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Linda Te Maipi (Ngāi Tūhoe, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki) recalls how as a young mother with a six-month-old baby she got her start in the tech industry working as a receptionist.
“A person came into reception who was there to see our CEO and I was doing a whole bunch of stuff – handing out security cards, answering phones, dealing with couriers – and when he got to the CEO, he said, ‘you should give her a promotion’.
“Afterwards the CEO came down and said ‘you should think about what other opportunities there are here for you in the company’. And that’s how I still see this industry – it has so many opportunities for so many people.”
In the 25 years since, Linda has grown a successful technology industry career that has included senior roles in Australia and Asia Pacific. Last year she was recognised as a finalist in the Shining Star category of the Women in ICT Awards, and she’s now head of Datacom’s Product Solutions Group (PSG) in Wellington.
Products provided by Datacom power some of New Zealand’s key infrastructure and organisations. Linda’s role is focused on ‘the big picture’ around products to ensure that Datacom delivers the most appropriate and innovative solutions to customers, and optimises how they’re managed throughout their lifecycle.
“It's about more than a customer buying a hardware or software asset; it's looking at how you manage that asset through its entire lifecycle,” she explains. “By really knowing and understanding our customers and the sectors in which they operate we can help them make good decisions around how they procure solutions and deploy them to their full extent.
“Then on the other side, how do they predict and plan when these assets will potentially go end-of-life? How do we avoid there being support issues or failure? How can we proactively work with them so they don't have unplanned expenditures and can forecast what they're going to need?”
As New Zealand moves towards being carbon neutral by 2050, sustainability is another major consideration for customers, she says, and for some it’s the highest priority, even above cost. (Datacom is also on a journey to achieve net carbon zero by 2030.)
Linda points to innovative solutions such as Green Lease. A circular economy initiative, Green Lease allows organisations to access funding for technology that is sustainably managed through its lifecycle. The initiative includes providing devices and funding for community organisations to also access technology as part of this lifecycle, ultimately promoting digital equity.
Providing transparency, through reporting, about how solutions are helping customers meet their sustainability goals is an increasingly important part of the PSG’s work. And seeing those results adds to her team’s understanding of the difference they’re making, she says.
“My brother and sister work for Māori-based organisations that are helping people in the community, but working in technology I didn’t used to talk too much about what I do. But that’s actually changed as we’ve transformed to talk more about the outcomes for our customers and the solutions we're providing, which are delivering all kinds of value to communities.”
In his role as associate director of PSG in New Zealand, James (Hemi) David (Ngāpuhi) is tasked with leading the team of around 110 PSG staff who are out in the market helping customers.
It’s a diverse group, he says, where a third of the leadership team and 9% overall are Māori and Pasifika (the latter is well above the industry norm). In an industry that continues to struggle with gender imbalance, James is also particularly proud that 52% of the overall team are women.
“It’s cool having that kind of diversity because more than anything having diverse opinions, backgrounds and lifestyles all contributes to better outcomes,” says James. “I come from a big family, and I see this team as a family because it has that supportive culture. There’s that feeling of ‘we want you to be successful because that makes us all successful’.”
His own background illustrates the diversity of skills and experience that can find a home in the tech industry. James has a Masters in history (his thesis explored nationalism, sex and gender in early British spy fiction) and aspires to one day get his PhD. He also continues to play an active role with the education sector to help attract more Māori youth into the tech industry.
With a love of talking to people, he found his way into tech through customer-facing roles, and joined Datacom eight years ago initially in sales for the cloud solutions team. His current role is his fifth in the company and, he says, his most fulfilling to date.
“I loved history because I loved understanding people, and that's morphed quite nicely into the world where I am now because it's about listening, understanding and then offering a potential answer to people's problems,” he explains. “Another reason why I love this space is that you create your own destiny and do different things. It’s kept me very motivated and interested.”
In 2020 James won the Deloitte Top 200 Young Executive of the Year Award, which recognises emerging talent from the country's largest organisations. The win noted some of his major commercial achievements, including growing some of the company’s contracts from $25 million a year to over $150 million and doubling the company's pipeline growth from $300 million to $600 million.
Again, James points to the power of the team in achieving such outcomes.
“You see amazing results when you make people empowered and accountable for what they're trying to do and then stand beside them or push the roadblocks out of their way. The other bit is understanding and getting to know the whole person, because if you support them in their whole lives, then you understand why they do things and why they don't.”
In February that involved James and a couple of colleagues – Auckland PSG GM Amato Funaki and PSG Solutions Specialists GM Scott Campbell – heading to the flood-hit home of a work mate with a trailer to help clear out their damaged belongings. Seeing a colleague go through such an ordeal was tough, says Amato, but it also illustrates the group’s culture.
“One of the things we look for is people who actually care. We want people who are willing to help, willing to learn and willing to learn from each other.”
Amato has been with Datacom for more than 10 years and was an original member of the PSG team. He explains how customers would previously deal with a number of different members of Datacom’s product teams – for example, in hardware, software and licensing – which led to a fragmented customer experience and internal communication challenges. Introducing the PSG model has instead given customers a single point of contact with Datacom.
“It changed the way that our customers perceive us because there is one person they go to, to meet their individual requirements, which drives consistency,” he says. “It also changed the behaviour of people within our business because you are responsible for the whole account, not just part of the account.”
Amato came to New Zealand from Tonga at age 14 with his family and grew his technology career initially as a licensing specialist. He says he’d love to see more Pasifika leaders in the tech industry, which offers challenge and opportunity.
“We have a diverse team of successful individuals from different backgrounds and experiences, collectively driving an outcome for our customers. People ask me why I’ve been at Datacom for so long and I tell them, it’s the people.”