Real Stories from Real People Techweek 2022

By Rachael Pratt, STEM Wana Trust.

Friday 20th May 2022 in the evening saw STEM Wana Trust in conjunction with Venture Centre, welcome a panel of five speakers to the University of Waikato, as part of Techweek 2022, to discuss careers in Tech.

Opened by Amanda Crowther, a STEM Wana Board member, and Dr Jessica Turner from the Waikato University. Our five panellists were then introduced and interviewed by Pascale Hyboud-Peron from Venture Centre.

Chatting with us about what their current role entailed, their journeys to their current careers and showing us a little bit of themselves. Pascale started the discussions by showing us three photos that each panellist had provided. Their workspace, something that they liked, and something that they loved. The office photos highlighted the different ways in which they worked, from a home office to a private office space to an open floor office with the rest of their team. 

The photos of what the panellists liked and loved gave us a greater insight into them as individuals. Well rounded members of society enjoying their family, pets, gardening, nature, the beach and food. Balancing screen/work time with other pursuits was a common theme among the panellists.

The five speakers had varied education pathways to get to their current careers. Some knew what they wanted to do right from school, and some found their way to a career in tech via an array of past experiences and jobs. Not all pursued a degree in the tech field, some finding more fulfilment learning on the job. 

Learning on the job varies as well. From gaining a new role for example as a team manager and having to learn what that entails, to understanding all the applications of the product you are selling when asked by a client if something can be done, and then working out that it can. 

Some roles and companies need staff to have very defined, specific roles. Others, especially smaller startups often need their team to be a little more versed in multiple aspects of the business. Developers all have a different set of skills and tools,and often need to collaborate with and learn from their team.

The floor was opened to the attendees to ask questions of the panellists; on being asked how they got started in their careers, a common answer was that getting that first job, the foot in the door, was very difficult, but once in a job, it was easier to move within a company and advance their careers, eventually moving to where they are now.

One of the panellists shared that their degree required them to do an internship, thus giving them a foot in the door with a big company.  

It is commonplace nowadays for a person to change their job every few years. Did the panellists believe this was beneficial in a tech career or was staying within one company more ideal?

For the above question the panellists seemed to agree that, depending on your field, pivoting within a job/company was more beneficial than regularly starting anew. Due in part to the fact that staying within a company as it grows and develops means you are learning the product as it is being developed, growing your own knowledge as the ‘language’ changes and grows. The more of the background that you know the more helpful that may be if an issue arises.

Finishing off the Q & A session, the question was raised, how do you keep your skills current? The main feedback to this was to stay curious, try out things, search Reddit and Linkedin and discover what others are talking about, connect with people in similar fields. Nurture a curious mind, find answers via searching and learning. Find opportunities to create connections with other people. 

A good example of connecting with others in similar fields, is to attend events like this one we attended here. Highlighting the value of connection and information allowed by events like this put on for Techweek.

Attendees and panellists were then encouraged to mingle together talking in depth more and sharing refreshments. 

It was an inspiring night filled with conversation and insights and we are grateful to Molly Rainey, Felipe Pavanela, Annie Vella, Alvin Gounder, and Lake Te Wani for sharing their stories with us. Big thanks also to the University of Waikato for hosting this event and our friends at Venture Centre for assisting with all the planning and facilitation.



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