What role do you play in the local/NZ tech sector?
As a Lecturer in Software Engineering, my role is to -
a) Create a high-caliber research output to help maintain the University of Waikato's image as a worldwide-top research-intensive institution and thus, attract experts in the Waikato area.
b) Collaborate with industrial partners to help them leverage external funding and solve hard research & development problems, which can result in increased competitiveness, owing intellectual property & patents, and obtaining international publicity.
c) Attract excellent local and international students; train them to become highly skilled personnel that can contribute in the local economy or be great ambassadors abroad.
d) Inspire middle- and high-school students to opt for a STEM career, while showcasing the tremendous enjoyment of working as a Software Engineer!
What is your favorite habit to keep up to date with the latest technology trends?
I am watching science- and technology-related channels on YouTube; following research and technology leaders on Twitter; reading relevant news columns; attending academic, industrial and professional conferences; and spending time discussing trends with my students, colleagues, friends and family.
What are your priorities as a tech enthusiast/leader?
a) Create a strong, internationally recognized research lab, which we are just starting actually: Oceania Researchers in Cloud and Adaptive-systems (ORCA)
b) Connect with local and international partners to solve real Software Engineering problems on my fields of expertise (Cloud Computing, Language Runtimes, Operating Systems and Embedded Systems)
c) Emphasize to Kiwis the importance of completing professional and full four-year degrees as well as master's studies that can bring them on par with the international standards and competition
d) Attract excellent international students to complete the research in NZ; attract international experts to travel here and collaborate with us.
What advise would you give to young people wanting to get into careers in tech?
a) Take math (calculus, probability and stats) and digital technologies in school
b) Opt for an Engineering degree, it provides you the perfect balance of soft-skills, math, internships and technical expertise to succeed; if not possible, do a four-year STEM degree and do not cut it with non-STEM majors; complete a masters regardless!
c) Learn to program, not just use a computer! Programming is everywhere and a must-have skill to succeed in the field
d) Travel outside New Zealand, particularly in the USA and Canada: lots of innovations are first happening there!
e) Work hard and build up your skills; don't be afraid to stand out!
What in your opinion are the greatest opportunities and challenges facing the Waikato/NZ technology sector?
My biggest concern is the standard of education and professional training New Zealanders tend to receive. Having been in NZ for a bit more than a year, I have noticed that high-end professional degrees and specialized/technical education are not as valued as in the countries I've been before. On top of that, a prevalent culture is for people to do three-year double majors (with one major on a non-STEM field), which results in graduates that are not qualified to work in the technology industry sector. Unfortunately, this also creates a vicious circle with dissatisfied tech employers (rightfully so) discrediting the value of tertiary education.
It's sad to say but our greatest opportunity is the anti-immigrant and anti-multicultural attitudes being developed in the US and Europe. Highly skilled people from non western-Europe backgrounds are explicitly not welcomed in many such places anymore. This puts New Zealand on the map! We need to move fast and capture all this great talent that wants to make a new life in a welcoming and multicultural New Zealand!