Shreya Bakhshi 16 Aug 2022

Education outreach programme ShadowTech connects game changers in the technology sector with high school students and gives insights into how they can step into the world of tech.  

In its eighth year, the programme’s goal is to provide as many pathways to the technology sector as possible so Westpac NZ was eager to host and introduce both students and teachers to the various aspects of tech within the banking and financial industry. 

Fiona Lai, currently in Westpac’s graduate programme and organiser of the ShadowTech visit to Westpac, said her high school experience did not give her the chance to understand the role that technology played across different industries and how students could get their foot in the door. 

When she got the chance to organise an event, she made sure to take up the opportunity to showcase the depth of knowledge and talent at Westpac.  

Being on a graduate rotation, Fiona said she has had the opportunity to work across a variety of departments.  

Even though Shadow Tech is technology focused, “we have to remind [students] that our industry is banking, and banking has a wealth of knowledge in it”, Fiona said.  

Fiona segmented and curated the event to showcase the diversity of the banking industry, not just in terms of the different departments, but also in terms of ethnicity, age and gender.  

“People think banking is intimidating,” she said, “but they can actually bring in their culture, their kai…just everyday things that we do in our lives…into this organisational space.” 


Paying it forward 

Attendees got the chance to hear from and engage with a range of people from across General Banking, Financial Wellbeing and Community Outreach, IT, Customer Service, Payments and Marketing.  

All the speakers had one common interest – paying forward what they had learnt.  

John Pulevaka, from the Everyday Finances General Banking team said: “What I want to do personally is get out there and get people to talk about it. Tell them that this is a good subject for us to know and grow as a person, community and a family.” 

Keana-Marie Carlson-Walker and Terenui Natua, younger employees from the Customer Service Representative team, said that ShadowTech was a fantastic opportunity for them to speak with students within their age group about how they too could be a part of the banking industry.  

Both said they were once in a position where they didn’t know the options  available to them and working at Westpac had changed that.  

“Shadow Tech…was a way to bridge the gap between school and the banking world. I thought it as an amazing idea because of how much there is to learn once you leave school, and because of the opportunities that arise when you take that leap of faith,” Terenui said.  

Similarly, Kalo Payne-Smith, Financial Wellbeing and Community Outreach Manager, said she could not refuse when asked to participate in the event.  

“My job is to give [back] to the community…if I could give back to the future of the leaders of New Zealand regardless of whether they work for us, or work for someone else, why not. Because it is all about making a change in people’s lives where you can.” 

Julie Bremner, a Tech Area Lead in Payments, said she has been involved with ShadowTech since 2016. She said the rate at which the event was growing was phenomenal.  

“Community engagement is absolutely huge. And just enabling some of that ‘Money Now’, that common sense [within students]; even if a little bit of information about managing your money - to use that Westpac terminology - that is a fantastic thing. 

“Also just to see the diversity of faces that work for Westpac. If you do not see a face that you recognise or you engage with…you just think that it is single colour, single gender, big corporate; if you don’t see it, how you will know that you can do it too?”