Tech for good: Waikato alumni developing software to benefit local communities

21 January 2020


Two University of Waikato graduates are putting their tech skills to use for the greater good at Imagimation, a Waikato social enterprise that develops software to benefit local communities’ quality of life.

Founded in 2016, Imagimation is dedicated to targeting some of society’s “big problems”, such as fuel and electricity poverty, through the development of innovative technology solutions.

Imagimation prides itself on offering opportunities for new and different employment, aiming to include and encourage people from a range of different backgrounds and those who might not have otherwise considered a career in technology.

Imagimation has employed many interns from the University’s Master of Information Technology programme and are supporters of the University’s Work Integrated Learning programme, which helps students fulfil internships as a compulsory part of their undergraduate degree.

Nicole Chan – Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Science (Honours), 2018

After graduating at the end of 2018 with a Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences with Honours in computer science and psychology, Nicole Chan went straight into a full stack developer position at Imagimation, working across a range of their businesses.

One of these is Nau Mai Ra, a Māori power company that focuses on personalising the customer experience by talking to customers, and seeking to understand their culture and who they are. In conjunction with providing electricity, the company then donates a portion of the profits to schools in Te Aroha and Whangarei.

Nicole says she enjoys being part of a company that uses technology to give back to its community.

“For example HER Energy, another retailer we have, supports The Aunties, a grassroots organisation in Auckland that works directly with women who have experienced domestic violence. They focus on providing items that the women really need like support, food, petrol money, and things that will actually help them live better lives.”

Nicole also values the continuous learning environment Imagimation encourages, something she says she likely wouldn’t get at a larger organisation.

“I can turn around at my desk and talk to someone who has had years of industry experience, or a recent graduate in the same boat as me. The culture is great for personal growth and my professional development, and having that access is invaluable.”

Nicole says she uses what she learnt at the University of Waikato every day, and that her degree set her up to think critically and problem solve.

“It set me up for working in software, where there’s always problems to solve and you need to persevere when things get hard.”

Nicole believes it’s also important to encourage other females into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at University. While studying, she was President of Ladies InC. (a group for women and other minorities studying computer science, graphic design, mathematics, and statistics) and Secretary of the Computer Science Students’ Society.

“As part of my extra-curriculars I did a lot of mentoring, and tried to be a role model showing that it’s cool to be involved in STEM,” she says.

“I went out to different schools to show girls what they can do in tech to help get them interested and show what’s possible so they might consider studying tech at university.”

Nicole looks forward to learning more at Imagimation and continuing to connect with people in the community with helpful technology solutions.

Riley Hunter – Master of Information Technology, 2018

When Riley Hunter first stepped foot in Imagimation, he was a fresh-faced intern finishing a Master of Information Technology degree at the University of Waikato. Now, he directs one of Imagimation’s software-based businesses, TX Labs.

Riley was on the scene at the beginning of Imagimation, which meant he had the opportunity to contribute to the establishment of the values and culture of the company. He says as a result, he feels like he’s made a real impact in the business.

“At Imagimation our personal growth and learning is the company’s central purpose, which makes it different compared to the typical corporate environment,” says Riley.

“I think any graduate would tell you it’s definitely a big jump to go from academia to industry, so Imagimation narrows that gap while making sure it’s not just an extension of your academic ventures.”

At Imagimation, Riley says he’s receiving the tools he needs to accelerate his career while also being able to help make the company more successful.

Before finishing his degree, Riley completed a 10-week internship with Imagimation after which he moved into a full-time role at the company.

“The internship really opened my eyes to what was possible with my degree and what I could be doing once I finished.”

He’s now putting the skills he learnt at the University of Waikato to good use doing software development with TX Labs.

“The Master of Information Technology degree was a good choice for me as it focussed on key parts of the working world such as building relationships, professional communication, being a good team member, and project management,” says Riley.

“I see hard tech skills as something that’s easy to learn yourself, so it’s great that the degree goes beyond that to put students in a better, more employable position.”

Those working at Imagimation have the opportunity to be exposed to all aspects of running a successful business, including understanding people’s perspectives and the target audience – not just the software that enables the business to exist.

As for Riley, he’s looking forward to working with future interns from the University of Waikato and helping them along their own journey.

Latest stories

Related stories


Waikato alumna behind local fashion success

Stacey McIntosh is the brains behind one of New Zealand’s latest fashion successes, and if…

Claudia Ashby and Kelly Petersen - Sir Edmund Hillary Medallists 2020.

Hillary Medalists announced for 2020

A former dentistry student who followed her passion for theatre and an elite endurance swimmer…

Tom Shaw prize supports biological sciences

Remembering Tom Shaw: Family gift supports biological sciences students

To remember their brother Tom, the Shaw brothers and their parents established the Tom Shaw…

Waikato Alumni and former staff recognised in 2020 New Year Honours

Six University of Waikato alumni and former academic staff members have been recognised for their…

Ma Boyong

Famous Chinese literary genius got his inspiration from Waikato

When Ma Boyong first stepped foot on New Zealand soil in back in 2001, he…

Extraordinary Things to take the stage

Next week's event will celebrate student talent and honour the life and legacy of Sir…

Waikato students can “breathe easy” thanks to new scholarship

A new scholarship is available to University of Waikato students thanks to the generosity of…

Distinguished Alumni Awards 2019

Distinguished Alumni Honoured

Three exceptional alumni were honoured at the Distinguished Alumni Awards last Friday.

Brian Sweeney (Image credit: Helen Klisser)

University of Waikato award recognises international PR specialist

The man who co-founded international strategy and PR agency SweeneyVesty will be returning to New…

Vittoria Shortt

Where accounting and finance at the University of Waikato can take you

Vittoria Shortt is the CEO of ASB, charged with leading the bank into the future…

Andrew Smith

Prolife CEO acknowledged by University of Waikato

A man who completed his PhD in physics at Oxford University and then built an…

Emma Walker and Thomas Archbold

University students receive hefty scholarship to study at Cambridge

Two University of Waikato students have landed a substantial scholarship that has opened the door…