Blog post by Helen Shorthouse, 25th September 2017
This is an exciting couple of weeks for Christchurch, especially for the tech scene.
On Tuesday I was at the launch of HMI’s Ohmio driverless shuttles. I’m pretty lucky, having already ridden in their airport autonomous vehicle last year. This time we went riding on the road outside the Art Gallery – waving to amused (or was it bemused?) drivers passing in their cars! At the moment the shuttles are slow, small, open-sided and meant for short-hops around campus, but it won’t be long until they are ubiquitous on our roads and, as a terrible ‘busy multi-tasker’ I am quite excited!!
Why did they choose Christchurch to launch the shuttle?
The funny thing is, when you live in a city you don’t always see the benefits that others do. New Zealand has a government that is friendly to new technologies and already allows testing of autonomous vehicles. We have a reputation for innovation and Christchurch in particular, is becoming known as a test-bed for new technologies to be trialed, with our own City Council actively enabling businesses to use this city as a test-base. We have a world class engineering school at the University of Canterbury producing talent and a well established manufacturing sector known for creating niche products and solutions.
Jumping on to Thursday and it was all go in Wigram Airbase for the annual Canterbury Tech Summit.
Six-hundred and fifty tickets had gone weeks ago and the vibe felt pretty chilled and positive. Maybe it was the embodiment of the Suncorp’s research released last week which found significant differences between Christchurch and the rest of NZ, with Christchurch businesses more comfortable with risk, more adaptable to changing trends, having a positive outlook and having a bigger focus on work-life balance?
I particularly enjoyed the Branding Masterclass with Andy Cunningham (claim to fame being sacked by Steve Jobs 3 times!). Her challenge to businesses – work out who you are and why do you matter? Sounds so simple….but it is so hard!
Other topics ranged from creating team culture, to the technology used in building Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup boat; from Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality, to exporting and design thinking.
Gone are the days when exhibition booths are solely pushing brochures. The engagement was certainly not all ‘high tech’ either, with golf-putting to a photo competition. I am currently working out where to put my $50 worth of bitcoin, courtesy of Cryptopia. A special shout-out to Media Suite who gave cash to 3 charities (YMCA Christchurch, Action Stations and Code Club) with delegates voting by Lego brick!
Ben Kepes wrapped the day up with a keynote challenging us to be that bit different, to focus on what is unique about our country, rather than trying to emulate Silicon Valley. He challenged the tech sector to focus on adding value to what NZ is already good at, such agriculture, tourism, the outdoor adventure scene, rather than competing for something that is unattainable. It was a perfect way to round off the day, bringing the loop back to Andy Cunningham’s challenge to “work out who you are and why do you matter?” Ben’s challenge was that we needed to be: A better version of us.… and then it was off to the bar for networking and socialising.
Rolling on to next week and it is the Social Enterprise World Forum, bringing 1,500 people from around the world to share knowledge, network and discuss how to create a more sustainable future. Not directly technology related, I am excited to see Christchurch hosting an event of this scale, on this topic and with the diversity of people attending. Tickets for this also sold out well in advance, but I love the work they are doing around the ‘Transitional City‘, with 40+ events and activities showcasing Christchurch’s spirit of innovation and creativity, much of which has been born post-quake. These are open to everyone – so the vibe in the city should be quite buzzing next week too.
If you are an established company looking for ideas on how to innovate, if you are a start-up, or if you think you may have something to offer Spark, then this free event is a must attend for you.
Thursday 28th September, 5.30 – 7pm, CECC – 57 Kilmore Street
Ed Hyde, CEO of Spark Ventures talks about the role they play for Spark in a rapidly evolving digital world.
Over the last 3 years Spark Ventures has started and invested in a number of start-ups including Lightbox, Qrious, Bigpipe Broadband and Putti apps and has created over 500m new digital customer service relationships over the time.
The Ventures team are responsible for bringing great new services into market – that could either be through home grown development, early stage investment or helping collaborate to drive the adoption of our partners’ great digital services.
Ed will talk about the Spark Ventures strategy, how they operate, what has gone well and importantly what hasn’t. He’ll also talk in more detail about the early stage investment activity they are interested in.
This event will be followed up by a pitch session in approximately six weeks time where interested business will be able to present their business opportunities.
The UC Centre for Entrepreneurship (UCE) team is excited to invite you to attend the final presentations of the UCE Kathmandu NZ Student Social Enterprise Challenge.
UC Centre for Entrepreneurship video
Join us as the teams present their solution to a panel of judges on Tuesday 26 September from 5:00pm at the Engineering Core, University of Canterbury.
This nationwide challenge is a new initiative, which involved four regional competitions held last term across New Zealand, represented by six universities. The winner of each regional competition will compete in a 48-hour challenge (from 24 – 26 September) where they will develop and present a social enterprise solution to a given challenge based around wellbeing.
Head to Eventbrite to register.
CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT ABOUT SIGNAL?
SIGNAL is a collaboration of University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, Ara Institute of Canterbury, University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic. We are all about growing and developing tech professionals for New Zealand. We offer a range of courses to encourage people into the profession and to develop those who are in the profession already.
We got government funding at the end of 2016 and worked over the summer to get the physical premise up and running. We opened our doors in Feb 2017 and have just started with our Christchurch cohort Shift students here in Christchurch, following on from our first cohort in Dunedin.
WHY DID YOU GET INTO THE TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY?
Part of me has always been a bit of a gadget boy, but I think as I’ve carried on, what I enjoy is the problem-solving side of things. That creative side which exists both in programming and in the physical computing side of things like playing with Raspberry Pi and Arduinol.
DO YOU THINK ATTITUDES TOWARDS TECHNOLOGY HAVE CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
I think if we go way back, we had mainframes and things and they were these big expensive machines and people were relatively cheap. Now it’s around the other way, the technology is accessible but people are expensive. That’s been a big shift in the industry.
You see that as well with the way people are building software. Moving from plan driven approaches like waterfall with the bigger move to more agile approaches, and having the customer as part of the conversation.
FOR THE CANTERBURY TECH SECTOR, WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT SEEING?
There’s a huge diversity of things going on, you’ve got big firms like Jade, Tait and Vodafone. You’ve also got the small firms who are doing some niche and innovative stuff. I think there is a good tech community in Christchurch; the Tech Cluster and Summit really show that. You talk to people from Auckland and people don’t travel across the city to go to events because it is just too difficult. Wellington has the big government sector which distorts things. Christchurch is a nice community that is big enough, without being too big.
WHAT SKILL AREAS ARE LACKING IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
I think there is a range of things happening. One is that there is, in many cases, a shortage of people across a range of different skills. One of the disadvantages of having many small companies is that there isn’t the willingness to take on junior people to develop them. Whilst there will be technical skills that people struggle to recruit in, it’s our responsibility to feed the pipeline. We might not find the person that we need but we need to grow people to be able to fill those roles.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WANTING TO BREAK INTO THE INDUSTRY?
One of the big things is that the industry needs and values diversity. You may not have a strong set of tech skills but you need to be aware of the skills package that you do bring. Not everybody’s role in tech is programming or development. The same roles exist as in every organisation; sales, marketing, HR. They are also important in growing tech companies.
THE THEME OF THE CANTERBURY TECH SUMMIT IS ‘GROW’, WHAT SORT OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR INDIVIDUALS WANTING TO GROW IN THE TECH INDUSTRY?
It’s about where your passion is; what gets you out of bed in the morning. You need to consider how to hold onto that passion and identify what growth looks like for you. It may be developing a set of technical skills or having the ability to share those skills with other people. It may be a move towards people leadership. We need strong and capable people in all those different roles.
WHY DO YOU SUPPORT THE CANTERBURY TECH SUMMIT?
We see the Christchurch tech sector as a fantastic place for technology and the Tech Cluster is a great environment to meet people. The Summit has great speakers coming and while you don’t get everybody in the sector together in the one place, you get as near as you can. It’s great to meet up with old friends and to meet new people as well.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST AT THIS YEAR’S SUMMIT?
Getting a chance to get the word out about what SIGNAL is and what we are doing. We started on this journey three years ago and now that we are up and launched, we are really excited to share that with people.
Create Disruption. See the Unseen
Organisations can already see the opportunity digital disruption presents – transforming how people and businesses interact and how companies engage with customers. Learn how business leaders and IT professionals create disruption and harness transformation leveraging the value of IBM cognitive technologies. Define your own disruption and see how you can stay ahead by differentiating your business.
Christchurch | Friday, 22 September
10.30am – 2.45pm
164 St Asaph Street
10:30am Welcome and Introduction, John Guest, Head of Software, NZ
10:45am A new world with Watson – Real-life examples from home & abroad, Isuru Fernando, Cognitive Lead, NZ
12:15pm Hands-on API demo, Giovanni Vigorelli, Software Specialist, NZ
1.15pm Hands-on Lab: Chatbot, Visual Isuru Fernando & Giovanni Vigorelli
Recognition and Watson Analytics
This event is aimed at Business Leaders and Developers.
Bring your laptop and pre register for a Bluemix account at this link. (When prompted for a Region please select US)
To register for this event please email Mark Hayden email@example.com by September 15th. Please indicate any dietary requirements.
Tell me a bit about Trimble and your role in the company
Trimble is an international company head-quartered in the US. It’s listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. It’s annual revenue is roughly US$2.3 billion and there are 8,500 employees world-wide.
The Christchurch office was their first acquisition. They acquire a lot of companies, well over 100 companies in the last 15 years. They were a hardware company and we were a software development company, so there was going to be great synergies. We had 41 people then, and we’ve got 360+ people in New Zealand now.
My role is Managing Director of the two New Zealand Trimble companies. Predominantly we do R&D for our parent and associated companies, we don’t do any sales or marketing out of New Zealand.
What excites you about the technology industry in Canterbury?
The opportunity to be part of and add value to an international company and to be doing that from Christchurch. To be seen as an integral part of product development for the worldwide Trimble company. Trimble, the parent can choose to do work anywhere in the world but we are an integral part of the R&D for the group and are well respected in the group. It’s great to see that we can add value to the parent company and help them prosper from Christchurch. We get to work on some very exciting projects.
What advice would you have for other tech companies looking to grow and expand overseas?
It was great that we aligned ourselves with an international player. We were a company in our own right before we were bought and we distributed through another company. The growth that we have had since 1991 is because we aligned ourselves with an overseas player. It does however, have to be the right overseas player. A lot of companies are bought by offshore companies and 5-10 years later they are nothing. We have been incredibly lucky that our parent company has seen our worth and continued to invest in New Zealand to give us the opportunity to grow.
In particular for women wanting to advance their career in technology, what advice would you have for them?
It’s not just women in technology, but all professions. The answer is to believe in yourself, to say yes; believe that you can do or find a way to do something. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. I’ve done a few things that I wasn’t really sure how it was going to turn out but I gave it a go. Women are a bit more diffident in their capabilities and don’t see themselves as capable as men, but they are, they just need to recognise that, be confident and say yes.
Why do you support the Canterbury Tech Summit?
My passion for Christchurch. I’m not an IT person, I’m a finance person by background but I do have a passion for technology because I think it’s something that we can do well in Canterbury. We can give people good job opportunities and help the economy of Christchurch. I’ve lived here all my life and I want it to be a successful city; it’s exciting. It’s not dull, things are changing all the time, you have to be prepared to change and be prepared to grab opportunities; be prepared to step out and say that this is going to work because if you don’t you will get left behind. That is one of the good things the technology industry, that no two days are the same and progress and change are happening all the time.
For the Tech Summit, what are you looking forward to most?
I think just to show people the sort of exciting things we are doing at Trimble. We have some cool, out-there projects. Participation is about promoting an awareness of Trimble because we don’t sell directly into New Zealand, we sell through dealers, so people will only know us by the people who work in our R&D teams. We need to get an awareness in the industry so when we are looking for new employees, people know this is a company that is growing and doing fun things, and can give employees career progression. It’s also great to see what else is happening in Christchurch and to support the industry in our city to ensure that we have a vibrant technology environment which encourages people to enjoy working in our city, and to improve the economy of the Christchurch and the country.
If you’re one of the many Christchurch companies that are unable to fill mid-senior tech roles from the local talent supply, you are not alone. There’s a global shortage of tech specialists and we need to grow our own AND compete internationally to access the best.
But how do you find these globally sought after people? LookSee has already found them. In fact, they’ve got over 48,000 talented professionals that want to move to New Zealand for career opportunities. Find out more about the LookSee Tech Talent Pool and how to connect, engage, and hire great international pre-screened talent.
Date: Thursday, 31 August
Time: 12-1 PM
Location: Vodafone Xone events center on Level One.
Register here to reserve your FREE place. Registration for this event is essential and places are limited, so early registration is recommended.
This event is brought to you by:
Q&A Interview with Sourced Managing Director Jason Bishop
Can you tell me a bit about Sourced?
Sourced is a specialist IT and technology recruitment agency with offices in Christchurch and Auckland. Our day to day goal is to be here for anyone and we continue our drive to be the best at providing people and businesses what they want and need. We still think the best thing you can give anyone is your time and a key part of our identity is simply that we are always available to help. We’ve been in the tech sector a long time and have a strong internal culture built around this thinking.
How are Sourced involved in the Canterbury tech sector?
Through participation, hosting, sponsorship and support, we are genuinely engaged in the tech sector. I’ve been involved in the Canterbury Tech Summit and Cluster (sponsor and committee member) for the past six years, and Canterbury Development Corporation (ChristchurchNZ) around workforce strategies and sector advocacy, as well as mentoring at University of Canterbury.
As a team, we are entrenched in the wider Canterbury tech scene, being involved with Canterbury Angels, Canterbury Tech and Institute of IT Professional meetings. We are active in both the Executive Women in Tech and Women in Tech local communities, as well as sponsors and loyal supporters of Code Club.
We also set up FluxNZ (with Memia, in 2012) which originally provided news, data and insights relating to the growing New Zealand technology industry. Ben Reid and I first started producing the Flux posters in 2014 – most recently I created this in a digital format (http://maps.fluxnz.com) and many people will be pleased to know there is a new poster on the way, based on the up to date data! We created the poster to help people to get their heads around the true scale of the sector. This has helped children and parents understand the outcomes within IT and the broad spectrum of ways to apply skills outside of the stereotypes.
How do you see the Canterbury tech industry evolving over the next five years?
We have a good split, compared to the rest of the country in terms of services, ecosystem, software, manufacturing and engineering and so on, it’s a harmonious sort of environment in terms of disciplines. But what we don’t have is the full spectrum of business ages/stages. You need to have your start-ups, your early growth companies, your full growth companies, and your big corporates.
We have a few big corporates but they have found it harder to grow here now that our employment market is a little more dynamic and much more candidate focused. People are more aware and in control of their career, and there is a lot more choice.
The short answer is the Canterbury tech sector in five years’ time will be more mature in its business knowledge with a healthy amount of wise business leaders to mentor future growth at all levels.
Why did you decide to start working in the technology industry?
It’s a continually evolving industry. The pace of change and opportunities it provides regarding professional growth are very appealing. Tech is an integral part of life these days, as far as subject matter goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better vertical to innovate in and read new stories about, every day. It’s exciting, challenging and you never stop learning.
What excites you about the technology industry in Canterbury?
You just have to talk about those in it. Post-earthquake collaboration created a stronger community that is more connected with a more vibrant and diverse start-up & SME environment. By being motivated to learn lessons fast, our local sector has matured quickly and we have, I think, the best combination of conditions to lead the country into becoming a tech powerhouse.
What skills do you think need to be developed in technology workers?
Interpersonal skills are as important in tech as any other industry and perhaps this doesn’t get the air time it needs. Leadership, mentoring and presentation capabilities are also important, it’s no longer acceptable to have a ‘hidden developer’ mentality.
What advice do you have for people wishing to advance their technology career?
Get involved and network widely. Follow your interests and find the opportunities to learn new skills. Through networking, develop a reputation and get involved in the local community. This will help you stand out and get noticed, and for the right reasons.
There are a lot of places you can go to for guidance around town, and there are a lot of people who have done it before, so don’t be afraid to ask for someone’s opinion or help. Plenty of people out there have similar experiences in different verticals even, so it doesn’t have to be in your field of expertise.
That’s the big thing, don’t be afraid to learn lessons from other people’s experience.
Why do you support the Canterbury Tech Cluster/Summit?
The main reason we support it is because there is nothing else like it. The rest of the country doesn’t have a genuine central place they can come to and collaborate. Even if it was only a small thing, it’s a good thing. We are advocates and passionate champions of Canterbury (Tech) and want anyone we talk to, to be the same.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Canterbury Tech Summit 2017?
Networking, speakers, catching up with old friends, and the new learning opportunities. I love using our booth at the Summit to promote those that may not be able to get there themselves, we always share our spot.
It aims to develop globally successful technology companies through collaboration and education for businesses small and large. The non- profit organisation is run by a voluntary committee and has over 200 members.
76-106 Manchester Street