Student Story: Isaac Morunga

Isaac Morunga, is in his penultimate semester of his degree, studying toward a conjoint of Bachelor of Arts in English and Media Studies, and a Bachelor of Science in Statistics and Probability. We caught up with him to find out what he’s got planned for life beyond study and how the CDES team has supported him during his study.

Kia Ora Isaac. Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

Ko Panguru te maunga
Ko Hokianga te moana
Ko Waipuna raua ko Kokohuia oku marae
Ko Ngāpuhi te iwi
Ko Ngāti te Pou te hapū
Ko Isaac toku ingoa

My ancestral roots trace back to the Far North, however, I am a proud Westie having resided and received my primary and secondary-school education in Waitakere City.

What made you decide to choose your conjoint degree?

When I was applying for university in Year 13, I was conflicted between choosing a pathway I would enjoy, and the practicality of obtaining a degree in a field that was deemed ‘employable’; given my friends were undertaking their tertiary studies in biomedical science (pre-medicine), computer science and finance. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t worried too much about what others thought of my academic aspirations.

Any degree is employable given one makes an effort to actively network, attends professional development workshops, and makes the most of their time as a student by picking up any paid or voluntary work to build up a sturdy CV.

What were your initial career aspirations before you started your degree?

Growing up, I had a genuine curiosity about the world and a zest for learning across various disciplines. I believe my passion for knowledge acquisition inadvertently guided me in my academic success throughout school, despite having no 'academic’ role-models in my whānau. My parents were limited in their opportunities to complete their secondary-school education and my siblings had other areas they felt compelled to pursue upon finishing high-school, inclusive of the culinary arts or the trades.

Teaching was where my initial passion lay, with the ambition to teach English overseas. Upon returning to New Zealand, I planned to embark on post-graduate training in education to become a qualified secondary-school teacher. Eventually I would work toward a senior management position, giving me the capacity to help our most vulnerable rangatahi to achieve success in every facet of their development.

How have your career aspirations changed over the years?

Since joining University in 2017, I have taken a number of different study paths. I began with a Bachelor of Arts, moving to a Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Law, before pursuing my current conjoint.

The changes to my studies has always been underpinned by a genuine interest in diverse career pathways - including working in government, my passion for education and academia, and a fascination with data science, technology and business.

What work experience have you gained during your four years of study?

I have been very fortunate to gain work experience across a variety of industries. These opportunities included two summer research scholarships, four years of volunteer work at primary and secondary schools, various part-time jobs on campus, a summer internship with the Ministry of Education in their data analytics division, and most recently being offered consulting and data analytics internships with a number of the Big 4 accounting firms.

How has the CDES team helped support you during your time at University?

There is a common misconception that CDES is primarily targeted at students pursuing a certain area of study (such as Commerce or Engineering). This is not true – all students are able to access CDES services throughout their degree.

Since the beginning of 2020, CDES and their Māori Pacific team, have been fundamental in my success of seeking and attaining employment opportunities. From Sela Pole-Fehoko reading over my CV before I submitted my summer internship applications, to Lorraine Henry reading over any internship application material. Pepe Afeaji also proofread various material I sent through, provided personalised interview coaching sessions, professional development resources, and general tips and tricks for success in the corporate world.

Did CDES help you to inform you of any opportunities you were initially unaware of?

I was exposed to the Teach First NZ programme through CDES in 2018, after they hosted an information session. At the time, I wanted to go into secondary-school teaching and this programme aligned exactly with my career aspirations.

In the same year, they also ran a number of panel sessions targeted at employment opportunities in the Public Sector – and a particular event with MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) left me with an extremely positive experience – the awesome kai provided following the session was also a bonus!

What was the outcome of the support you have received from CDES?

The CDES team genuinely believed in my ability to obtain a spot among some of the most competitive summer programs in New Zealand.

Without their guidance and reassurance, I’m unsure whether I would have pursued opportunities in the corporate world which has now led to me receiving a number of offers from multiple organisations including, EY and Deloitte (who I was matched with through TupuToa), plus I’m currently working through a potential placement with Microsoft!

How did you find the interview process for these roles?

Growing up in a large family and spending a significant duration of my childhood around older whānau outside of home meant I learnt how to strike up conversation easily, be comfortable around those with different views, and formalities that go with presenting oneself to others. I think this has helped prepare me for the interview process, being not too dissimilar to conversing with an aunty, uncle, koro or kuia.

I also think my outgoing personality, varied work experience, attending CDES networking events and the career coaching I received from Pepe, all helped to support the interview process.

What advice would you give to students unsure about how to apply their degree in the world of work?

From talking with employers at numerous networking events, it is evident that organisations are seeking to diversify their workforce. My advice would be:

  1. Try not to narrow yourself to receive classical training in one area of your studies, or think about pairing your BCom or LLB (for example) with a non-traditional area of study. There will be plenty of other students competing with you who have a similar academic background, developing a broad toolkit will separate you from the crowd. 
  2. Kia kaha, be kind to yourself but keep going! Internship and graduate application processes can often be daunting and tiring.
  3. Dedicate yourself to a few organisations you are genuinely passionate about so the application process does not become taxing. You may not get a yes from every role you apply for, so remember if things don’t work out - know you gave it your best shot and never stop pushing yourself to find the next great thing. As they say, rejection is merely redirection.
  4. Check out the CDES website and sign up to a workshop, register for event or schedule a one-on-one session with one of the many Career Development Consultants. It’s never too early, or late, to start planning for your future!