Edwina Mistry steps up to two roles - executive director of Tech Women NZ and director/founder of CreateOps.
She has just finished her work at the Manukau Institute of Technology after 21 years, where she was industry and community engagement manager. As an academic at MIT, she was involved in writing the Institutes’ degree programme in IT, as well as working with NZQA panels.
For the past 10 years, through, she has been been involved in programmes to encourage high school students, especially females and Maori pasifika students in south Auckland, to consider tech careers by connecting them to the industry.
One of these programmes, ShadowTech, is now run nationally with NZTech.
“My passion is to make a difference in the lives especially of the not so privileged by creating opportunities and connecting them to mentors within industry, to help them take that next step and giving them experience in the real world,” says Mistry.
Other programmes she has started in collaboration with industry partners include Programming Challenge for Girls (now running for 10 years), JHack, Code Camp and DigiGirlz both with Microsoft, and a scholarship for Maori/Pasifika and women to study the Bachelor of Digital Tech at MIT in partnership with Datacom.
“In my role as industry and community engagement manager at MIT for the past five years, I started and built the model for industry internship/work placements for MIT Business and IT students,” says Mistry. The programme has helped place more than 400 students in 2016 and 2017 with 350 organisations.
At CreateOps, she works with young adults, tertiary institutions and students, people returning to work and executives.
“I want to create a ‘Job Shed’ for people who need extra help with getting back into the workforce. [They need] to be able to come and upskill themselves in a workplace environment,” she tells CIO New Zealand.
My passion is to make a difference in the lives especially of the not so privileged by creating opportunities and connecting them to mentors within industry
“Through my work I see a big skills gap for students at school/university and for people who want to get back into the workforce, before they get that job. That is, preparing them to take that next step applying for internship/grad programmes or applying for jobs.
“I will be running two-day workshops called Passport to Success to train and help people get to the next step.
She will continue to connect school kids, especially from low decile areas, to industry. “This part of my business is giving back to society with no intention of making any money from it.”
The event targets youth aged 15 to 18 predominantly living in South Auckland. Around 150 students from the wider Auckland region are expected to attend.
Her work has not gone unnoticed. Last year, she won the CIO100 awards for ICT enabled community project, and got the highly commended award for the said category in 2016.
Mistry brings her significant experience in creating inspiring programmes and pathways, like Shadow Tech, says Kerry Topp, associate director, transformation and innovation at Datacom.
“Its purpose is simple," says Topp of Shadow Tech. "To give youth an insight into the ever-advancing field of technology by clearing common misconceptions about working in the technology sector and inform participants on the various pathways into it."
“I've worked with Edwina on countless initiatives to get young people excited about tech, and get them linked into industry at the earliest stage possible in their education journey,” adds Gareth Cronin, executive general manager - partner products at Xero, and CTO of AMBIT AI.
“Her seemingly boundless energy has gone into placing many graduates into their first jobs, bringing together whole communities to work on projects, and creating learning opportunities inside business that also deliver massive value for those organisations."
Mistry, meanwhile, has a message for industries on why they should step up on their diversity programmes.
“Gender-balanced tech firms are up to 40 per cent more profitable and it is important that Kiwi companies and leaders acknowledge and accept that when hiring staff,” she states.
With more than 21,000 companies employing around 100,000 people, the tech sector is the fastest growing and the third biggest export industry in New Zealand, she points out. Schools, companies and organisations need to constantly keep encouraging more girls to consider careers in tech by creating more programmes and opportunities for them to interact with industry, she adds. “We need to create good mentoring programmes and good industry scholarship options. It is important to also educate people that technology is part of every business today.”
“Research shows that young girls are not scared of tech and just take to it like anyone else. It is when a girl turns into a teenager is when they do not choose tech subjects because they do not think it is sexy or attractive enough as a subject. “The industry needs a good gender balance and NZTech is committed through the Tech Women community to create opportunities for more women to be involved in the tech world,” she says.
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