Our stories: Claire Nesus

Written by Nicola Cockroft. Posted in Our Stories.

WhatsApp Image 2022 04 07 at 09.02.24As a kaiāwhina (leader) at the Ngāti Rānana Māori club in London, Claire has honed her leadership skills at events on the world stage, performing here in the UK and most recently at Expo 2020 in Dubai. Combined with a career as a programme consultant, it's all part of how she lives her life: “Put in the effort, make friends and do things you enjoy,” she says.

Claire is Ngāti Porou and grew up in Lower Hutt with her parents and three sisters. After finishing school, she moved to Perth in Australia, along with her family, where she studied biological science at Murdoch University.

After going on to do a post-graduate diploma and a masters degree in Marine Science at Otago University, Claire started her career in Wellington. Her first job was at Te Puni Kōkiri, the Ministry of Māori Development, as a policy analyst, focusing on marine resources and aquaculture reforms and was involved in the historic foreshore and seabed consultations. She also worked on international indigenous issues and participated in the development of the Government’s policy in relation to the Convention of Biological Diversity and the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Realising that government work wasn’t quite the right fit, Claire moved to Te Ohu Kaimoana - the Māori Fisheries Trust - and their subsidiary, Te Wai Māori Trust. This role focused on developing capability and capacity building programmes for Māori communities to protect and manage their own fresh water resources, a cause close to Claire’s heart.

Unsure of her next step and whether that would be in Wellington, Claire looked at expanding her experience and figured out that moving overseas could help her do that. So, securing a UK visa via her English grandfather, she found herself off to London in 2011.

Only knowing a few people, Claire set about joining social clubs. As a keen softball player, she joined a mixed team - one that she still plays with today. Predominantly a group of professionals from Australia, America and Canada - she found longstanding friendship and a group to “go for beers with.”

She also joined Ngāti Rānana, a Māori club that meets weekly in London. Claire quickly became a kaiāwhina, one of the leaders of the group, where she is responsible for leading performances and practices. She says the club “gives people a place to connect, find support and learn Māori culture through kapa haka. It is a great landing place for Māori that come over here’.

As kaiāwhina, Claire is one of the people responsible for arranging these opportunities and helping to select members to perform in places like Venice, Prague, New York and Norway. She recognises it as a fantastic opportunity. “It gives us exposure to amazing experiences that we may not get back home”. It’s also where she met fellow Kiwi, Melanie Smith, who gave her first consulting opportunity by taking a chance and is something she will forever be grateful for and an example of “wāhine Māori lifting each other up.”

This opportunity has seen Claire work with rocket scientists in a tightly-secure organisation in the depths of Reading, a luxury fashion brand where employees come in wearing Versace, and supporting the public listing of a Fintech company.

Each time she moved roles, one of the questions she asked herself was “Will this role give me another perspective and new learnings to add to my kete?” This has led Claire to her current role working for Natura & Co - home to iconic beauty brands such as Aesop and The Body Shop - where she engages with colleagues from Brazil to Melbourne to Poland to help shape and deliver global HR programmes.

Claire enjoys the opportunities that living and working in London affords and is grateful for being able to work on large transformation programmes with global organisations. This exposure to how different cultures work and operate has expanded and deepened her worldview.

Claire has some pretty clear and simple advice for others: “Make friends, do things you enjoy and say no to things”. She strongly believes in the power of communities of women. “Keep connections with good people who can support you and look for opportunities to lift others up so we can all continue to learn and grow.”

You can connect with Claire on LinkedIn.