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Kaveinga Lisati

Kaveinga (New Zealand born Tuvaluan) is Co-founder and Chief Operations of Vaka Interactiv, which uses innovative tech to help museum visitors connect to culture.

Kaveigna LisatiWhat do you do on an average work day?

That’s a great question. My day is never the same at Vaka Interactiv - seriously!

I do a bit of human resources, operations, procurement and administration. Some days I am Skyping/Zooming/Appearing with work colleagues, liaising pilot testing, creating and submitting grant applications or recruiting software and animation interns to build prototype.

Other days I am working on documentations and systemising a process, planning and strategising objectives, implementing scrum and agile methodologies in team meetings, attending board meetings or learning from mentors.

On other days I take on the relationship building role meeting with new and existing clients, building relationships with new and key stakeholders, attending Pasifika, Māori, tech or design expos, summits and events.

Every day for at least an hour, I dedicate to upskilling in my role (bless Google and YouTube).

What did you study at school? And after high school?

Accounting, Economics, English, Maths & Geography. Fun fact – I repeated Sixth Form Maths. During my adolescent years my parents instilled values of education and business. At the age of 12, I knew exactly where to study. This childhood fulfilment took place three years after Seventh Form, where I graduated from Brigham Young University – Hawaii with a BSc in Business Management emphasis in Marketing and a certificate of Entrepreneurship from Willes Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Kaveigna with her siblings

Was your study directly related to what you do now?

Absolutely - but not entirely!

Though my field of study was in business, I vaguely remember the specifics. The truth is, all that I am able to do in my role as Chief Operations is derived from self-learning and real-life industry work.

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?

First of all, bless your hearts for thinking about your career!

Don't be afraid to find a career that will satisfy your passion, quench your desire, transcend your skills & knowledge and challenge you to become the best at what you do.

Ensure you choose a career you want - not because you are told to, or that everyone else around you is doing it. Don't be afraid to find mentors and talk to those who have been there. Trust me, they know better than you. Remember, the best way to predict your future is to create it and you ultimately live with the consequences of your career choice.

Just a side note: Never underestimate your value systems. This is quite a random thought but any career path you choose, make sure you set your values that will help govern your choices. I.e. A career that allows for family time.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

I consider most of my career highlights occur behind the curtains, where the hard yard takes place and unfortunately the public don’t get to see much of this.

However, in light of this platform, we were fortunate to be mentored by Pacific Business Trust. Now, with my new residency as a Business Coordinator there, I have the privilege to be working at ground level with our Pasifika businesses and tech throughout New Zealand.

We were also one of the first three Pacific businesses accepted into the world’s first cultural accelerator Mahuki Innovation powered by Te Papa Museum, and we've also been recently nominated as a Pacific Innovation finalist at the Pacific Business Awards that's being held in June 2018!

Kaveigna with Vaka Interactive Cofounders

Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?

Tell me, is it possible for a Pasifika female who repeated Sixth Form maths to co-found and build a company that is in the intersection of culture, tech, empathy and communications? Absolutely. I’m a living example of this!

Engaging in the worlds of STEM enables one to critically think, challenge opinion, voice perspective and contribute to the wider eco-system. In the tech space, which I can only speak from, engaging does not necessarily mean ‘knowing how to code’.

In fact, I was recently asked to speak on a tech focus panel and felt uneasy of where I stood with my role of COO and technology. I believe out of the four co-founders of Vaka Interactiv, my role is the least relevant to the ‘ideal’ tech roles. However, a good friend reassured me, saying, "Kaveinga your role gives hope to anyone who wants to get into tech, that they don’t necessarily have to know how to code".

There are alternative pathways to engaging in technology, and it is incredible what the sector in New Zealand offers that people may not see as ‘techy’ but actually is. Though my specific role does not directly involve in the actual development of technology solutions, I try to keep up to date with current tech news and innovation and listen attentively to my amazing co-founders, and software developers and mentors. They continuously teach me tech terminologies, tech learning capabilities, software and systems.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?

Brigham Young once declared ‘If you educate a man, you educate a man. If you educate a woman, you educate a generation’. In this case, if there are more women educated and working in STEM, we are bound to have a generation educated and working in STEM.

Aleks Krotoski blogged: ‘technology companies build products that help us make sense of the world. How can they do this without input from 52% of the world’s population?’ In other words: our women.

We need more women than ever, and if I may, more Pasifika women voices and expertise too. Women allow us to make sense of the world, our people, our families and our communities.

Kaveigna with her family

Kaveinga Lisati, Co-founder and Chief Operations of Vaka Interactiv is an ardent believer of empowering more women in championing the world of business, entrepreneurship, start-ups and tech. As delighted Kaveinga is of her New Zealand born citizenship, she is equally proud - if not prouder - of her Tuvaluan heritage.

Read the profile for Andrea Fua, Vaka Interactiv's Chief Creative Officer.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.

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