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.