Date posted: 13/08/2018

Meet the difference maker: Nurain Janah

A diversity advocate mentoring tomorrow’s leaders

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Volunteering is a way of life for Nurain Janah, who successfully juggles her fulfilling career as a tax accountant at William Buck with lending New Zealand's up-and-coming professionals a helping hand.

"I have always really wanted to give back," she says, explaining that volunteering has been a part of her life since university. "The more that I volunteered, the more I had opportunities to get into a leadership role. I was really passionate about giving the opportunities that I had been given to other young people, particularly young women of colour."

This passion led to Nurain playing a key role in establishing the youth council for central Auckland, and being recognised by the local government Good Citizens Award, as well as a finalist in the 2017 New Zealand Women of Influence Awards.

In recent years, she has concentrated her efforts on mentoring young women, an endeavour which led her to found She4She, a social enterprise startup that acts as a kind of "matchmaking platform", figuring out the needs of young women and directing them to relevant organisations that can help them by providing career guidance and work experience or volunteering opportunities. She4She is currently being developed into an online platform.

Nurain Janah
Nurain Janah

Driven by the rewarding opportunity to lift someone up, Nurain believes mentoring is a valuable aspect of professional life for mentors and mentees alike. Mentoring has played a significant role in her own professional journey, having had mentors who have uplifted and advised her in unique ways. These include HuiHann Wee, a High Performance Coach, who gifted her time with a series of coaching sessions, and Vanisa Dhiru, the President of the National Council of Women, who has shared encouraging words over a cup of coffee.

"That's definitely influenced me in saying, "I'm happy to talk to anybody, especially any young person who's thinking about their journey," and just being really open to that, and no matter how busy I am," Nurain says.

In addition to running She4She, Nurain also drives diversity as a qualified facilitator for Ally Skills NZ. She helps to educate organisations about diversity and shape their diversity policies.

"I do a lot of public speaking around how we talk about diversity in New Zealand, and what my experiences are as a young woman of colour. So, it was a real natural alignment," Nurain says.

"What I really love is that, it's a way of telling my story, but also using data and research to give organisations and teams who don't know how to approach diversity a toolkit to help them create a thriving organisation by capitalising on their diversity. This includes highlighting the existing culture and giving them the tools, such as language and ways to influence culture, to be really inclusive, and how to be intentional about that inclusivity."

One of her biggest achievements is serving as National President for the Junior Chamber International (JCI) New Zealand. Dedicated to inspiring young people to build a better world, the JCI teaches its members how to apply leadership to community projects and ethics. In her role as National President, Nurain is helping them develop a leadership programme for young professionals.

"We've started what we call 'Career Encounters', where young people can come and have a taste of what leadership looks like in different directions," she said.

As if mentoring extraordinary young women, inspiring diversity through her public speaking and working a full-time job isn't quite enough, Nurain is also enrolled in the CA Program. She says that the skills she is learning through the Program, together with those she's developed working in a strategic consulting and accounting environment at William Buck, have already been useful in her social enterprise endeavours.

"Aside from the technical skills, being a Chartered Accountant changes the way you think about the world. The way you think about things becomes more systemic, allowing you to solve problems more effectively."
Nurain Janah, Accountant, William Buck Christmas Gouwland

"The CA Program itself has taught me to consider the unexpected impact that one action may have, encouraging risk-taking from an informed and critically thought out point of view. Working in a firm like William Buck, which has over 15 cultures represented across the 80 staff, has also taught me the flexibility of adapting to different styles of approaching a particular issue," she explains.

Nurain hopes that her work with young people is changing the way they think about the relationship between their personal values, leadership and decision making.

"I hope I am helping make a difference in teaching others to approach everything that they do from a values perspective, and focus on what matters to them. Leadership doesn’t have to be complicated, if you’re making decisions you really believe in."

Note: This interview was conducted in 2018. Nurain Janah has since become a Senior Consultant at EY.