonga’s Director of Education in preparation for the Tonga Resource Platform bids.

She also contributed to Value Analytics Practice by working with the Associate of Economics in developing a Public-Private Dialogue Framework for private sector development in Tonga, which can also be applied to other Pacific Island countries.

Hehea says she drew from her experiences as a Tongan woman working in a heavily male-dominated industry to “provide support to our GEDSI [Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion representative]".

"When a task was given to me, I ensured I did it 110 per cent and worked really hard to prove the patriotism I had, not only as a Tongan woman but a Pacific woman and a product of the Australia Awards [scholarships program] and Women's Leadership Initiative,” she says.

Read about WLI's Internship offering