“Being that Microsoft is at the forefront of change, I’ve learned in my time here that it’s important to have the Indigenous voice strongly represented.”
Surface Specialist and 2022 Pinnacle Award winner Venus Taare channels the support she’s received from mentors and allies into advocating for more Māori and Pasifika representation in the tech sector.
I’m from a city called Gisborne on the east coast of New Zealand. It’s known to be one of the first cities to see the sun.
Culturally, my parents are Māori, with some English, Spanish, and Scottish from my grandparents. I feel lucky to have grown up with all of my family in one place, with both my grandparents and great grandparents around. Being surrounded by the older generation and being able to hear their stories has always been special for me.
My grandfather is someone I look up to because he’s well known for revitalizing Māori culture in New Zealand. He and my great grandfather led a movement around ensuring Māori equality and working alongside allies to bring that to fruition.
Growing up, my passion was drumming—there’s actually a drum set here in my office in Auckland. But when I entered Auckland University of Technology, I decided to study economics and information systems and planned to have a career in public policy. While at university, I learned of an internship program through an organization called TupuToa. Their goal at the time was to bring more Māori and Pasifika representation to the corporate space. When they paired me with Microsoft, I thought “I’ll give it a go.”
When I first joined Microsoft in 2018, I was a bit nervous, but I also knew that I had a different perspective to bring to the organization. In my four years here, having amazing Māori and Pasifika representation has helped grow my confidence. I credit my mentors—Dan Walker is one—who I look to often for support and advice on navigating a corporate space, as well as allies, like Vanessa Sorenson, who work to ensure that Indigenous voices are heard. And as a member of the Indigenous at Microsoft Employee Resource Group, it’s been rewarding to share my experiences with people who have similar experiences and to have the opportunity to advocate for more Māori and Pasifika in the tech space.
One of the first initiatives I worked on as an intern was an event where the decision panel was made up entirely of Indigenous people. This was the first corporate event I stepped into where I looked around and saw a room full of Māori and Pasifika people where typically, at an event like this, you’d see only a few of us. We even had traditional catering, with foods like raw fish and fry bread. Just being surrounded by other Indigenous people in my first couple of months at Microsoft was very empowering for me.
I’ve learned in my time here that it’s important to have the Indigenous voice strongly represented. For far too long innovation has existed without inclusion. But when you look at the world as a whole and at our customers, there’s no way we can create solutions that work for and are relevant to every community without having everyone and all those lived experiences represented at the table. When I say everyone, I mean everyone.