No cookie cutter approach to impact

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Sacha McNeil’s reflection on meeting five graduates from the Master of Technological Futures.

Saving lives on New Zealand roads, advising at the World Economic Forum, challenging businesses to move with the times, and stretching charity donations as far as possible.

An eclectic bunch of jobs carried out by a wide-ranging group of graduates. Not what you’d expect from students who had all completed the exact same Master of Technological Futures programme. No cookie-cutter career paths in sight, rather a motivated group with a clear vision of where they want to direct their attention through what they’ve learned.

From the former Navy chef now employing passive sonar and satellites to protect whales, to the former law student fighting for Māori on the global stage. Meeting these four graduates from the Tech Futures Lab Master’s programme was enlightening and for very different reasons. Each one couldn’t have been more different from the last, complete with wildly different aspirations.

But, one thing remained true to each of them – they all wanted to make an impact in a way that would be beneficial to the wider community and in turn, society. Not one of them trumpeted their academic achievement or accolade, instead, they spoke of wanting to take their learning and apply it in the real world in a way that could really matter.

Josh Hobbs, a former chef from the Navy with a natural curiosity for new technologies can now be found deeply engaged in a number of projects. Never having formally studied, he’s a perfect example of this type of learning opening a gateway to applying his new-found knowledge.

Guillaume Dehan on the other hand came from a world immersed in structure, education and formal learning. Having lived and breathed the global world of finance, the Master’s granted him permission to rebel against this world and use a human focussed approach to create his business. In turn, structuring a model to ensure every charity dollar we spend goes where it should.

Louise Nash found her prior career path turned out to be perfectly suited to hone her passion for the planet, using the Master’s to craft a business model that connected it all together. She now advises businesses at a top-level to radically change their relationship with the environment through ‘Circularity’.

Sara Stratton’s vision was as genuine as it was essential within our evolving culture and society. Having studied law and lived a life full of experience, she came to the Master’s with no clear path. She well and truly found her voice through Tech Future’s learning style, and she’s now at full volume, sitting on the World Economic Forum busy challenging the status quo of diversity within the digital world.

From further afield, Michael Khuwattanasenee arrived in New Zealand from Thailand at the age of fourteen, unable to speak English and without his parents. Not one to shirk from life’s challenges, Michael saved his pay cheques from washing dishes in his grandfather’s Thai restaurant and kicked off his first small business venture while still in high school. It’s this true entrepreneurial spirit that has seen Michael keep learning along the way. His latest stop at Tech Futures Lab saw him fine tune his ambitious vision and drum up a whole new line of work.

In meeting each one of these lifelong learners there was a strong case both for those who had come from an academic background and those who had never studied formally. For each of them, the difference in the application was starkly different, but the personal drive to do good was across the board.

A number of us study after school, some of us don’t. Regardless, if you’re lucky you’ll maintain the desire to keep learning throughout life. Whether you come to it later or follow up on previous qualifications with added learning.

The Tech Futures Lab Masters Programme certainly seems to be unique in its approach to support students in understanding not only the latest in the future of technology in a changing world but also the capability to remain agile and resilient. For these graduates that meant coming out the other end with a personal and tailored career path, as well as the human skills to navigate it. It certainly sets itself apart from most Master’s programs out there on offer.

To hear the full story of each of these inspirational graduates, listen to The Impact Series with Sacha McNeil podcast on our website.

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