23-Jun-2007 - www.fijidailypost.com
MANY Fijians now living overseas profess a very dear-to-the-heart connection to and affinity with everything about their native Fiji.
One such person is a successful woman who has been living in New Zealand for the last decade or so with her family and who is very much a Fijian at heart.
During the early ’60s, Nancy Sheehan’s (nee Ratumaitavuki) parents, Maciu Ratumaitavuki of Nairai and wife Ro Silo Ratumaitavuki of Moturiki, both from the province of Lomaiviti, migrated to New Zealand with the hope of giving their family a better and secure life.
Nancy has three brothers (two of whom have passed away) and two sisters all living in New Zealand. Between Nancy and her sole surviving brother and two sisters, they have 16 children, with ages ranging from 24 to 2 years.
Nancy and her husband Michael Sheehan have four beautiful children, Edward, Mereana, James and Emily and they are of Irish, Maori, Yugoslav and Fijian ethnic ancestry but all identify themselves strongly with Fiji.
Nancy lives in North Shore, Auckland in a suburb called Beach Haven, which she describes as “a very nice unpretentious suburb as it has a superb view of Waitemata Harbour.
Waitemata Harbour is the main access by sea to Auckland. It connects the city and port to the Hauraki Gulf, and thus to the Pacific Ocean, and is sheltered from Pacific storms by the bulks of Rangitoto Island and Waiheke Island.
Nancy’s suburb has a lot of different ethnicities living amongst each other.”
Her home is close to the water and parks, which she says are great value for the children.
Nancy was mainly educated at Palmerston North, where her parents still live.
She completed all her tertiary qualifications in New Zealand where she gained a Bachelor of Business Studies in Marketing from Massey University in 1981.
She later worked in a number of corporate organisations in Auckland.
She later returned to study, completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Business (Finance) from Auckland University in 1993 and a Master of Business Administration from Massey University in 1998.
Nancy is now the proud owner of her own company, Nancy Sheehan & Associations, a business and economic development consultancy firm in Grey Lynn.
Her daughter Mereana works with her and the firm specialises in evaluation research and strategy, organisational capacity building and performance-based management.
Nancy has just negotiated an alliance with a strategic development and communications company L2S, which is a very exciting prospect for her as she expands her business.
In her line of expertise, she normally works with associates on large evaluation research, organisational capacity building and training projects for the New Zealand government in the social, health and business development sectors both in New Zealand and the Pacific region.
She is also keen to expand her work into Australia.
“I am living the professional life I designed for myself 20 years ago,” Nancy said.
“I was always a nerd with a voracious appetite for reading and I am also the consummate workaholic but my family gave me lots of reasons to not work too hard, so it’s all about ensuring balance and doing the type of work that makes your heart sing.”
She adds she is aware of the need to be internationally competitive.
In order to ensure that her knowledge base is current with international best practice in her specialist areas, she regularly undertakes training courses overseas.
In 2001 she attended a state of the art business development services training with the SEEP Network in Washington DC in the United States in 2001. She returned in 2002 to a Training the Trainers workshop with SEEP Network and then assisted in facilitating the same course again in Washington DC.
In 2006 she attended the International Programme for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) supported by the World Bank in conjunction with the School of Public Policy and Administration of Carleton University, in Ottawa Canada.
Nancy then completed a course on Building Partner Capacity with the International NGO Training and Research centre (INTRAC) in Oxford, United Kingdom later in the same year.
“I also regularly attend or present at national conferences and fono (meetings), I also have attended or presented at international conferences in Rarotonga, Washington, London, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne,” she says.
Nancy is also a professional director and the first Pacific person to sit as a director on a Crown Research Institute, Crop and Food Research and has had a number of ministerial appointments.
She currently sits on the Council of Manukau Institute of Technology, which she very much enjoys as quite a number of Fijians study at the institute.
As an outspoken and very open-hearted person, in Nancy’s mind she is always proud to carry the Fiji flag. Although living in and running a business in New Zealand she regards herself as a daughter of Fiji and the Pacific.
“This is my region so anywhere in the South Pacific feels like home.”
As a mother and a working class Fijian woman, Nancy has in many ways proven that we can all be what we truly want to be in life if we are dedicated to our goals.
She contends that a lot of patience is also needed.
“For those still at school – do your homework and develop a good work ethic and always make your parents proud,” she says.
“This loosely translates to – behave yourself and don’t do anything that will affect your career options at a later date and for those in university - get a few degrees, the first should give you a strong technical discipline, then at least one post grad that is research-based.
“Travel, open up your mind, read widely and be prepared to take advice, especially those who want to pursue self-employment.”
As owner of a consultancy firm she advises young people to “make sure the market wants your skills, actively network, be prepared to work long-hours and manage your money well.”
“Be motivated and have a thirst for learning, always work with integrity, do it right the first time, always look to maintain relationships and want the best for your clients and if you are a black woman, that’s both a challenge and a bonus,” she concludes.