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Māori technology tutor marvels at his education journey

Hohepa Mangu was inspired by Iron Man to study IT here at Wintec | Te Pūkenga. He is now a kaiako (tutor) in our Centre for Information Technology (IT). Hohepa is the third Māori IT tutor we have at Wintec, he speaks fluent te reo, he’s fifth generation Canadian and he had an epic self-discovery journey during the lockdown of 2020. Read on to be inspired! 

Hohepa started working at Wintec in November 2022. He teaches students how to build websites, make them look great, and make sure they work properly. 

“I had a good experience here as a student. I used to watch a lot of Marvel, I love the movies, and I really enjoyed all the technology side to it that Iron Man brings in. It fascinated me, and it got me really interested in IT. So, I thought I may as well go and have a look.” 

When Hohepa first finished high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do and became a learning assistant in the Rumaki (Māori learning) Unit at a mainstream school.  

“I was 18 and I didn’t really know what to do and my family said to me to go and help students because education has been a long-time career focus in my whānau. If anyone in my whānau has qualifications, it’s in teaching or education.” 

Hohepa did that for almost five years while it figured out where he wanted to take his career next. 

He started studying IT at Wintec in 2015, achieved his certificate in IT, then bachelor’s degree, and finally master’s degree in IT, which he completed at the end of 2019.  

As a new graduate, Hohepa found it hard to gain employment during a global pandemic. 

“When Covid hit, people didn’t want to hire new grads, because they were trying to save money and they couldn’t train us properly. So, I became a cleaner.” 

Living in Te Awamutu, the cleaning job he landed was just around the corner from his place and because he was deemed an essential worker, he was able to continue to make money throughout all the lockdowns. Hohepa said he was raised believing you should work when you can and it didn’t matter what you did as long as you were able to make enough to have what you, and those you provided for, needed. 

After almost three years working outside his area of study, an opportunity finally came up for Hohepa to pursue his passion for IT full-time at Wintec. Hohepa jumped at this chance to follow his whānau roots and be a kaiako (tutor) at the institution where he had spent four years learning his skills studying. 

Hohepa is a registered Waikato tribal member with links to Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Porou. He went to a full immersion school for all his schooling so has spoken fluent te reo his whole life.  

“I often incorporate te reo into my classes here without realising and then I see some students’ faces looking puzzled and so I teach them the meaning of what I’m saying and it’s cool to be able to do that, it’s just a word or two here and there.” 

Hohepa is also fifth generation Canadian. He’s never been to Canada but hopes to one day. 

“Whenever we have a heated debated at home, we all go tribal, some of us will say we’re from Waikato, others Ngā Puhi or Ngāti Porou but someone always pipes up with, oh that doesn’t apply to me, I’m Canadian and we all laugh,” he smirked. 

At the beginning of the 2020 lockdown, Hohepa weighed 175kg. He said he’d gotten into bad habits during study that hadn’t been great for his body. 

“During lockdown I had enough time to think about health. Growing up I always believed in spiritual health, if your spirit is ka pai, bro you’re as fit as a fiddle. But I also make this claim that I’m a temple and I was looking at my body thinking it doesn’t reflect a temple. So, I thought I’d try to lose some weight.” 

He started by walking around the block every day, eventually that turned to running, then that became a gym membership and eventually he got a personal trainer and a healthy eating plan. Since beginning his weight loss journey, Hohepa has lost 60kg.  

“It was a drastic change for me, I got there although I still struggle some days, I feel better for it.” 

Hohepa wanted to end his interview with a joke that we think will leave a smile on your face: 

Why did the skeleton go to the club alone? 

Because he had nobody. 

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