Hiria Te Rangi (Ngāti Porou, Tūwharetoa) helps companies build cool stuff by encouraging their teams to make good decisions.
What do you do on an average work day?
First thing, I check on my team/s and see if there's anything that I need to do, right now, to make their jobs easier.
That could be anything from finding out if the code we have just created and tested is ready to Go Live (so the public can see/use it), to going to meetings so everyone is clear about what work they need to do and what we need to do next. To talking about contracts, budgets and which teams can do what when. Right through to getting everyone's coffee, and figuring out who has to bake for our next team meeting. If its me, I go buy a cake.
All of these things are important, some are obvious technical and business activities and others are more about creating a culture of everyone pitching in and making work an enjoyable place to be. And survival, you really don't want to eat my baking.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
Boys and lunch. Not what you thought? I'm serious! I sucked at maths, got out of that as soon as I could and my poor teacher was sad and happy that I went.
My point is, working in tech isn't just about programming, analysis, infrastructure or architecture. All of these can be learnt, these things are very well understood, logical and straightforward. The most difficult thing to learn is people.
All of that time I spent on boys and lunch time? Yes, I was learning people skills and emotional intelligence. These two things are incredibly important and cannot be taught! So please if you're a social butterfly like myself don't dismiss tech as a career option. As someone who hires people, I'll take emotional intelligence with less experience over someone with more experience with no people skills, any day.
After high school, I got pregnant, with twins! This is where I learnt resilience and drive and it's probably why I also say that anything can be learnt. I'll be honest, we were poor, living in a cold damp Housing New Zealand flat (this is why I'm involved with wharehauora.nz) and I had no idea how I could possibly make enough money for myself and my sons to live a good (warm, no bills) life.
So I went through the newspaper and found that the jobs with the most money, you guessed it, were all in the Technology sector, at double sometimes triple the salary other sectors had. I was sold, I went out the next day hocked myself up to the eyeballs and bought an HP Pavillion.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes, I did "Desktop publishing". This doesn't really exist anymore but essentially it was print and web design. I volunteered at sports clubs to do their web design, and eventually got hired, because I happily said yes to any task (including running network cables and working late) and I loved learning new things.
I still do design mock ups of how a system will work now, if the team needs them, they're very handy for clearing up assumptions.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
A lot of people fall into careers, don't let that happen to you. Decide. Its ok if you change your mind. Try something else, at least you know its not that one. But let it be a choice you made, not something that just "happened" to you.
I know there is a lot of push for long periods of study in a particular subject. For tech, we want to see what you can create, over what you have studied.
We want to see that you tried to make a thing, failed, perhaps miserably, then you went and grabbed a mate or got some advice and then had another go! And it worked! Or it didn't so you set fire to it and danced, while roasting marshmallows (everyone in tech knows this feeling).
What we want to see is your process, learning, resilience and being able to laugh in the face of adversity; certification can't teach you this.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I get to help build really cool things that make a difference to people! Wharehauora.nz is my baby. 75% of New Zealand homes are cold and damp which causes respiratory illnesses, mostly with children and the elderly.
Wharehauora goes into communities and teaches them how to build sensors that measure the temperature and humidity of each room. These whare sensors will then notify you when the temperature and humidity drop below recommended health guidelines, give you tips on how to improve the room, or ask you to move any occupants to the warmest, driest area.
Wharehauora will also publish the aggregated housing data, so that the public will be able to see, by suburb, what the housing quality is like on average. Data.govt.nz is a particular favourite because this is all data the public has already paid for with their taxes. It is really just a platform so that government departments have somewhere to put all of their data so that data wranglers can smoosh datasets together and find out what's going on. Check out Figure.nz to see what they've done with government data.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
Without STEM there are no great leaps of innovation. Everything we take for granted - from flight, to vaccines, to sliced bread - came from STEM.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
You cannot be, what you cannot see. We need more women, particularly Māori and Pacific Islander. I have only worked with one Māori woman developer in 15 years of being in technology and that's a travesty.
Hiria Te Rangi (Ngāti Porou, Tūwharetoa) helps companies build cool stuff by encouraging their teams to make good decisions. She is Programme Manager for Silverstripe.com and Trustee for Wharehauora.nz.
Hiria has also shared honest and invaluable stories and tips about career discrimination: Māori, female and I ❤ Tech. Follow Hiria on Twitter: @kamikazilady.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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