Māori Cadetships inspiring leadership in digital technology

Te piko o te māhuri, tērā te tipu o te rākau

As the shoot is nurtured, so shall it grow

A Māori leadership course has been opening bright career pathways for Māori kaimahi (staff) at Beca – including for those in digital technology careers.

Published: Wednesday, 22 May 2024 | Rāapa, 22 Haratua, 2024

It has been so successful that the course, facilitated by Indigenous Growth Limited and supported by Te Puni Kokiri Cadetship programme, is now into its second year.

Software Engineer, Dallas Watene (Ngāti Maniapoto), attended Beca’s leadership course named Māhuri, meaning new growth or a sapling or shoot, and says it has been life changing.

“As Māori we are a curious people always open to innovation, so I think tackling this digital world is right up our alley! The key takeaway is realising our Māoritanga as a superpower,” says Dallas.

He described the course as releasing his authentic Māori self, not only empowering his daily mahi, but the energy it has created now also “radiates” to positively influence his wider team.

“This Māori development leadership course helped create clarity around next steps in our career and reveal the things that matter the most and to find what you are passionate about. This helped me to define my technology career path and the focal points this year in both my mahi and whānau life.”

Māori can be under-represented in technology jobs says Dallas and he is hopeful more rangatahi will think about digital technology as a career of choice.

Genevieve Doube (Ngāi Tahu), Beca Pou Whakawhanake says it’s clear that the kaimahi who have already completed the course have got so much out of it.

Back in June of 2023, Beca took up the opportunity for 18 kaimahi Māori to take part in a pilot Māhuri leadership course.

Punahamoa Walker (Whakatōhea), Beca Digital Consultant, is part way through the course this year.

“The most important outcome I’ve seen from the Māhuri course is the strengthened resolve and passion that our kaimahi have. We all have a better understanding of why it’s so important for us to be leaders and achieve better outcomes for our Māori people,” says Punahamoa.

After returning home from overseas when the pandemic hit, Punahamoa landed a role as an AI researcher at Beca developing chatbots in te reo Māori and other indigenous languages.

“I now work as a digital consultant in data science and artificial intelligence. I build systems that collect and analyse information so that our clients can better understand the needs of their communities.”

Punahamoa would also love to see more Māori considering a digital technology career and supporting a resilient Māori economy.

“Firstly, the more Māori we have in digital roles, the more role models we have for the digital Māori of tomorrow. Secondly, as we engage with a digital world, it is important that the technology around us reflects our values. Particularly around issues like data sovereignty, it’s important to incorporate a te ao Māori lens into the systems we use, and this can only be done by getting Māori involved.”

For Beca, Genevieve says supporting te ao Māori world view and Māori leadership brings unique understandings and solutions and has had many tangible impacts for them as a large employer of more than 3,000 people in New Zealand.

“We are seeing our Māhuri graduates step up into leadership opportunities at Beca. I’ve had a number of kaimahi reach out to tell me that as a result of attending Māhuri, they’ve signed up for a te reo or tikanga course or reached out to connect with their marae.”

Punahamoa says Māhuri gives kaimahi the opportunity to aspire up to those further ahead of them in their career and to also help those coming up behind to grow.

“I can definitely see the growth in my rōpū and can feel an increased enthusiasm for achieving better outcomes for Māori,” says Punahamoa.

Te Puni Kokiri’s Cadetships programme aims to support Māori to achieve their full potential in the workplace and contribute to thriving, innovative and resilient businesses. The programme supports kaitono (Employers) to develop, mentor, and train their permanent Māori kaimahi (staff) at all stages into higher-skilled roles.