By Alex Mercer
Head of Marketing and Communications
As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, we are celebrating women at Datacom who are doing some inspirational work in the industry, in the community and in the business. Teresa Pollard is one of those, maintaining a singular passion - enabling her fellow Māori to achieve their potential.
Teresa joined Datacom in July 2019 as a General Manager leading a team of 150 and advising customers the length of the country as they progress their digital transformation journey. Teresa sees a prime opportunity for Datacom to help boost regional development through employment and business opportunities for fledgling Māori entrepreneurs, start-ups and enterprises.
“It really comes down to employment,” says Teresa, who grew up in South Auckland and is of Ngāpuhi, Ngati Kahu ki whaingaroa descent.
“If we can create a groundswell of better paying roles in the regions and these roles happen to land with someone who is of Maori descent, then this can have a more significant effect on the wider whanau and community, especially in the creation of role models for our rangatahi - our younger people.”
That means empowering young Māori into the technology sector, either through science, technology, engineering and maths subjects at school or through community education initiatives in partnership with local businesses. The future of work will see more and more newer roles created that will utilise these skills and provide wider opportunities not just in Aotearoa but globally, Teresa’s vision is to see a thriving digital economy in the regions, with opportunities for Māori in their local communities.
As a partner in Te Tira Toi Whakangao (T3W), Datacom has joined a group of Māori tech companies and investors in building a virtually-connected Māori business support ecosystem with the aim of making that happen.
“We know that there are lots of Māori entrepreneurs working in isolation as they typically do not have the same startup network or connections seen in the major city centres.
T3W, of which Teresa is a director, is working with regional bodies, universities, wananga and other companies to enable innovative thinking and collaboration through initiatives like Hack Tairāwhiti and Hack Hawkes Bay and, at the end of this month, the largest hack for Māori, hack Tāmaki.
“We are coming together to connect Māori and their startup ecosystem to help them grow their networks, engage investment opportunities and establish their commerciality.”
“Māori are renowned for their innate creativity. We have always innovated. We just need to help our Māori founders to connect the dots, scale and grow. With more role models, both men and women, generations after us will expand on our entrepreneurial spirit.”
With ultrafast broadband now prevalent in the regions and investment from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund flowing into regional projects, the time is ripe for the Māori economy to flourish, says Teresa.
“There have been some clear learnings from the last 20 years and post-settlement. Many of those iwi have taken that money from a fairly small asset base and developed billion dollar enterprises,” she says.
The task now is to “upsize” Māori start-ups, talent and entrepreneurship.
It was a two-year stint at New Zealand Trade & Enterprise that really opened Teresa’s eyes to the potential of the Maori economy. She spent her time with the agency helping Māori businesses go global. Soon after Teresa developed Microsoft’s first Māori engagement programme which created the platform for their global CEO to launch a te reo Māori addition to their Translator.
As a teenager Teresa was always interested in business, but it was a part-time summer job at Middlemore Hospital that saw her follow up a business degree with three years of a medical degree at the University of Auckland. Family circumstances meant Teresa wasn’t able to complete the seven years of study required to become a doctor and she again found herself on the business track, in a role she expected to have little enthusiasm for - sales at Fuji Xerox.
The only female member on the sales team, Teresa rose quickly through the ranks at Fuji Xerox, joining the company’s leadership development programme in a move that took her to Singapore, where she met her future husband. Next Teresa headed to New York lead the prestigious JP Morgan Chase account at Xerox Corporation, helping grow sales revenue from US$48 million to US$72 million in less than two years.
It was whanau that brought Teresa back to New Zealand. With two small children, she has a busy family life with extensive travel through the regions seeing her juggle home and work commitments.
Abundant opportunities ahead
“It’s a busy life with new challenges every day. One of the reasons for working at Datacom is the huge potential for the company to continue its growth in the regions and sowing the seeds for a healthy Māori economy.
“As a strong Māori woman, I want to be part of impactful change and see our people prosper. Capturing our entrepreneurial spirit and combining that with technology is a real pathway to helping them thrive in the knowledge economy.”