Tongan IT student graduates from Whitireia & WelTec | Te Pūkenga heads to the tech job market

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Donald (Nolo) Heimuli will graduate with a Bachelor of Information Technology in June following a long journey to get to this proud moment.

While still back home in Tonga in 2011, Donald originally enrolled in IT with Whitireia via Tupou Tertiary Institute, whereby students in Tonga start the programme locally and complete their final year in New Zealand.

Unfortunately, in 2013, due to financial difficulties, Donald could not get to New Zealand to finish his bachelor’s degree. Instead, with the goal very much in mind, Donald set about saving for his studies.

Using his passion for the game of rugby, Donald trained at the Tonga Rugby Union to qualify as a coach and become a Development Officer for junior rugby working with young players.

In 2019, Donald believed the time was right to complete the study he always wanted to do and secure a job in the tech sector to embark on the career he had set on. He was encouraged by Whitireia and WelTec to return to his study and get the ‘job done’.

With encouragement and support from his kāinga (family) in Tonga and New Zealand, Donald was able to head to New Zealand and finish his study at Whitireia and WelTec while staying with kāinga nearby. Donald also worked during the holidays picking fruit in Gisborne to contribute to study costs and was awarded funding through Pacific Health Plus.

Last summer, Donald was a successful recipient of a TupuToa internship and gained experience at an insurance company assisting the information security team over a 12 week internship. Following which, he was offered an extension due to his excellent work.

As part of his studies, Donald has completed in-work practical assignments and his final project was a complete digitalisation of the New Zealand Amateur Rock 'n' Roll Association (NZARRA), which had previously been paper based.

“I give thanks to God Almighty for the blessings that He has bestowed upon me and has led me through difficulties to achieve this great achievement,” says Donald. “I have taken every opportunity along the way so that I can reach this goal of graduating with a degree in IT.

“I have had wonderful support from the amazing faiako (teachers/tutors) at Whitireia and WelTec as well as my kāinga and friends who helped me get to this point.

“I say: Mālō 'Aupito - thank you very much. Now, I need to secure a good job in IT so I can return the support to those who have helped me, and maybe there is someone else from Tonga who would like to follow in my footsteps - that I can help,” says Donald.

Tony Assadi, Programme Manager at Whitireia and WelTec School of Innovation, Design & Technology has been alongside Donald on his journey and says: “It's absolutely wonderful to witness Donald's success in the face of numerous adversities and challenges throughout his academic journey. Stories like this are the reason why we do what we do.”

Media contact: Ruth Lavelle-Treacy 021 104 6909

Hear more from Donald →

Listen to Donald on Radio 531pi, in their Pacific Days segment, talk more about his journey and why he chose IT.

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