Magdeline: “I hope that I can inspire other women and young girls to know that gender and ethnicity should not be a barrier to achieving their goals.” (Photo: Guy Frederick)
Magdeline is a fourth-year student at the University of Otago, studying computer science and entrepreneurship, and she’s already making waves.
Her innovative app idea Temp, a platform for students to rent out their belongings to one another, won her the inaugural Red Bull Basement University Competition.
Yet despite her talent and passion, tech’s a career path Magdeline almost missed out on.
A high achiever at school in Christchurch, Magdeline accepted a scholarship to study in Dunedin, and started a health sciences degree, following in the footsteps of older siblings.
But, her choice of study never sat quite right with her.
In a brave, bold move, Magdeline ditched the health-sciences route after a year to pick up computer science and entrepreneurship.
She wasn’t the sort of teenager who mucked around on computers, and she didn’t stumble across coding until she was at university.
But she’s always been a bit of maths geek, physics was a favourite subject and she prefers being presented with problems to solve than screeds of text to read and regurgitate.
(Photo: Oscar Keys (@oscarkeys_on Instagram)
Growing up, she just never saw enough people that looked like her in the tech or start-up spaces, she says.
Alongside her studies, Magdeline is now on a mission to help other young women see a career for themselves in the industries.
It’s about putting yourself out there, and believing you can achieve anything you put your mind to, even if you are the minority, she says.
On campus, she’s taken a leadership role in Comp Girls Otago, a club which supports women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and is also a member of the Momentum Investment Committee, which provides advice to student start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Plus, she’s heading a podcast, Sparkingsparks, focusing on featuring minorities and people of colour doing cool stuff in STEM, entrepreneurship, the arts and advocacy, as well as creating content on her own YouTube channel.
“There aren’t enough YouTubers who are female and working in tech, or who are of colour.”
By making herself known, and being honest about the challenges she faces, she wants to inspire a new generation of female techies and entrepreneurs, she says.
“I hope that I can inspire other women and young girls to know that gender and ethnicity should not be a barrier to achieving their goals.”
Being a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Leadership Network has helped her hone her definition of good leadership, allowing her to better back her own abilities, she says.
For a long time, she assumed leaders were all natural extroverts or social butterflies.
“And because I didn’t particularly identify with those characteristics I never really saw myself as a natural leader, despite having held leadership roles in the past.”
Magdeline with fellow Leadership Network members Arina and Dayeon at the Rethinking Leadership Hui in Tauranga
The Foundation’s recent Rethinking Leadership Hui helped Magdeline reflect on her own journey in leadership, in the company of an inspiring group of peers, she says.
“I learnt how leadership is less about how extroverted or sociable you are but rather about how effectively you can communicate your ideas and lead your team to a common goal.
“And I learnt that in order to be effective in your leadership you really need to self-examine and know your values because these will guide you, but also acknowledge that your values can change as you progress, and that’s alright.”
The network also offers the opportunity for her path to cross with other Kiwi Asians making waves, among them Clearhead founder Angela Lim.
“I just find it really empowering to see somebody of the same background as me being so strong, so fearless, and being able to challenge the status quo and achieve great things.”