Warning: This is a messy bunch of jumbled up thoughts, with no real conclusion.
How did I end up here? This is something I often ask myself. How did a person born in Kawakawa, from Te Wai Pounamu, end up in the server room of the Library of Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria?
When I was young I wanted to be a chef, then I realised how hard they have to work, and noped right out of that idea. I was super privileged that both my parents were teachers, and that my dad has always had a strong interest in computers. We always had computers in the house, since I was about 12, so computer science was what I ended up studying.
In a theme that has continued through a large part of my life, I couldn’t do a double major in Computer Science and Māori Studies in a BSc. So I ended up doing a BSc and a BA. Once I finished my BSc, and while I was finishing my BA I worked part time at Te Pūtahi a Toi at Massey University. For those 2.5 years I was able to really feel like I was a Māori programmer, not a programmer who happens to be Māori.
Since 1997 I have worked for 3 different companies, 2 of them were fantastic, Katipo Communications, and Catalyst IT (where I still work now). The third one, not so much, but that is a whole other story. While Katipo and Catalyst were and are great places to work, the reality of working in IT in Wellington is, it is quite likely you are going to be the only Māori in the room most times. What may be a little different for me is that I don’t look like what most people think Māori look like. (Us Kāi Tahu had contact with Europeans relatively early on, lots of whalers down that way. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked “but how much Māori are you?” or “Why did you learn Māori?” I’d have retired about 10 years ago.) This means I get to overhear lots of really offensive opinions and the worst part is when people assume I will agree. I’m not going to delve into the role privilege plays in IT, apart to say, I think a lot more people could think on Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini kē. (My strength is not the strength of one, it is the strength of many. We are the product of our ancestors and our environments, no one stands alone, no one did it themselves).
So, at least in my experience, the easiest way to be Māori in IT is to be as Pākehā as you can. That’s certainly the path of least resistance and will make your daily life easier. Except of course, unless you are working for a Māori organisation. I also acknowledge that for most of my career I have been working with Libraries, this has brought me into contact with many awesome people through groups like Te Rōpū Whakahau. So I have had a much easier journey than others.
Things are changing though, people are now taking Te Reo classes at my work, I have a great support group of people like my whānau, Kris, Amber and many others here in Wellington. IT has also given me the chance to meet people from all over the world. To visit places like Nigeria, Argentina, Greece, Scotland, Canada, USA, Fiji .. and so many more. It is, in the scheme of things, a pretty damn good career choice. It is something I encourage many more Māori to get involved in, as it is an expanding and massively varied field of work. From User Experience to Design, to Business Analysis, to Operations, to Sales, to Project management, and on and on. There is so much more to it than just us coders. I think in summary I’d say to Māori.
IT is like rugby, there is a position for every type of player. However it is quite likely some cracker is going to say something like we need a sensible Pākehā in the centres.