Lani Mikaio

Strength through struggle

When Lani Max Mikaio’s position was made redundant during the pandemic, what next for her seemed to be a big question mark. Lani had no idea what awaited her. She could never imagine that she would be awarded a master’s degree from Massey University in just one year and then achieving a new role that would allow her to realize her self-worth, personally and professionally.

“This part of my life is called, ‘When failure knocks at my door.’”

Lani, who is Samoan, has a strong family home life. Lani, who is a single mother of a six-year-old daughter, lives with her parents, and their eight grandchildren.

When COVID-19 swept the world and sent shockwaves through this country’s economy, Lani lost her job. It was an incredibly challenging time – she struggled to find a job and felt like a failure, losing all her confidence. There was so much uncertainty about what she knew and what experience she had that she started questioning if she still had the courage and confidence to look for a job in the same field.

“I hit rock bottom. I was depressed, losing joy in many things and sleeping away my sorrows. I was shocked because I felt like I was the best worker but not valued enough. It even made me afraid of applying for similar roles because I was suddenly double guessing my skills,” says Lani.

Lani Mikaio

“This part of my life is called, ‘Exploring my potential.’”

There is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

Lani believes that her MBA journey at Massey University was unique because it came at such a time when she was struggling with self-doubt and uncertainty about her future job prospects and financial stability. 

“One day, when I was browsing the internet, I saw the MBA program at Massey University. I told myself that with only one year of full-time study, I could get a master’s degree. I did not care what jobs I could get afterward – I just went for it.”

Lani says that Massey’s MBA enrolment process is straightforward and fast, and the program coordinators are reliable, efficient, and always supportive. “The MBA program is intense, difficult, and challenging, but the lecturers and professors were incredible. The teachings and learnings were very valid to business and reality since COVID-19.”

The requirements to pass the course drove Lani to dig deep, and the fear of disappointing her parents and family was also part of it. As a Samoan student, Lani’s family and daughter were the driving inspirations behind her determination to succeed in the MBA program. Lani wanted to be a role model of strength, dedication, and commitment, with a strong vision of moving ahead. 

“I wanted to give my family something to be proud of, to look forward to, and to inspire my nephews and nieces by showing them that education is their ticket to a good job, good life, and good-enough money to live a stress-free lifestyle. It was vital for me to show the younger generation in my family that anyone can succeed in something if they put their heart and soul into it.”

Lani says, “Also, my inner strength and faith carried me through the many challenges. Being the only Pacific Islander in my class, I wasn’t going to fail or let my Samoan heritage down.”

There were difficult times, especially when kids were sick, staying up all night, and trying to achieve deadlines on time. For Lani, it was not a matter of balancing life and study; it was purely the determination to succeed and not fail.

During that one year of intensive study, Lani pushed her boundaries and challenged herself, tried her best to get out of her comfort zone, and made the impossible possible. She spent days and nights in the library and her room, turning her desk in the room into her dining table, sleeping table, and study table. She saw the sunset in the evenings, the stars at midnight, the darkness before dawn, and the rising sun on the horizon.

“The journey, while filled with challenges, was the best I’ve had in studying. It meant doing my best, staying sane and positive, and pushing myself mentally. I couldn’t afford to let myself down or admit I wasn’t able to complete the MBA. I needed this MBA, and I made it!”  

“This part of my life is called, ‘Getting self-satisfaction and helping people.’”

For Lani, the MBA journey saved her in many ways – it gave her a new sense of confidence; it allowed her to reach her true potential; it changed her life. “I am so glad I took the risk even when I doubted myself. I took a chance and came out much better than when I went in.”

Lani reflects that everything taught in the MBA program is very much what is going on and needed in the workforce. It has helped her understand her values and principles and have the confidence to contribute to strategic business decisions and solutions. In the program, Lani learned to think like a leader, act like a manager, and utilize the skills, experience, and knowledge she possesses to make a difference.  

After graduation this year, Lani was selected for a role at the Ministry of Social Development as a case manager. “I have always had a heart for public service and a passion for helping people. I look forward to making a difference in my team and the public sector around social welfare for the people. Being in this ministry, I am also able to help families, including mine, understand the services and support they can get,” says Lani.

Asked what’s something about her work that she enjoys, Lani says it’s helping people. Being the Pasifika Representative at Unitec while she did her undergraduate studies is a great example. “The experience helped me to gain confidence in advocating for Pacific needs and having a voice for them.”
Looking back, Lani now feels that she can accomplish and go for anything she wants to do. 

“If ever failure knocks at my door again, I am now a master of my future, and nothing can hold me back from achieving the things I want to do in life.”

Lani MikaioLani Mikaio