Māori In Tech — Whakanuia te tangata

Celebrating Indigenous Innovation

Enspiral Dev Academy’s Kaiārahi Māori Dougal Stott reflects on the inaugural Māori in Tech speaker series which travelled throughout Aotearoa in 2018.

Māori in Tech Ōtautahi, Christchurch.

It was during a routine check in with a Te Uru Rangi student — one of the Māori students at Enspiral Dev Academy that had received a Te Uru Rangi scholarship. The question was put to me, “What do you think of having amazing Māori tech innovators coming to talk to students?” My reply was “Yeah why not bro, sounds like a great idea! I know some cool peeps, let me see what I can do.” Māori in tech was born.

Like anything, it’s a lot easier to dream and envisage yourself working in an industry such as technology if you have a model, someone to look at, someone to learn from, someone to aspire to be. Rangatira who have been there and done that, rangatira that have fallen over and got back up, rangatira that come from the same background as me, rangatira that look like me. This is what Māori students wanted, this is what Māori students needed.

So off I went on my merry way, making phone calls and sending emails through my networks to find people who I knew would be amazing. Amazing meant: has a story, is relatable, has experienced challenges, and is doing some super innovative things in our world relating to tech. To my surprise, everyone I contacted accepted my invite without hesitation.

I wanted the series to be more than the same old tech events I’d previously attended. Being curious of the impact we can have for our communities through leveraging technology, and less about ego, pizza and beer.

I wanted this to be more about whanaungatanga, connection, mentoring, and celebrating all that is unique about being Māori in tech.

At this time I really need to send a shout out to Ming Janssen, our events lead here at Dev Academy. Both Ming and our marketing manager Maddy King (2018 Dev Academy graduate) were a huge support in getting this initiative off the ground and running with it. Without their support I quite possibly would’ve been lost, especially in the finer details, ngā mihi kōrua.

Ming Janssen (Dev Academy Events Lead/Human Skills)

We decided to host our first event in Whanganui-ā-Tara, Wellington, the birthplace of Enspiral Dev Academy. This was very much our prototype, a chance to test some ideas and experiment with formats. We knew the event would grow and evolve. We would learn and continue to be informed by the things we felt worked and the things attendees felt we could change or enhance.

We were blessed to be joined by Ariki Creative founder Hori Te Ariki Mataki, who shared his story of over 15 years in this business we call hangarau. He talked of his upbringing, his whānau, and reasonings for his participation in a predominately non-Māori industry. As a graphic design and animation student, Hori spoke candidly of being a tutu as a young person, naturally inquisitive and driven, but hugely supported by his whānau. We did not know at the time but this would be a key determining factor expressed by all our speakers across the motu. Driver 1.

Hori Te Ariki Mataki (Ariki Creative)

Our second event was held in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, and we were honoured to have founder of Metia Interactive, Maru Nihoniho as our keynote kōrero. Maru has lead the way for many years in Māori tech, her experience in carving a pathway for wahine Māori was an inspiration to listen to. She willingly broke down stereotypes, resilience factors, and why we as Māori are inherently possessed to excel in this field.

In software or game development, graphic design or animation, code, data, media and videography, the world is ours, let’s go and get it!

As in Wellington, we began with whanaungatanga, the process of getting to know each other, one by one, as individuals, as whānau. The stand out aspect that all our feedback and retrospectives said “must continue”. Attendees were asked 3 questions;

  • Ko wai koe? Who are you?
  • No hea koe? Where are you from?
  • Why did you say YES to this event?

The perfect exercise for the group to identify key connections which needed to be made over kai. The process of tapu ki te noa, whanaungatanga. Driver 2.

Whanaungatanga, Māori in Tech.

Our third and final event was held in Ōtautahi, Christchurch. Bit of a step into the unknown for us, as Dev Academy has not previously had a strong presence in the South Island. There were two determining factors that we had to nail to ensure the success of our event;

  1. An established partner to support us in logistics; and
  2. A strong Ngāi Tahu feel, tangata whenua presence and representation. Relevance.

Our super partner was The Vodafone Foundation. We were fortunately already booked to deliver a Human Skills programme as part of the 2018 Vodafone Foundation Change Accelerator, which is a five week accelerator programme designed to support community organisations to take a technology based idea from concept to reality. We were also sending volunteers to support the programme, giving the opportunity for Dev Academy graduates to grab some industry experience alongside senior developers.

Vodafone Xone staff and facilities were amazing, as were The Vodafone Foundation Project Manager Racheal Monks, and Foundation Manager Lani Evans. Can’t say enough about how grateful I am for all of your support.

Vodafone Xone, Christchurch.

A slight change in Christchurch, instead of one amazing speaker, how about a panel of young, innovative, creative Māori entrepreneurs to share their journeys. Joining Hori Te Ariki Mataki this time were Māui Studios co-founders Vincent Egan and Madison Henry Ryan, and Dev Academy alumni and Banqer CEO Kendall Flutey.

Christchurch Māori in Tech panelists.

After whanaungatanga, I interviewed the panel on kaupapa such as;

  • Where did your interest for tech stem from?
  • What educational and personal goals did you set yourself?
  • What were the benefits and challenges to starting your own business?
  • What opportunities lie in the future for Māori software development ?
  • Who do you believe is/was your greatest support, advocate, mentor?

The audience was really varied and diverse. From iwi representatives, tertiary and Kura Kaupapa Māori students, rangatahi, community organisations, and educationalists. The Q&A session following was filled with enthusiasm, pride and hopefulness for attendees, but also a catalyst and motivation to explore a multitude of pathways that ARE possible, I can do what they do! Driver 3.

Kendall Flutey imparting knowledge.

As you’ve been reading, you would have noticed three drivers or takeaways that both myself, colleagues, and attendees identified as standout themes after attending one of the three events in 2018;

  1. Tautoko (Who is standing behind you, cheering you on, mentoring, giving you feedback from a place of aroha?)
  2. Whanaungatanga (Who are you, where are you from, how can we connect, and learn from each other?)
  3. Ko au, ko koe — Ko koe, ko au (I am you, you are me, we are intertwined by whakapapa, we/you as Māori, as whānau are capable of achieving and influencing this sector beyond our wildest dreams)

And there we have it folks, a brief yet honest reflection on the 2018 Māori in Tech speaker series. Look out regions, it’s your turn in 2019. Planning is in the pipeline to continue our series, impact more and more whānau, and compliment all the other kaupapa Māori events, hack-a-thons, symposiums, and conferences aimed at inspiring our beautiful people to greatness through technology. Ngā mihi.