A passion for getting more Māori into tech

October 3, 2022 | Graduate Profile

"Software development is a creative platform as well." — Ngahine Wakefield

Ngahine Wakefield (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa) was drawn to tech after an informative year living in Raglan with the small kaupapa-Māori community, Te Mauri Tau. In 2021, Ngahine was lucky enough to be selected to join a group of 20-30+ year olds living collectively on the land, learning sustainable practices and growing organic kai while immersed in Māori kaupapa. Her lightbulb moment was a clear need for tech to enable local food distribution to the wider Raglan community.

"We were learning about the Māori world... working the ground, learning traditional Māori ways of growing food. I was around lots of different people who had cool ideas and wondering, why aren't we bringing these ideas out more — and how can we merge this with technology?"

Photo credit: Ngahine Wakefield

In the midst of a career as a graphic designer, Ngahine was artistic, creative and interested in website design, but lacking the skills to create the tech she wanted to. After leaving the Māori community in Raglan, it felt like the timing was right to broaden her skillset and enter the world of tech. Being accepted into Dev Academy’s Pōneke (Wellington) campus in 2022 allowed Ngahine to kickstart her new career as a Software Developer. Her final project was even inspired by her days in Raglan — a website for redistributing food locally.

As a Dev Academy graduate, Ngahine has landed on her feet as Emergency Q’s newest Software Developer. Emergency Q integrates data from hospital emergency departments and urgent care clinics to provide better health outcomes for patients. Working in a tight knit developer team, Ngahine has plenty of support from her colleagues, which is important as she learns new software and programmes. Ngahine has been able to apply her Dev Academy learning to quickly pick up the flow of an Agile Software Development team.

The transition from graphic designer to developer was a big one: using a completely different side of your brain for a start! But, Ngahine says, "software development is another creative platform as well." 

Why was Ngahine drawn to Dev Academy? Certainly the holistic programme on offer was appealing. Ngahine was drawn to the social aspect the course content provided - learning human skills, an emphasis on empathy and treating people respectfully, and how this translates to the workplace. Obviously technical skills were provided in the course content but the emotional skills were just as valuable. Ngahine felt she had incredible personal and professional growth at the end of the three month programme.

That’s not to say the course felt easy. Persistence and frustration were common themes for Ngahine, but the support offered by peers and instructors were critical in managing these feelings and leaning into the learning process. As a result, it’s common for Dev Academy cohorts to form enduring bonds, well past graduation day. Ngahine still catches up with her classmates and they encourage each other to network, attend meetups and support each other to apply for roles.

A fundamental part of being a developer is problem solving, which requires a planned, methodical approach. Surprisingly, Ngahine found that she didn’t need to know everything. What was important was to understand how to go about solving problems.

“It’s a lifestyle. Being a developer means you have to keep learning and adapting to new ways of doing things.”

Ngahine’s advice for those considering getting into tech? Just do it - a year ago she thought about getting into tech and now she’s a software developer. An added benefit of doing Dev Academy for her is "you get a really cool support system afterwards, for career growth or just personal development."

"I just wanna encourage more Māori to get into tech," Ngahine says. "It would be cool to have more of our ideas in tech." As we place more value on diversity and accessibility in Aotearoa New Zealand, workplaces need to actively step up to ensure that all voices are heard and that different points of view are considered in the technology we build.

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