At Xero we are passionate about giving back to the community, and empowering young students in order to set them up on the right path. The Mana Tangata program by OMGTech is a learning platform for 30 students selected from communities around New Zealand, giving them the chance to meet with mentors in the tech industry. This is done with the aim of empowering them through education. Mike, Suraksha and Andreea are mentors from Xero who volunteered their time for this great cause. We talked to them about their experiences.
What motivates you to volunteer for a program like this?
Helping the future generation foster their interest for technology is a really cool opportunity. As a kid, I was so grateful to my teachers who helped me grow my interest – my epic technology teacher at high school was meant to teach us Word and Excel. But when she saw our potential, she stretched the curriculum and taught us web development and design. Now, I’m lucky enough to be in a position to help others find their own passion.
It’s an eye-opening experience for us as mentors to see just how lucky we are to have had the exposure we did. We are able to see different ways of thinking, and identify issues in other areas of the community that we wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to. My mentee comes from a Maori family and studies at a Maori immersion school. From her, I am learning a lot more Maori phrases and traditions which is a great learning opportunity for me as well!
I am motivated by the opportunity to pay it forward. I am very passionate about helping others and contributing to the community. So it is an honour to be able to help students with a passion in technology and empower them with knowledge. I also come from an engineering background, where women are still underrepresented. So I know the importance of investing in future women in tech, and I like to play my part in doing so.
To me, it’s very important to know the country and the communities that we live in. I have been welcomed into New Zealand as an immigrant, and I see volunteering for important causes, such as this one, as a sign of gratitude. I know what it’s like, and how much it means to be empowered, and I wish to share and spread that around.
I want to encourage people who are still growing up to embrace learning. And I want to give them a sense of encouragement that I didn’t have when I was growing up. I believe if I can influence the next generation of students to be interested in learning and developing themselves, whether it be in science, technology, arts or music, then society as a whole will benefit and improve. I’m a huge believer in paying it forward, and I know that if I can help just one student through this mentoring program, then it will be worth it.
If it’s not your first time volunteering, what makes you come back?
Honestly, it’s a whole lot of fun. Working with excited and optimistic young tech enthusiasts is so refreshing, and infectious! It makes me appreciate the job I get to have, and it’s an awesome feeling being able to help others along the path to do that too. The feeling when they click and understand something you’re teaching them about, and seeing their mind whirl with the opportunities and ideas they can explore, is so cool to see.
I have volunteered with OMG Tech and other organisations before. But this is the first time I’ve volunteered as a mentor for the Mana Tangata leadership program. I love volunteering because it gives me a chance to meet different people, and contribute in different ways. And I also get to learn so much about myself and explore opportunities while doing it.
It’s my second time as a mentor for Mana Tangata. The reason I come back is simply because I enjoyed the experience of passing on my knowledge to others. It was incredibly rewarding. Having the opportunity to do it again and provide some insight and guidance to other mentors was a chance I could not pass up.
Why do you think communities like this benefit from these kinds of mentoring programs?
The Mana Tangata program targets students from low decile schools and areas. These students don’t always have access to things like laptops and technology classes. Mentoring programs like this are awesome for both the mentors and the mentees. Mentees get the chance to experience tech hands-on and actually see it as a career option in their future. These students can then go on to be leaders in their community and contribute technology-based solutions to solve issues in their community. My mentee and her sister will be the first of their family to graduate from high school. They also both plan to continue in higher education – and its all because they get the support of organisations like OMGTech which enable them to see their own potential!
Access to information is so powerful. Understanding technology is so powerful. People can do amazing things if they know where to start with technology, and if they know how to utilise it. This programme helps with both. I also think bringing people together from different backgrounds, with different skills, encourages this openness towards new and shared knowledge. The mentors are as diverse as the mentees. That diversity brings people together.
Encouraging the growth of empathy but also critical thinking skills, are factors that benefit us all. Bringing knowledge back to communities, so that they can be self-sufficient and self-reliant, is very important. Those of us who have the ability to become mentors should be proactive with regards to bringing a positive change to other people’s lives.
What are you looking forward to most about this program?
I’m so excited to see how my mentee keeps breaking family records and accomplishing so much! She’ll do great things and I have no doubt that she’ll give back to her family and community with all those learnings.
How we’ll all grow, what we’ll learn and where that takes us. By us I mean everyone involved, but also the mentor-mentee relationship. I’m also looking forward to learning more about myself, about others, and the entire journey.
Seeing all the neat ideas that the groups come up with and helping my mentee develop their skills and go on to achieve great things!