A self-confessed magpie learner, Riki-Lee Toki dabbled in several interest areas before deciding she could best support herself and her young son Jack by pursuing a career in information technology.
The Bachelor of Computing Systems graduate is now happily settling into her helpdesk support technician’s job at the Eastern Institute of Technology in Hawke’s Bay.
At high school, Riki-Lee did classical studies and media studies in addition to the usual run of subjects. Computer studies weren’t part of the mix, but she picked up skills while doing EIT’s Diploma in Video & Electronic Media.
She then did a Diploma in Commercial Broadcasting in Wellington, and subsequently worked for a radio station in Central Hawke’s Bay, gaining experience in journalism, sound engineering and announcing.
Riki-Lee starting thinking about computer studies when Jack, now five, was about 18 months old.
‘It was jumping,’ she says of the industry, ‘and I thought I’d better get in for the money.’
Achieving well with EIT’s Diploma in Information & Communications, she decided to put in a further two years to complete the degree programme.
‘We needed 80 percent for a pass in the diploma, so I set myself a high bar for degree course marks. I am a bit competitive’.
EIT awarded her the Allister McLay Memorial Cup for the best all-round BCS student in 2009.
By the time Riki-Lee graduated in March last year, there were few jobs available in IT. She temped, doing database entry for a credit control agency, so she could focus on finding work in her chosen field.
It took some patience, she admits, but she was delighted when her perseverance paid off with a job offer from EIT late last year.
The 28-year-old views EIT’s merger with Tairāwhiti Polytechnic as a welcome challenge in her role on the helpdesk.
‘It’s good that Gisborne’s computer problems are being handled by EIT in Taradale.
‘I enjoy being busy, and it’s going to be so nice helping the staff based at the Gisborne campus, teaching them as they watch you working through their problems by remote access.’
Contemplating where she might head her career, Riki-Lee sees Hawke’s Bay remaining her home as she works in different areas of the industry – project management and system analysis and design.
She rates EIT’s computing and technology lecturers as ‘a brilliant lot’ and still goes to them if she has a problem. In fact, she aspires to becoming a lecturer herself in about 10 years’ time.
As for the lure of overseas travel, she’s already thinking about how she might manage that without being away from Jack for too long. Her pipedream is to take in such diverse destinations as Siberia, Egypt, Ireland, South Africa, New York, Chicago and perhaps San Francisco.
It seems that Riki-Lee may also continue to indulge her love of learning in the years ahead.
‘I could keep studying, but I’d like to do something in the humanities such as philosophy or classical studies, just for its own sake. I like knowing about everything,’ she says with a laugh. ‘I’m nosy.’