Patai 1 - Where are you from & what do you do?
Tēnā tātou! Ko Will tōku ingoa, he uri tēnei nō Te Roroa.
I’m a partner, a father of twin boys, and a student of te reo Māori based in Te Whanganui a Tara. While most people would describe me as a designer in the workplace, my role is pretty varied. Some days I’m facilitating wānanga and co-creation workshops, other days I’m designing websites and native apps. Other days I’m leading design evaluation sessions or having one-to-one kōrero with those from our hāpori to better understand what can be done to address larger, more systemic issues. This might sound like a lot to some, however variety is a big reason why I enjoy working on the agency side of things; using what I’ve got to support and contribute to a range of important kaupapa that set out to achieve better outcomes for our people.
Patai 2 - How did you get into your mahi?
According to my mum, during my first day of Kindergarten, the first word that she heard me use that hadn’t originated in the household was ‘computer’ so thinking about it now, perhaps I’ve been drawn to the digital space for a while.
Growing up we were fortunate to have a PC in our house which initially only offered the usual Encarta, Minesweeper and Solitaire. A friend from school then introduced me to Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver (now the basis for other Adobe products) which allowed me to explore animation and website creation from a young age. This interest opened me up to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator; as well as doing graphic design work for whānau and friends. I began to deep dive into this emerging space: learning all I could from online forums and books’ and then creating designs and experiences that I felt were interesting or exciting at the time.
A few years on I was finishing up high school and I didn’t really know what else I’d like to pursue, so I applied to Massey University in Auckland to take on a Bachelor of Visual Communication Design. While I was studying I continued to do freelance design work and upskill in both design and web development. At the time, this gave me a bit of a competitive edge when I left university. After uni I continued to freelance, and was fortunate to find work at an e-learning company here in Te Whanganui a Tara before setting out on an OE to South America. Since then I’ve had a lot of fun using design to overcome some interesting challenges at a few different places, including a couple of start-ups, a bank, and a couple of prominent digital agencies. I am currently working at Indigenous Design & Innovation Aotearoa (IDIA) alongside a team of passionate designers and researchers to re-indigenise Aotearoa and design solutions that better meet the needs and aspirations of hāpori Māori.
Patai 3 - What advice would you give to other Māori looking for a career in digital & tech?
This is a tough one, because like most things it’s hugely dependent on your own understanding of your passions, your motivators, your proficiency in what you do, and how well that aligns with what people value in this space. Assuming you have a rough idea of what you excites or energises you, what you enjoy creating and/or what you might want to be a part of, I think one of the more challenging aspects of beginning a career in tech is getting an idea of what types of roles are available, which skills are valued, and what a logical entry-point might look like based on what you care about and what you have to offer.
I think the quote “you can’t be what you can’t see” is somewhat relevant when it comes to getting in the game, as a lot of the roles in tech and their respective development pathways aren’t always clear or immediately accessible. So, let’s focus on that for a minute. Here are a few things I’ve done that I’ve found to be useful when seeking to develop an understanding of what’s going on in the industry; which roles exist in this space; and the road people have taken to get to the position they’re in.
Find products, services and experiences that inspire you from a design perspective, you could check out websites like Design Assembly, aWWWards, It’s Nice That, and Mobbin to see what’s going on out there. Take note of what draws your attention and why, and look out for the people and/or companies creating the types of things that excite you. Reach out to the people and/or companies making things you like for the people that you care about. Think about what draws your eye, which qualities you appreciate and then reach out to the people or companies that are making things that reflect those sensibilities. I used to reach out to authors of books I enjoyed, and to designers and developers of digital experiences I admired, and I’d just ask them simple questions about why they got in the game, what they do now, what their day to day looks like, and what they think are the most important things to think about in their space. Chances are they’ve been in your shoes at some point, and most people are more than happy to give you a hand up. This approach quickly gave me insight into what else might be happening in the industry, and gave me a few more ideas on things I might want to learn a little more about.
Join a community and sign up to get updates of what’s happening. A strong starting point might be Te Hapori Matahiko ;) but there are also some other great community groups on Meetup. These community groups often provide opportunities for a range of awesome kaikōrero to share their whakaaro about a myriad of interesting kaupapa. Since the arrival of Covid there are more remote-first hui enabling people to join wānanga from all over Aotearoa and further abroad, but there’s still a lot of hui ā-tinana which provide a great opportunity for whakawhanaungatanga, space to discuss your journey, and usually a free beer and a slice of pizza.
Patai 4 - What's the coolest project you’ve worked on or, what piece of mahi are you most proud of?
I’ve had a privilege to have been involved in a number of fun, exciting and impactful projects over the years. Honestly, it’s difficult to choose one in particular, and some are still mid-flight, but I’d like to cheat here and briefly highlight a few. Waka Kotahi NZ’s Drive Go, an iOS and Android app focused on supporting Learner drivers to learn all they need to know to feel confident completing and achieving their Restricted licence.
IndigiShare’s koha-loan platform that enables everyday New Zealanders to effortlessly support Māori initiatives, businesses and organisations so that they can achieve positive outcomes for their whānau, their hapū, their iwi and their wider hapori while developing, contributing to, and strengthening the Māori circular economy. A recent research engagement for Archives NZ, National Library and Te Papa Tongarewa that explored what a welcoming, mana-enhancing digital experience looks like for Ngati Māori where our reo, our tikanga, our stories and our culture are valued and uplifted. Beyond this, I’m fortunate to be involved in a few other kaupapa including a rauemi reo Māori designed to support those who are new to the reo, and a couple of others that are under NDA that I’m pretty excited to share in the near future.