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Anne Fitisemanu: How TupuToa is Creating Leadership Pathways for Māori and Pacific Islander Students

We spoke with Anne Fitisemanu, Chief Executive of not-for-profit TupuToa and this year’s Golden Hoodie recipient. Here, Anne shares her experience of World Tour Sydney and expands on the important work TupuToa is doing to develop and empower Māori and Pacific leaders.

TupuToa: On a mission to empower and develop Māori and Pacific leaders

In Aotearoa New Zealand, there are no NZX listed companies with a Māori or Pacific Islander CEO, even though these communities make up around 25% of the country’s population. 

That’s where the work that Anne Fitisemanu’s team at not-for-profit TupuToa comes in — to help increase Māori and Pacific representation in leadership positions in the corporate sector.  

“We’re in the business of providing professional pathways for Māori and Pacific tertiary students. One of our pathways is technology and that’s how we began working with Salesforce,” says Anne Fitisemanu, Chief Executive of TupuToa. 

TupuToa was launched seven years ago with a vision to grow more Māori and Pacific leaders in New Zealand and the world. 

“Back then we had 20 partners and 28 opportunities. This year, we have just under 200 partners and around 350 paid opportunities,” says Fitisemanu. 

“The opportunity in the digital economy for Māori and Pacific communities is huge. If you can take someone from a factory floor into a job in the Salesforce ecosystem over a period of twelve weeks — it’s unbelievable.”   

Oke Te Riini, a Senior Manager of Strategic Technology Partnerships at Salesforce is grateful for all the work TupuToa does in elevating and empowering the Māori and Pacific Island leaders. 

“TupuToa does incredibly important work to break barriers, create pathways and provide opportunities for our talented Māori and Pacific Island community in the technology space,” she says. 

To celebrate TupuToa’s trailblazing work, Fitisemanu was awarded the 2023 Golden Hoodie — Salesforce’s  way of celebrating inspiring Trailblazers who are “doing well and doing good” in their careers, companies, and communities. 

“To see our people and culture recognised and represented on an international stage [at World Tour Sydney] means so much to this small-town Māori girl who is not used to seeing others like me in the boardroom,” says Te Riini.

Doing good starts with a vision

“In order to tackle some of the biggest problems in the world, you need people at the table who have experienced these issues first-hand.” 

It is this belief that has shaped Fitisemanu and TupuToa’s vision to grow more Māori and Pacific leaders so they are better represented in corporate New Zealand. 

To achieve this, the company needed the right technology that would enable it to scale and reach more Māori and Pacific students. 

“We needed a system that would help us get all our information in one place,” says Fitisemanu.  

“Bringing on Salesforce meant the team could spend more time doing the work that matters — which for us means developing relationships, connecting face-to-face and building trust —  so that we can take our people into places they’ve never been before.” 

TupuToa wanted to partner with an organisation that shared its values of being student-centric, culturally driven, collaborative and respectful. 

“Salesforce’s values align with ours — like us, it puts its customers first. We put our interns at the centre of all the decisions we make,”

TupuToa’s interns can access internship opportunities at Salesforce and gain valuable digital skills that are necessary for the jobs of today and tomorrow.  

“I love working with Salesforce — they allow us access to expertise and have connected us with others in the community,” says Fitisemanu.  

TupuToa is a certified Salesforce trainer in New Zealand. Since many of its partners already use Salesforce, the organisation can run training programs that help Māori and Pacific participants become Salesforce administrators, builders and business analysts in these partner companies. 

One TupuToa alumna is Mikara Hendrey who did an internship as a Salesforce Solutions Engineer. 

“It’s not uncommon for people in our communities and cultures to think they’re not good enough,” says Hendrey. 

“TupuToa has shown me that I don’t have to hide away, I have a seat at the table and I’m just going to own it.”

Anne’s day at World Tour

World Tour 2023 wasn’t Fitisemanu’s first rodeo. She attended the event in 2022 and also got to join Dreamforce in San Francisco —  truly relishing these opportunities for community and connection. 

“I’m all about celebrating and coming together as a community because we do that all the time in the Māori and Pacific communities — whether it’s at church or a family function, we love being together and sharing a meal.” 

Besides connecting with members of the Salesforce community and receiving her GoldenHoodie on-stage during the keynote, Fitisemanu also participated in a panel on how to find, train and hire diverse Salesforce talent.

Golden advice on how to be a better leader

During the keynote session, Fitisemanu shared some golden advice for business leaders on how to be brave and bold. 

“Whether you’re part of the exec suite or you’re early in your career — you’re all leaders. It’s up to you to choose to influence and lead wherever you are,” she says. 

“And if you’re scared or don’t know something, find someone who does know. Partner with other people and other organisations.” 

And most importantly: “Focus on people and purpose. Profits will come.” 

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Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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