Celebrating wāhine in tech

Creativity, diversity, passion and purpose – that’s what Auckland’s wāhine bring to our region’s tech sector. Attracting more women into STEM pathways is vital to the growth and success of the industry, and a more equitable, prosperous future. To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to five women about what being a leader in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s STEM community means to them. 

Maru Nihoniho, Founder and Managing Director, Metia Interactive

What makes you proud to be a wāhine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector?

Maru Nihoniho

That I’m able to celebrate and work with my culture through my work in creative and tech. I bring in our values not just through gameplay but through our team environment too. I also get to design and develop a Wahine Toa as the heroine of my games, who is inspired by wāhine who supported me throughout my life and into the gaming world.

What’s unique about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM?

As the largest city in Aotearoa, living in Auckland presents opportunities, and we have a small but good community of like-minded wāhine in the tech industry. We all bring our own unique perspectives and are very similar in our approach to a kaupapa-driven business. 

What advice would you give to women in the early stages of their Tech/STEM career or study?

Creative tech is challenging and fun. Whatever you pursue in tech, make sure it’s what you want to do.

Follow the path that keeps you inspired and motivated. Find people that are doing what you want to do and ask them questions, ask them for advice.

Who or what are some of the people or programmes that supported you in the early years of your career that could help others too?

Apart from my studies in multimedia, my support has come from individuals who encouraged or supported me in my pursuits. I had lots of advice, and the key is to follow up on that advice and find what works for you. Keep looking forward and be prepared to take little side steps or pivots if you need to, and you’ll eventually come back to your path.

Nicole Yue Lin, Customer Success Manager, Microsoft

What makes you proud to be a wahine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector?

Nicole Yue Lin

I am proud to be a wāhine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector because Tāmaki Makaurau is a dynamic hub for innovation, a thriving ecosystem that is constantly evolving and growing, and the beating heart of Aotearoa’s digital economy. There’s endless optimism and abundant opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the growth of our vibrant and diverse city, which propels Aotearoa forward to a prosperous and sustainable future for our communities.

Aucklanders are deeply values driven, relationship focused, and globally minded. Auckland is a well-connected city that brings the best and brightest minds from around the world who share a love for our beautiful landscapes, cultures, and lifestyle, and is home to many successful local and global companies, including our most innovative Kiwi start-ups exporting our tech to the world.  

I’ve been blessed to cross paths and work with so many incredible people in Tech/STEM who are passionate about making an impact and doing good for the world, rooted in whakawhanaungatanga.  

In my time in the Tech/STEM sector, I have worked with companies and organisations that really uplift and inspire me with their innovative culture, commitment to diversity and inclusion, and dedication to social impact. My career has taken me across diverse roles in customer success, data science, marketing, consulting, and financial services across corporations, most recently at Microsoft.  

What’s unique about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM?

What I love about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM is the sense of passion, purpose, community, belonging and values that we share.

The Tech/STEM communities in Auckland are very close-knit and well connected. You’ll always see friendly faces wherever you go, people are warm and welcoming, always open to helping each other out, which means there’s little degree of separation and high velocity of making new connections.

There’s such a diversity of talent across Tāmaki Makaurau – different cultures, orientations, backgrounds, experiences, career journeys, perspectives and ways of thinking – blending so well to enable creative and innovative thinking with agility and scale.

I love how beautiful it is that we can all come together in sharing our learnings, celebrate our journeys, and support each other as we navigate our career and drive impact in the sector.  

What advice would you give to women in the early stages of their Tech/STEM career or study?

My journey into Tech/STEM has been a series of zigzags, navigating a jungle gym. I didn’t fully get into the Tech/STEM sector until I pivoted a couple of years ago.  

There are so many important lessons learned when I look back at my journey

  • Be clear about your purpose and passions. Figure out what you love that sets your soul on fire. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t figure out your pathway right away. Everyone’s journey is different. It all becomes clear as you follow your heart and calling.  

  • Be curious and courageous. Open your heart and mind to new opportunities. Be growth-minded and open to change. Challenge yourself to think differently and look outside the box. Get involved and be proactive, make the most of opportunities to learn and experiment. Believe in yourself. Don’t let imposter syndrome stop you.  

  • Despite the advancement that we have made in the industry in improving diversity, equity and inclusion, there is still a long way to go. Stay resilient. It is not always easy; you will be challenged. Know when to lean in and when to ask for help from allies and lean on others. You’ve got this.  

Who or what are some of the people or programmes that supported you in the early years of your career that could help others?

I was studying business at university when everything changed. I was shoulder tapped to enter the Microsoft Imagine Cup, the world’s largest student technology entrepreneurship competition. Getting into the New Zealand finals in my first run and becoming a runner-up in New Zealand in my second led me to launching a social enterprise and getting involved with tech projects. It reawakened my passion for technology and opened my eyes to the impact that is possible through technology. From that point on, I started getting out of my comfort zone, participating in hackathons, innovation sprints, entrepreneurship, attending events and meetups to learn and immerse myself in communities and ecosystems. I ended up pivoting my career from business to technology.  

Some of the best programmes that I’ve been part of includes , a charity I volunteer for that connects women in tech through events that aim to educate, inspire and showcase diverse role models, Velocity Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme at the University of Auckland, and Startup Weekend (highly recommended if you’d like to get a taste of how to build a startup from scratch in 48 hours!), and so many more. For rangatahi, I highly recommend getting involved with programmes run by organisations such as OMGTech!, GirlBoss, Code Club Aotearoa.

Immersing myself in different experiences allowed me to gain invaluable skills, meet amazing people who have become dear friends, and opened my eyes to everything that’s possible in Tech/STEM. I’ve been very actively involved in giving back through volunteering and pro bono services to many organisations throughout the years – it’s important to share the knowledge and pass it forward.

Anything else you would like to add?

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Be courageous in following your passion and purpose.

Janelle Keeble, Principal Manufacturing Engineer, Rocket Lab

What makes you proud to be a wahine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector?


As a Principal Manufacturing Engineer at Rocket Lab, I am involved in cutting-edge manufacturing processes and technologies, from developing new production lines for spacecraft or satellite components through to improving existing efficiencies on our launch vehicle Electron. Every now and then I have to stop and remind myself how pretty darn cool this is!

New Zealand has a proud history of innovation and punching above our weight when it comes to technology and STEM, and as a proud Kiwi returning to New Zealand from an extended period overseas a few years ago, it was exciting to see the progression of STEM fields within the country, and specifically within Auckland. Rocket Lab in particular has seen large growth in recent years, competing on the world stage.

What’s unique about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM?

The diversity of New Zealand’s largest city is what makes Auckland unique, and this translates to the amazing wāhine working within the Tech/STEM sectors, who come from a wide range of backgrounds, countries of origin and ethnicities. This diversity fosters innovation and creative ideas, and I have certainly seen this within my role at Rocket Lab, and with my involvement with Women in Space Aotearoa New Zealand (WISANZ), a network for women and gender minorities interested in a career in the New Zealand space sector.

What advice would you give to women in the early stages of their Tech/STEM career or study?

The key piece of advice I would give to women in the early stages of their study or career is not to be too concerned about choosing a field of study. There is such a broad range of options available to young people these days, and I’m sure it can be incredibly overwhelming to ‘make the right choice’. Even within the space sector, where the subject matter is more specialised, we have a huge variety of backgrounds and pathways that people have taken to get there.

So, don’t worry too much about being locked into one career path. Follow a genuine area of passion and interest, don’t be afraid to actively seek out learning opportunities, and ask lots of questions, then doors will open.

Who or what are some of the people or programmes that supported you in the early years of your career that could help others too?

In the early years of my career there was a distinct lack of programmes, people, or even role models to support young women in STEM, hence my current keen involvement in WISANZ (Women in Space Aotearoa New Zealand). I am the Deputy Chair and Treasurer of the network, which we launched in 2021 with the aim to provide networking and support activities for current space sector wāhine and to encourage the next generation of young women to consider the field.

We have some incredibly passionate and inspiring members covering a range of space sciences, engineering, business, policy and space medicine. In 2022, WISANZ held a series of Pathways to Space events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch aimed at high school and tertiary students, and the committee was blown away by the positive response from students and whānau.

Similarly, Rocket Lab runs a Space Ambassador programme, with staff members trained to undertake outreach activities to schools, colleges and community groups to inspire and educate the next generation of STEM enthusiasts.

The recent opening of the University of Auckland’s Space Institute, Te Pūnaha Ātea, will also support further advancement of the sector within Auckland, including talent acquisition, research, industry partnerships, and educating the next generation of tertiary students.

Michal Garvey, Founder and Director, Foodprint

What makes you proud to be a wahine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector?


As a non-technical founder, I want to be able to show other non-technical wāhine that there are roles for them in tech, from entry level through to C-suite.

What’s unique about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM?

Tāmaki Makaurau has a flourishing wāhine in tech scene, with LinkedIn groups, Slack channels and meetups. It's great to know the community is here and growing. The best part is that everyone is so friendly, welcoming and helpful.

What advice would you give to women in the early stages of their Tech/STEM career or study?

The biggest thing is getting started. There are so many different roles within tech; if you're not sure where to start, talking to people who are in different roles is a great way to help you narrow it down.

Study and careers change over time, so your starting point isn't necessarily going to be where you end up. I have a BA in Māori Studies and Political Science, which is quite different to where I am now. I did an online web development course while living overseas and I had no idea that starting Foodprint was at the other end of it for me when I started. While the course didn't give me the knowledge to build the app, it gave me the confidence and understanding to find a team who could do that for me.

Who or what are some of the people or programmes that supported you in the early years of your career that could help others too?

I've been really fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in several accelerator programmes – Good Food Boost by Sustainable Business Network, Sprout Accelerator, and Creative HQ's Climate Response Accelerator. The advice, support and networks I've gained from these programmes have been invaluable.  

In the early days, while Foodprint was little more than an idea, I was connecting with as many people in the industry as possible and was overwhelmed by how generous people were with their time.

Angie Judge, Chief Executive, Dexibit

What makes you proud to be a wahine in Auckland’s Tech/STEM sector?


I'm proud that the tech sector in Tāmaki Makaurau is becoming more diverse. Although there's still work to do, it has changed dramatically compared to ten, twenty years ago. I love that there are so many amazing young people growing up now with their own dreams of a career in tech; many of them are future entrepreneurs. I can't wait to see what they're going to build, what they'll achieve, and what the scene will look like in another decade or two. 

What’s unique about Auckland’s wāhine in Tech/STEM?

Auckland's tech sector has an awesome start- up scene, especially in Software as a Service (SaaS). Many of these world-class teams are led by exceptionally talented women. At Dexibit, we're lucky to work with the incredible Veronika Gower as our Product Director, who is a courageous leader and brings out the best in our team's culture and our product. I also love following the adventures of brave wāhine like Ruby Kolesky and Miriana Lowrie. These women are inspiring the next generation. 

What advice would you give to women in the early stages of their Tech/STEM career or study?

Go global. Many of Auckland's tech companies serve customers worldwide and that scale brings with it enormous opportunity. Plus, it's more fun! Learning to navigate doing business or serving users in different regions enables us to broaden and challenge our ideas and our impact beyond what's possible in Aotearoa alone. There's a real buzz when your product can make a difference for people in New York, London, Rome and Dubai – all from the bottom of the world.

Who or what are some of the people or programmes that supported you in the early years of your career that could help others?

Career-wise, for me as an individual there weren't any tech career programmes that I knew of back then. However, in the early days of Dexibit, we went into an accelerator programme backed by Tātaki Auckland Unlimited (then ATEED). It opened up networks, fast tracked our thinking and set us on the path to where we are today. Through it, I met people who would become friends, investors and even directors of our board.  

These days, the road of tech start-ups is a well-trodden path. There are so many amazing programmes and materials covering how to navigate founding a company. Anyone can come up with an idea, but it takes a lot of guts and hard work to get it off the ground, so leveraging as much support as you can is something I'd recommend for anyone setting out to change the world with their own tech company. 

Connect with women in STEM

Are you a wahine wanting to connect with the Auckland STEM community? Join or follow these groups and networks to find out more:

Women in Tech (NZ)

Women Tech Founders | Aotearoa

Women in Tech Meetup 

Women Techsplorers Meetup

Auckland Women Entrepreneurs Meetup

She Sharp