The Risk of Not Telling the Whole Story of "More Pasifika in Tech
There's been a big push for getting more Pasifika (and Māori) into technology jobs in the last few years, often citing things like the demand shortage of skilled workers in the industry, as well as the low percentage representation of Pasifika and Maori in the tech sector.
by Ron Amosa I 11th December 2023
We'll go into talking about sunsetting industries, of which Pasifika are most employed, and get them to think about "sunrising" industries, like tech, to move into.
it's a logical choice, right? They'll mention higher salaries, which is true. The supply and demand equation (i.e., low supply so they have to put large salaries on the table to compete) will explain this easily. And while this is all true, and it's great, and it's a win-win for everyone (for the most part), I think there is a big risk in not telling the whole story about the tech opportunity, and one that will do a disservice to the work of getting our people to the front door of this opportunity. Tech, like any other industry, has its pros and cons. The push for more Pasifika to take up this opportunity has highlighted all the positives but rarely discusses the negatives associated with the industry.
It sounds weird to have to write it out, but as a Pasifika person, the first reality you will need to understand is that you will be one of the only, if not the only, Pasifika person on the tech team. It's isolating and can be really lonely at times.
And being the only Pasifika in the team often means the company is not used to being around Islanders, and the casual racism is definitely a thing.
Sure, we’ve got thick skin and the majority of people who do "the casual racism" aren’t trying to offend you, but it's just something you should be aware of.
Tech is a fast-paced, constantly changing, and evolving industry.
There are always new things being created, updated, hacked, and deployed. Being on the technical side of tech, there is an expectation to keep up with that pace.
Don't get me wrong, you don't have to, but even the pace of maintaining your job - which might not be your job for long if the market demand for the tech that you know starts going away. This pressure to keep updated, and aware of the current tech as well as what the market is wanting, so you can keep an eye on if a layoff is coming your way, leads to the often talked about "burnout" that happens in tech.
If you don't know about it, how are you going to prepare for it?
And my last point is being aware of the concept of the tech "Factory Floor". With the rush to get "more Pasifika into tech", we've seen a plethora of people directing traffic from the front - but who are these people?
How much do they really know about working in tech, and where are they directing us to exactly?
Tech also has a whole catalogue of low-skilled and lower-paid work. Why would we, in trying to get off the literal factory floor in the current industries our people work in now, only to be the same low-paid workers in the tech industry?
Not "solutions" as such, but I've got recommendations, and firstly, in order to avoid these pitfalls, we first need to know about them. For the first decade I worked in tech, there was no other Pasifika I could network with and talk to about tech.
Now, we have a lot more but still very few, so we need to stick together.
One of the ways we do that is in the Pasifika Tech Network, a social group of Pasifika engineers working in tech, or aspiring to work in tech, who congregate on our discord and chat, do meetups online and in person, and generally just support each other however we can. The support of other Pasifika helps when burnout sets in, and we have a network of Pasifika who can relate to what we're going through.
Another thing I would recommend for mitigating burnout is to get a mentor - especially if you're new to the industry, get a mentor to help guide you through the early days as you're setting yourself up in the industry.
A mentor can also be one who brings some sanity to your thought process when the pressure gets up there. A mentor with real experience in the tech industry, preferably in the domain you're looking to work in, is also good to have to avoid getting bad advice from the tech talks and panels you might come across and help you avoid the tech "factory floor".
Does it work?
In our Pasifika Tech Network, we've had several success stories of members of our network helping and supporting each other in job searches and interviews as well as referrals directly to jobs.
Being part of an active supportive network really is key to giving yourself every chance of success in tech.
I've also personally mentored several young Pasifika engineers, who have gone on to do well in the field, and I'm always surprised (and also not surprised) at the amount of information I'm able to provide because I often assume people know more than they really do - and it makes sense, because how could they know? They've only been in the industry a few years!
What do you suggest I do?
For any Pasifika thinking about getting into tech, I highly recommend seeking out experienced Pasifika engineers working in tech, and just approach them, ask them questions, and find out everything you can about the industry from their experience.
Join the Pasifika Tech Network!
Get involved with the online and in-person activities, remember your network is your source of information, about the market, about companies, good and bad managers, and also what's hot in the industry. And if you can, find a mentor.
Okay, you may not need one, but in my experience, what I was able to do with the foresight and wisdom of someone more experienced than me was leaps and bounds faster than doing it by myself.
What’s been your experience with the whole “more Pasifika in tech”?
Were you made aware of the downsides? Did the people telling you about tech know what they were talking about?
I’d be keen to hear anyone's thoughts and experience with this!
Thanks for reading, see you in the next one.
Ron Amosa is a Senior Solution Architect for AWS in Auckland, New Zealand, with a rich background in Kubernetes, cloud infrastructure, and security across AWS, Azure, and GCP, highlighted by key roles at Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.
He also authors 'The Uncommon Engineer' newsletter on Substack, where he shares his unique perspective as a Pasifika person working in Big Tech, discussing Cloud, DevOps, Cyber Security, AI, and their impacts on the Pasifika community, blending technical insights with reflections on society.
To read his insights and narratives, visit 'The Uncommon Engineer' at