By year 11, Tuluvao Futi knew she wanted a career that could help change the world for the better but wasn’t sure how to get there.

When her high school career advisor suggested she apply for a First Foundation scholarship she immediately said ‘yes’.

The competitive programme includes mentorship and work experience at a large corporation. Here Tuluvao tells us what she’s learning at Coca-Cola Amatil and how she’s shaping her future.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Well, when I was little, becoming a lawyer was definitely not something I thought could ever be possible for someone like me. My parents actually wanted me to be a teacher.

Despite the hardships my family and I faced growing up, my parents always stressed and instilled in me the importance of education and encouraged me to work hard in everything that I do.

Growing up, I knew I wanted to do something that would impact my community and the wider society in a positive way. I feel that becoming a lawyer is one of the best ways I can do that.

What have you learned from your mentor?

I was paired up with a lawyer as my mentor. She’s been really helpful in terms of studies and also a great listener when things are tough and when I just need advice.

My mentor has been able to give me an insight of what it’s like to work at a law firm, and what it is like to be a corporate lawyer altogether. Also, she has taken me to sit in some court hearings a number of times so that was a really cool experience. I am very grateful I have someone like her to look up to.

Tuluvao Futi (on left) was awarded the First Foundation scholarship and landed a work experience position with Coca-Cola Amatil, with Mareta Monga

What types of work have you done during the programme?

I’ve done a variety of work for Amatil. I started with filing, reception work and data entry for the Master Data team. On my first day, they took me around to the warehouse factory to see how they make the drinks and the process that goes with it.

I worked with the Sales team during the busy Christmas period and got to help organise Christmas in the Park and other events.

I also sat with the National Contact Centre and did some work for them. Right now, I’m working with the Accounts/Finance team issuing invoices. Every now and then I do work for HR which is also fun.

So, a wide range of work for different departments of the company. They’ve tried to put me in every department so I can get a feel as to what and how the company works. It’s great. I love being a part of the different teams and getting to know everyone.

What’s a skill you’ve developed during your time with Coca-Cola?

A little one is, wow, I didn’t know how much Excel could do!

Also, people skills. I was always really shy at school. When I’ve been at Amatil, they’ve always tried to encourage me to get out there and network and just talk to people.

What surprised you about the experience?

Since it was my first job, I was really eager to know what it was like to work in a corporate world or the “real world”.

What I found was that it’s not like how they talk about it in high school or university. It’s actually quite hard.

It was interesting to see how I could apply what I learnt at high school and university to the real world or to the work I have been given. You have responsibilities and you have people relying on you to get things done.

So, while at times it was fun, I also had my fair share of difficult times - however, I persevered and worked through it. I made sure I asked for help when needed. I’m grateful that I got to experience all of this while still studying in high school and throughout uni because I didn’t have to wait until I graduated to learn.

What has been the most memorable thing from your work experience?

Definitely the people and the experience in itself. During the years that I’ve been here, I’ve come across people from all walks of life. It’s been amazing to see the support I have received. I’ve networked and gained so much knowledge from this whole experience.