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Growing together to help the Pacific

"The graduate program allows you to see and understand what's there and find what you’re passionate about – and which path you might want to eventually pursue.” – Darlene Viliame

Sarah and Darlene Viliame

When Darlene Viliame applied for the ANZ Fiji graduate program, her daughter Sarah was only a toddler.


Fast forward 21 years and Darlene now heads transaction banking operations for the Pacific from ANZ’s Suva headquarters - supporting nine countries across the region.


And her daughter, Sarah, has become a part of this year’s induction of ANZ Fiji’s graduates, the program kicking off again after an 18-year hiatus.


But as Darlene points out, her journey – which also inspired her daughter – was far from guaranteed.


Building confidence


Darlene was busy balancing raising Sarah while working part time at Asco Motors in the finance department and studying a Bachelor of Arts in accounting, finance and economics.


Despite all this, Darlene’s confidence was lacking.


“I was encouraged by my husband to apply for the ANZ Fiji graduate program. He says ‘give it a try. There's no harm. Unless you want to stay in this job for the rest of your life?’ So, I said okay, uploaded my CV and then forgot all about it.”


Her application caught ANZ’s attention. Darlene was six months pregnant with her second daughter, Deborah, at the time of her interview and was shocked when she got the position.


“I really didn't think too much of myself at the time. I wasn’t confident and I would always benchmark myself against others around me,” Darlene says. “What I learned was it's never too late to start. I was thinking I was way past that opportunity to go into a graduate program, I already had two children.”


“I quickly realised these opportunities don't come every day. I needed to make the most of it and I had to be intentional with my learning and quickly grasp what was required.”


According to Sarah, seeing her mother’s progression was a guiding light for her.


“My Mum is an inspiration to me, that makes me want to try new things and put myself out there,” Sarah says.


Growing up ANZ


While Darlene built a successful two-decade career within ANZ – leading large teams in areas such as market operations – Sarah was watching her professional achievements.


“We've been a part of ANZ since I can remember. I think Mum dreaded the fact she had to take us to work with her sometimes,” Sarah laughs.


“We enjoyed going to the office after school, just being with her while she did her thing. We would play Dora the Explorer and probably annoy her colleagues, but it was just normal for us.”


As well as playing, Sarah used to time to listen and learn from her Mum.


“She constantly encouraged me to embrace opportunities as they come up and just go for it. She is my number one supporter,” Sarah says.


Seeing opportunities, pursuing passions


For this mother and daughter, Fiji’s ANZ graduate program has been about harnessing potential and embracing challenges.


According to ANZ Fiji Country Head, Rabih Yazbek, the screening of applicants for the new graduate program went well beyond traditional interviews. It tested applicants’ ability to work in a team, speak up and think analytically – regardless of their academic background.


The graduates will work through a two-year program, rotating through the Retail and Commercial Bank, including time spent in frontline, operations and enablement roles.


“We wanted to create a graduate experience that leveraged ANZ’s status as an employer of choice in Fiji to attract strong candidates who we hope will be future leaders for the bank.”


The recruitment process was designed to be robust and fair. Each candidate underwent multiple screenings conducted by independent member of the graduate recruitment team, ensuring a full evaluation of their skills and suitability for the program and ANZ’s culture.


More than two decades ago after completing the program, Darlene still holds its lessons of learning new skills and finding your passion.


The graduate program allows you to see and understand what's there and find what you’re passionate about – and which path you want to eventually pursue.”


Sarah was studying a Bachelor of Commerce in tourism and hospitality management when she thought of following her Mum’s footsteps in to the graduate program.


“There are eight of us in this graduate program, and every person is from a different field of study – biology, chemistry and even law,” Sarah says. “It's amazing to see how ANZ is not one size fits all.”


Fiji Grad Cohort

Helping the Pacific, helping people


On a deeper level, Darlene and Sarah recognise the importance of working at ANZ in Fiji and its role in creating opportunities in the region.


ANZ has contributed in significantly to the way Pacific economies operate,” Darlene says. “In my 21 years the banking industry has been transformed and ANZ has set the benchmark in digital banking.”


The mother and daughter team also recognise the importance their roles have on the larger community.


We're always on call, even though we're outside the office, because of the nature of the work that we do,” Darlene says. “At the end of the day, banks are made up of people.”


“In the Pacific it's the people you run into at the local shops, who have kids in your schools, you see them at local events in the community. They're your friends, your neighbours, your business partners - people you trust.”


“So, if you get a call while you’re shopping at the market, you try to find a solution for them right away.”


After a lifetime of lessons from her Mum, Sarah is now a couple of months into the graduate program and carving her own journey.


“We work separately but in the evening I talk to her about my day and what I've learned and she gives me advice.”

Together the mother and daughter team are now teaching each other how to grow and achieve greater success.


Jeff Whalley is a journalist with bluenotes


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