HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND, OCTOBER, 2019: Smash stereotypes and consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths. That’s the advice Hamilton-based
software specialist Company-X has for girls. Only about 20 per cent of technology-related jobs are held by women.
The 50 plus Silicon Valley savvy team with a Kiwi can-do attitude sent one of its best and brightest software architects
to Hamilton Girls’ High School to inspire students to aspire to become her colleagues.
Reseller News Women in Information and Communications Technology finalist Rachel Primrose said: “I don't think there are
that many women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) because of the unconscious bias against
women, which comes from men and other women.”
Rachel was a finalist for this year’s Technical Award.
“Personally, I've had to shrug off a lot of unwelcome comments, from both men and women over the years, and that's
straight-up unacceptable. Everyone needs to look at the way they're talking to our young people about STEM to break down
Rachel taught three lessons for two Year 10 classes with her colleague Karen Moore as part of Smart Waikato’s
award-winning Secondary School Employer Partnership.
The partnership connects students, teachers and employers to contextualise learning and inspire the next generation.
For Rachel it was all about challenging stereotypes.
“We shared our experiences as women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and information
technology (IT) in a holistic way,” Rachel said.
Her message, delivered to mathematics students, included the journey through education, career paths, salary, travel and
Company-X, for example, allows its team to work from its Hamilton office or from home and offers flexible hours, which
is advantageous for those with young families.
“We showed how statistics is relevant to STEM through having the students participate in data analytics on social media
data,” Rachel said.
The students also visited the Company-X office to learn about the fastest growing technology company in New Zealand’s
fastest growing technology region. Company-X has grown from employing two, in 2012, to more than 50.
“We showed the students the work environment, how we do our jobs, the types of work we do, and the cool technology we
get to work with.”
Rachel taught the concept of programming by role playing a sandwich making robot that the students had to instruct one
step at a time. The instruction to put the margarine on the bread, for example, would result in the margarine tub being
placed on top of the unopened loaf.
Students also experienced Company-X’s virtual reality milking shed where each student was trained in a healthy and safe
Rachel and Karen started their first lesson with a photo board and asked the students to pick which of the people worked
“Of Rachel’s photo, one student said, 'She's way too pretty to have a job in STEM',” Karen said. “Turns out that the
pretty lady was actually the most qualified on the photo board!”
Hamilton Girls’ High School mathematics teacher Anita Chan welcomed Company-X into her mathematics class.
"Rachel and Karen were amazing and everything went according to their lesson plan,” Anita said. “They are just like
Hamilton Girls’ High School mathematics student Nikaia Paama said meeting Rachel and Karen in the classroom, and
visiting them at Company-X, had challenged her ideas about the IT industry.
“Having people visit definitely helps me see what I want to do when I grow up,” Nikaia said.
She had always assumed IT was for boys, probably because girls didn’t like it, but working with Company-X had introduced
her to more possibilities.
“Having Company-X come into our classroom has allowed me to think of doing things with computers and seeing how fun it
can actually be,” Nikaia said. “I’m definitely thinking of doing something in this field of work. It sounds like a
really interesting thing to do.”
Nikaia hoped to see the number of women in technology roles grow from 20 per cent.
“Girls can do anything,” she said.
Classmate Maraia Vukinamualevu said Rachel and Karen had described Company-X as a flexible employer who was fun to work
“It made me consider taking up digital tech,” she said.
Fellow maths student Karis McInally said she had always wanted to work with computers.
“I’m glad that I can experience what you do up close and find out more about the job,” she said.
Company-X senior software developer Marcel van de Steeg has taught technology lessons through the partnership at
Hamilton Boys’ High School for years, but Company-X wanted to extend its commitment to include Hamilton Girls’ High
“We wanted to do something about women being underrepresented in the technology workforce,” said Company-X co-founder
and director David Hallett.
“We were already working with Boys’ High and told Smart Waikato we would love working with Girls’ High too. Why can’t we
“While it was great encouraging and inspiring the boys, it’s just as exciting to cover STEM topics with girls. They did
not hesitate. They really wanted to partner with us.”
Learning from the brightest and the best
Hamilton Girls’ High School student Angel Li is considering a technology career after experiencing a day in the life of
a software specialist at Company-X.
“I experienced virtual reality technology at Company-X and learned more about digital information,” Angel said after the
visit facilitated through the ShadowTech 2019 scheme.
“It is an area I think I will follow once I have left school,” Angel said.
“I liked seeing an actual workplace and how what I am learning in digital technology in school can help me in the
The ShadowTech 2019 programme connects secondary school girls in years 9 to 11 with women in the technology sector, who
act as mentors. It educates girls about the wide range of careers and opportunities available to them in the technology
The objective is to see an increase in the number of girls and young women who choose science, technology, engineering
and mathematics (STEM) related subjects at a secondary and tertiary level and ultimately choose a career in technology.
"I was approached by Company-X co-founder and director David Hallett to help with mentoring girls as part of ShadowTech
2019,” said Company-X support analyst Leah Gilbert.
“Along with intern Jes Elliott, office manager Karen Moore and the team from business incubator Soda Inc we introduced
girls from Hamilton Girls’ High School, St Paul’s Collegiate School and Hillcrest High School to the different aspects
of a working software development company,” Leah said,
“They got to meet key personnel and saw that there are a variety of roles within an organisation like Company-X. We
talked with them about their own plans and interests, and showed them how there were opportunities within the IT sector
for pretty much anyone.”
Leah enjoyed working with the students.
“It's important for girls to meet with women who are working in IT, to see first-hand that women play vital roles within
the sector. "
Leah said the girls who visited Company-X were interested to learn aspects of the information and technology industry
from a female perspective.
“They were aware of how women can face certain attitudes, so I think that's where actually meeting women in a mentorship
role helps,” Leah said.
“It was good being able to talk with them as a mum too - since I could tell them about my experience juggling family and
work commitments. It was great being able to show them that there is flexibility in the industry.
“Things I love about Company-X include that I have work flexibility and that I'm working with an amazingly supportive
team of people. The fact that women still play a much larger role in raising children does make it more difficult for
them to enter the workforce.”
Company-X intern Jes Elliott is a third year University of Waikato computer science student and president of Ladies Inc.
The university club aims to strengthen the bonds between women in computer science, computer engineering, graphic design
Jes was excited to chat with girls from her old high school, St Paul’s Collegiate, and help them take full advantage of
their day at Company-X.
“Girls are missing out in the IT space due to the lack of confidence,” Jes said. “This is one obstacle that I, and many
of my friends, face.”
Jes said her involvement in Ladies Inc over several years had helped her grow personally.
“I've gained more confidence, and it's allowed me to take full advantage of all the events that we create or have been a
“Since starting my internship at Company-X, I have found it's great to have a work-community that works together and
helps each other grow. This has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone to continually learn. It has made such a
positive change in my life having realised that the transition from university to industry is actually not as scary as
ShadowTech is run by TechWomen with support from NZTech.
Company-X was invited to get involved by CultivateIT operations manager Jannat Maqbool.
“It is always good to connect in with a nationwide initiative but important to ensure there was a regional flavour and
that CultivateIT could support the concept (inspiring young women in to STEM careers) in other ways outside of the one
day event,” Jannat said. “We are working on this with NZ Tech now.”
Company-X’s world leading team design, develop and test bespoke software solutions for its clients. In addition to
ranking on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ Asia Pacific in 2017 and 2018, Company-X was named the Fastest Growing
Technology Company in the Central North Island.
Company-X won the Service Excellence and Global Operator awards at the prestigious Westpac Waikato Business Awards in
2018 and is a finalist in the Growth and Strategy Award this year. Company-X won the Services Exporter of the Year
category at the Air New Zealand Cargo ExportNZ Awards 2017. Company-X also won the Homegrown Innovators Independent
Software Vendor Award at the Reseller News ICT Awards 2017.
The Company-X developed One Network Road Classification Performance Measures Reporting Tool won the Roading Asset
Management Innovation Award at the Road Infrastructure Management Forum in 2017.