Working In The Cloud

June 28, 2023 | Industry

Author: Natasha Lampard

Here’s the thing: software development is not just about the tech. It’s about the human stuff too: about communication, collaboration, curiosity, and care. But this golden nugget of knowledge is not as widely known as it should be. Myths abound. And that means the very people the tech industry needs more of, often discount a career in software development because they think they’re not “technical enough.”  

Enter: Rohan from Dev Academy and other esteemed guests to help dispel such myths! At an event a few Fridays ago, they offered their whakaaro on the qualities a software developer needs, sharing their own pathways to tech, and things they’ve learned along the way.

“If you want to be a good software developer study computers; if you want to be a great software developer study people"

Rohan Wakefield

The tech sector is one of the fastest growing parts of our economy in Aotearoa. It generates billions of dollars in exports, creates thousands of jobs each year, and enables the digitalisation of the rest of the economy. Underpinning this are people. People who have not only technical skills, but human skills too - the ability to communicate, collaborate, to listen, to share and to care about both the work being done, and those it’s being done with, and for. 

Human skills were a common theme at the “Working In The Cloud” event at the Michael Fowler Centre a few Fridays ago. Organised by Creative HQ as part of TechWeek to raise awareness and understanding of opportunities in the sector, it was attended by ~1000 year 11 and 12 ākonga from the Pōneke region. 

Students, along with their school career advisors, heard from those in the industry - from designers to software developers to researchers to founders and entrepreneurs; from companies like PikPok, Sharesies, Storypark, Springload, Cogo and ZX Security. 


Working The Cloud Event at the Michael Fowler Centre

Dev Academy was there too, at our expo stand and on the stage, with co-founder and CEO Rohan Wakefield facilitating two jam-packed (queues out the door!) sessions on Software Development & Engineering. On the panel, joining in the kōrero were:

  • Cliff Robinson, Frontend Developer at Springload (and Dev Academy alumni)
  • Kirita-Rose Escott (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Hāmoa), Assistant Lecturer - School of Engineering and Computer Science at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University
  • Sumitra Manga, Engineering Team Lead at Raygun

Dispensing wisdom and dispelling myths around what it takes to be a software developer, they shared stories of how they got into tech - into careers they initially did not know existed, via “non-traditional” routes - and what they’ve learned along the way. In a nutshell: if you’ve got an interest in technology and great problem-solving skills, you’ll do good; if you’ve that and the ability to work well with others: you’ll do great.

“I thought I’d be on my own, in a dark room, all by myself! But so much of my day involves dealing with people. We need to be able to communicate with lots of people all around the organisation, giving updates about changes, planning, scoping, progress, impact. In a dynamic workplace, this is vital. Communication is key.” 

When asked by a student what the best programming language is to learn in order to get into tech, all the panelists agreed that there is no one hard and fast rule, and that instead, the best tech to learn is the one you enjoy. That tech you enjoy - be it a programming language, an app, a game - may very well be the spark that ignites the desire to learn more - which, as Rohan highlighted, is key, because it will help you to learn how to learn, and how you learn at speed

“So much of the learning comes from the doing: on the job, at pace, in real time; experimenting, testing, iterating. It requires curiosity, a desire to solve problems, an ability to ask questions and to listen to the answers, and to knowing that you are not in isolation: you are dependent on others, and others are dependent on you.” 

Cliff, a Dev Academy graduate who formerly spent his days practising law shared that it’s never too late to switch careers and take a new path.

“I came into tech later but now that I’m here, I know this is exactly what I want to be doing.”

Over 1000 year 11 and 12 ākonga from the Pōneke region attended the event

When Kirita-Rose left school she worked as a bank teller while deciding what path to take. “As one of the younger people in the office, my co-workers often asked me to help them with their computers and I enjoyed it. Then one day, I met a customer who was a computer scientist. She told me about her job and studies, so I looked into it and decided to give it a go.” She started at university when she was 21, but still found the first year challenging. “I really struggled in my first year. My main advice would be don’t give up. I surrounded myself with like-minded people and I don’t think I could have finished my degree on my own.” 

Kirita-Rose graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Software Engineering. She is now completing her PhD, focusing on the use of evolutionary computation and machine learning for dynamic workflow scheduling in cloud computing with a particular focus on the use of genetic programming for scheduling heuristics. She also has an interest in other areas of AI, including deep, transfer, and multiagent reinforcement learning. 

A career in software development can sound a lot scarier than it actually is - especially if you don’t think of yourself as being very academic, or highly technical, Kirita-Rose says. “Students don’t necessarily need to be “high achievers” to do well. A curiosity about how things work, a love for problem-solving and a bit of creativity are the important skills to have.

It is predicted that nine out of 10 jobs will require digital skills by 2030. If you’re interested in having a chat about securing your future by becoming a software developer, let Dev Academy help you. With an overall average of 87.40%, Dev Academy alumni have a consistently high rate of success in gaining employment after graduating. Their skills as developers, as team members and collaborators, and as contributors to a healthy, thriving industry make them sought after by many top tech firms throughout Aotearoa.

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