Our new wāhine co-CEOs
In October 2021 our founder and CEO Bron Thomson made a surprise announcement to the Springload team. To resounding applause, she invited Emily Vaka’uta, our Chief Finance Officer, to join her as co-CEO.
This new joint leadership model recognises the importance of designing and building digital products for all of Aotearoa. Shared, bicultural leadership is crucial in achieving that.
In a world that still largely equates business success with profit, leadership that puts people and planet first is critical if we’re going to affect change.
Leading by example
Emily Vaka’uta is of Ngāpuhi descent. She came to Springload in early 2020 with two decades of leadership in financial services and as a chartered accountant. She also brought her passion for equity, building great workplace cultures, and creating pathways for Māori and Pasifika people to succeed.
Initially, when Bron offered her the co-CEO position, Emily felt gripped with imposter syndrome. It took her dad to remind her to take a hold of the opportunities the position offers, that it’s about making a difference for others.
I am passionate about addressing the inequality and inequity that exists for tangata whenua and also Pasifika in NZ.
The journey to where she is today has been one of ups and downs. “I’ve been dismissed in meetings when technically I was the decision-maker, I’ve worked in places where no one looks like me, I’ve been profiled/stereotyped and the list goes on. However, through it all I’ve always had my kete open and with whatever sadness, pain or adversity I’ve faced I’ve made sure I’ve learned from it.”
Supporting each other
Bron founded Springload in the early 2000s, and initially, it was just her designing and building websites out of her Brooklyn flat. Following her founding principle of 'be nice and do good work', over the years the company grew.
Earlier this year, when Bron felt she needed more support she reached out to Emily. “Emily said to me, ‘tell me what you need. Whatever it is. I’ll support you,’” says Bron. “I realised that not only did I not need to do this on my own, but I could be (and Springload could be) better off if we were doing this together.”
This resonated with Emily. “I know how important it is, and what it feels like, to both have support and also to be supportive,” she says. “I’ve had amazing allies, people that have taken the time to pass on their knowledge, afforded me opportunities and opened up doors that I hadn't considered available to me.”
If there’s anything that the last 18 months of Covid have taught us all, it’s the importance of wellbeing. Not just wellbeing at work, but wellbeing in every aspect of our lives.
Springload’s whakapuāwai strategy
Companies typically have a growth strategy, focused on maximising profit, often at the expense of sustainability and wellbeing. Instead, Springload Te Pipītanga has a whakapuāwai (regeneration) strategy.
For Springload, whakapuāwai means “to cause (everything we touch) to blossom, develop, flourish, thrive, regenerate” and has three strategic pillars.
- Inclusive and equitable world – to increase digital inclusion in Aotearoa, and help remove the barriers that contribute to inequity.
- Climate action and sustainable planet – to reduce carbon emissions in the world and contribute to a sustainable planet.
- Digital transformation – to be leaders in digital transformation and human centred technology, focusing on being a thriving, sustainable business that does good.
These three pillars work hand in hand. Digital transformation has the power to do so much good as long as it doesn’t leave those with less digital capability, or access to digital tools, behind. There is a real risk that the gap will widen unless we focus heavily on digital inclusion and true sustainability and regeneration.
This is why Springload is a human-centred digital agency, putting regeneration first. By focusing on technology for good, digital inclusion, and sustainability. We’re using our digital superpowers to close that gap, and not widen it.
Emily has led a number of cultural initiatives, including noho marae, te reo and tikanga classes and Te Tiriti o Waitangi training for the Springload team. She also spearheaded free workshops led by our team for rangatahi Māori to learn the basics of web development, helping to create pathways for them into tech.
I want to provide an environment where we learn from each other, while creating space for others to come alongside me or ultimately reach greater heights than I can.
Looking to the future
While they’ll each focus on different aspects of the business, with Bron spending more time on new initiatives like those coming out of Springlabs, and Emily focusing more on Springload’s people and operations, they plan to continue to work closely together.
Covid has changed the landscape for businesses around the world, with many looking for help with their digital transformation needs. At the same time, awareness of the digital divide as well as the growing climate crisis mean that there is a real opportunity for Springload to work on projects that help create impact at scale — something that both Bron and Emily are deeply passionate about.
Needless to say, Springload Te Pipītanga is in two pairs of great hands now.