From Lausanne to Bengaluru, alumni making their mark

Megan Fowlie talks to three alumni forging a path in different parts of the world.

 Brittany Hunt portrait
Switzerland’s natural environment is stunning, but Brittany Hunt misses Kiwi beaches.

Brittany Hunt: Lausanne, Switzerland

Brittany Hunt is conquering mental health troubles from the top of the world. The Switzerland-based mental health and addiction therapist is head of the quality, research and innovation department at Clinic Les Alpes, a luxury private rehabilitation centre for addictions and mental illnesses where she works with extremely high net-worth individuals.

“It has been so natural to find myself helping people to overcome their struggles. I love the humanity we can find in truly connecting with each other and working through the hardest parts of life together.

“Once the door closes, you’re just with another human being. Addiction and mental health do not discriminate, and there is no amount of power, or money, or influence that protects you or makes you less vulnerable.”

In 2013, Brittany began a Bachelor of Health Sciences, then completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences in 2019.

“The more classes I went to and the more I learned, the more passionate I became about public health, health research and policy. Instead of treating one patient at a time, I felt inspired to influence systems, research and policies that would improve the lives and treatment experiences of whole groups of people long term.

“In my current role, I use evidence and research to inform creative practices and solutions to improve patient experiences in treatment and maximise their positive outcomes in long-term recovery. I am very engaged in research, contributing to the field and international body of knowledge. It’s the best of both worlds.”

It has been so natural to find myself helping people to overcome their struggles.

Brittany Hunt

Switzerland seemed like a good place for Brittany and her French fiancé to work – she in English, and he in French.

“Now that I’m here, my life has become so full. I really love the work I do, I’m on the Swiss national netball squad, and Switzerland is so international – I have many friends from all over the world.”

Switzerland’s natural environment is stunning, but there are still some things the landlocked country can’t match.

“The two things I miss the most are the beach and the Kiwi vernacular. Not being able to speak without having to avoid slang, tone down my accent, or explain jokes really reminds you how far from home you are,” she says.

“The same goes for removing te reo Māori from my language. That has been a big adjustment.”

Kya Raina Lal portrait
Kya Raina Lal loves Fiji’s easy access to the ocean.

Kya Raina Lal: Suva, Fiji

From downtown Suva, Kya Raina Lal has an expansive view out to the Pacific Ocean. Graduating from the University of Auckland in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Pacific Studies and an LLB and a Master of Laws in 2016, the barrister works predominantly in criminal litigation.

She says it’s a field quite different from her original passion for environmental and climate action law pursued during her university studies.

“Here in Fiji, we don’t have the luxury of specialising,” she says.

After schooling and university in Auckland, Kya joined the family firm in Fiji, Lal Patel Bale Lawyers.

“My mother, stepfather and aunt are all lawyers. My siblings have just joined the practice. Initially, when I joined in 2016, we had two branches; now we have four. It’s very much all hands on deck, constantly.

“There are many great things about my current role. We do everything – civil and criminal, all the way to the Supreme Court. In that sense, compared with my peers in New Zealand, I have a wide scope of practice.”

Seeing how they can better themselves and how we can assist them is very rewarding.

Kya Raina Lal

She enjoys criminal litigation. “I spend a lot of time in prisons, with people whom society is quick to write off. Working alongside those communities, seeing how they can better themselves and how we can assist them, is very rewarding.”

Kya points to the Pacific Islands Law Students Association, the Tuākana network and other Pacific students as critical in her academic development. “That sense of community was very important. It began in 2010 during my undergraduate arts and law degrees and continued right through my masters.”

Besides family, Fiji’s weather is a drawcard. “I absolutely love having a much more temperate climate and the easy access to the ocean.

“There are a lot of things I do miss about New Zealand. For me, it’s the convenience – how easily accessible things are – but I do not miss Auckland winters in the slightest. There was a running joke that I looked like the Michelin Man. For six years I had a puffer jacket on – permanently.”

Ram Narasimhan portrait
Living in Bengaluru helps Ram Narasimhan stay at the sharp edge of innovation.

Ram Narasimhan: Bengaluru, India

Running a business was such a drive for Ram Narasimhan that he cast aside his plans to do a PhD in engineering. Now he is living his dream in Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India, in a leadership position in a Big Four firm.

After completing a Master of Engineering (Hons) at the University of Auckland in 2007, Ram jumped at the chance to learn more about the business world through a one-year Master of Business, specialising in new ventures and entrepreneurship.

“I was very interested in being a techno-functional business-oriented guy. I wanted some sense to the numbers.”

The associate partner at KPMG’s Lighthouse, a centre of excellence for data platforms and analytics, is tasked with management consultancy, growing the AI business, and solving client problems using data analytics.

“Problem solving is one of the most important things I learnt from the University of Auckland days. That has helped me tackle any challenge – and building solutions in AI requires a lot of teamwork, a lot of thought processes – and I enjoy that in my job.

“I have very fond memories of the professors and the programmes in Auckland – and you see, after 20 years, where it actually took me.”

Problem solving is one of the most important things I learnt from the University.

Ram Narasimhan

After graduating, Ram worked for household names: Vodafone, Air New Zealand and KPMG. Finally, in 2017, the tastes and sights of his hometown of Bengaluru pulled him back.

“Indian cuisine is a delight to any food lover, and there are festivals galore, combined with an affordable lifestyle and rich history, and the known faces, friends, family all within one kilometre – I love being back.”

On top of that, India is an epicentre for entrepreneurs, investors and corporates wanting to expand their business.

India’s dynamic job market with its huge talent pool, especially in Bengaluru, motivates Ram to stay on the sharp edge of business transformation innovation, especially with the advent of generative AI.

There’s much he misses about New Zealand’s natural landscapes but, connected to lifelong friends through LinkedIn, Instagram and the like, he never feels too far away.

“The community support is still there.”

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2024 edition of Ingenio