Nathan Tse [2009-2013] | Scots College

Nathan Tse [2009-2013]

Nathan at the 2020 Wellington Christmas drinks

Nathan Tse has just one piece of advice for current Scots students – work hard and you’ll get opportunities, and he knows what he’s talking about. Nathan’s work ethic is exceptional and although only 25 he already has an impressive list of achievements to his name.

However, in his quiet and self-deprecating way, Nathan insists his sister Cassandra is the smart one in the family. She was Dux at St Marks School, excelled at English and Classics, and is an actor and award-winning playwright.

“She’s naturally smarter. I thought that I had to work much harder to achieve results, just like I’m not a naturally talented runner but put hard work in to get results.”

His father, Chris, his uncles and their cousins are all Scots College Alumni – there had been a Tse at Scots continuously from 1953 – 1986 and Nathan was very disappointed not to be a prefect like them.

“That meant I didn’t get any leadership training at Scots, otherwise I was happy with my achievements during my time there.”

And so he should be:

  • Athletics Champion
  • Cross Country Champion
  • Brechin Scholarship
  • Economic Prize
  • Monetary Policy Prize
  • The Varuhas Trophy Awarded to the student who has reached a high academic standard in all of his subjects at least one of which must a commerce subject

Graham Tattersall, Nathan and Max Zorn in 2014

It was in Year 10 that Nathan started running as part of the Wellington Harriers distance squad under Graham Tattersall (then Scots College distance running coach). Nathan started slowly but finished up representing NZ in the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Team in Year 13.

“Graham would only take on athletes who were willing to train, and the team was made up of students across all year groups.”

Wellington Harriers has a strong connection with Scots College and fellow students Kieron McDonald [2008-2012], Alex Smaill [2005-2012], James Fletcher [2010 – 2014], Nicholas Pointon [2009- 2013], Tom Caughley [2011-2015], Callum Stewart [2012-2016] and Max Zorn [2008-2014] were all part of the squad.

Nathan says Graham expected a strong commitment and work ethic from the squad.

“Being in a high-performance group encourages you to push hard to get results and the discipline translates into all facets of your life – academic, career and relationships.”

Nathan says he still runs not only for his mental health and the prevention of anxiety, but because it gives him mental clarity. He has started to run to work which makes him feel energized.

Graham encouraged Nathan to join the Wellington Harriers’ Board when he was only 18. Graham wanted to encourage the youth voice on the Board and had thought there were too many old white guys representing only one demographic.

As a consequence, Nathan has seven years governance experience under his belt, and he is now leading the running club’s male 20-40yr group. He also took over as Marketing Manager from Scots College alumnus Tim Cornish in 2017.

Sadly, Graham died on 16 October 2014 and it was tough for all the squad. Nathan says that Graham was a huge mentor to him and it was like losing a grandparent.

“His death didn’t sink in until a few months later when I started racing again and didn’t have him there to encourage me. He tailored his advice to each of his athletes. In my case he knew I needed confidence, so he gave me words of assurance like ‘You’ve got as good a chance as anyone to win this race …’ However, I kept getting just short of the podium.”

But Nathan says he learnt to be resilient; to keep training.

“Sport builds these qualities. Accepting defeat without being defeated makes you train harder. “

That work ethic has helped him during interviews as he is able to speak of his experience working hard, and he believes it is why he has been offered some exciting opportunities.

Selected to represent NZ in the Secondary Schools Cross Country team, 2013

At the end of Nathan’s first year at Victoria University (studying a BCom and BA) he was chosen to represent VUW and New Zealand at the 2014 APEC CEO Voices summit in Beijing. It was an amazing experience – and you can read more here

“I got my worst marks ever for my first university assignment, part of my BCom. I worked out that I had to get 23 / 25 in my final exam to get an A+ for that subject. So I worked really hard to get that grade. If I hadn’t done so I wouldn’t have had an interview for the APEC opportunity. Co-incidentally the interviewer was an ex-Graham Tattersall runner so understood my work ethic.”

And yet Nathan says he had imposter syndrome; he didn’t think he was good enough.

“I almost didn’t say yes to an interview to go to Beijing. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have met the guy who suggested I might make a good lawyer and I wouldn’t have studied law, I didn’t think I was smart enough. He was 27, I was 18 and he is now my mentor.”

While at University Nathan became involved with the VUW Asian Law Students Association, becoming Vice President in 2017, and President in 2018.  This led to him becoming the President of the VUW Law Students’ Society in 2019, and President of the New Zealand Law Students’ Association in 2020.

“With the VUW Law Students Society I was involved 24/7. It was incredibly busy, juggling study as well as leading the organisation. I found the most stressful part was the governance of people and managing conflict. But I learnt to collaborate and ensure we had a diverse outlook and represented minority groups.”

He was obviously a more than competent juggler as he gained First Class Honours in his law degree too.

He received the Russell McVeigh University Scholarship which gave him a clerkship during University and an offer of full-time employment upon graduation. He also interned at the Commerce Commission to gain some insight into the public sector.

Nathan is in the Banking & Finance team at Russell McVeagh.

“We work reasonable hours. If I work long hours it is self-imposed because I want to ensure I’ve done a really good job. It takes me longer than others to do the same work and it is in my nature to want to do a good job.”

Nathan has just been awarded for the Best Unpublished Legal Paper this year and, true to form, when congratulated he suggested that the judgment is subjective.

Nathan says he is a fan of the changes being made at Scots.

“The Rainbow Group and the emphasis on diversity would never have existed in my day – there were very few people of colour when I was there.”

He also thinks that becoming Co-ed is a positive move, but as Scots is at the beginning of the journey, it will take a while to settle in.

“These changes are good for the people Scots produces.”

“I owe Scots a lot due to the opportunities I was given, and particularly by running with Graham.”


Illustration by Rob Tse, The Scot, 1988


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