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Our Stories • Volume One

Julia Arnott-Neenee

Talofa Julia.

What do you do?

I am CEO of Fibre Fale and a Board Member on a range of different Boards.

How did you get started in tech?

My passion for Digital Equity started when I landed a huge break with Tech giant HP as Strategic Planner of the United Kingdom and Ireland at 24. I was the youngest member of the team, responsible for one of HP’s largest markets, and though I was defying stereotypes,  misconceptions and a role model as one of the 2.8%  of Pacific Women in Technology - buttttt it did not take long for my values of justice, people and futures to come to a head as I witnessed the digital divide and tech gap while working in London, seeing Technology exacerbating existing inequity.  

I remember I emailed the Prime Minister asking what was happening to future proof communities that will continue to fall behind - I didn’t get a reply of course haha but I knew it was a sign that this meant so much more to me. I then got the role of Worldwide Product Insights Manager and then Global Social Strategy Lead for HP and moved to San Diego at 26, the promotion, salary increase and relocation couldn’t cover up a deep inner voice yearning to do more fulfilling work and to be at least trying to make a positive difference in the digital divide.


So in 2019 I decided to dedicate my career to forging ahead with profession, purpose and place intertwined and journey home to New Zealand. By January 2020 at 27 I worked on making that happen, first with PeopleForPeople and and now with Fibre Fale - bringing me to where I am now! This is absolutely the highlight reel or condensed version of the story but it gives a bit of an overview.

Why tech? What inspired you to get into the industry?

Honestly, I’ve never been an A+ student in High School or in University and I remember thinking back to my first few roles in Adversity and Market Research, I was trying to figure out how I was going to future-proof myself, how was I going to be able to financially support myself and be able to not be a burden to my Mum who was the sole parent bringing me up… so after nights of researching I found Technology and I found out you didn’t need all the A+ to be given a chance… So, that was enough for me to think alright then - I’m going to give this Industry a go. 

What does a day in the life look like for you?

So, I’m a first time CEO haha and even using the label ‘CEO’ is really strange to me. As we are a small and new organisation - I’m covering quite a bit of ground in building our foundations. A day in the life for me involves checking in with the team, making sure our heads of departments are supported and have what they need, having meetings with potential partners - across community, industry, and education sectors, working on potential business models and revenue opportunities, understanding what does positive impact look like by us, how do we measure what we do, checking in with funders, strategic planning, supporting our delivery programmes, and making sure the team feels looked after and valued, advocating in different rooms / spaces, driving representation through speaking at Industry events and in front of the community wherever I can. Plus troubleshooting any challenges that come up for us on a daily basis (there are plenty when you are small and just starting out!) 

What is one message you would give to your younger self?

I spent a long time questioning whether I should leave HP and leave a corporate Tech job. Everything society tells you is to stay where you can get credibility, skills, exposure and experience. To stay in what is safe and secure. I wouldn’t trade what HP enabled me to experience. I just wish the younger me - trusted that I knew it wasn’t the place to fully let me bloom or to truly feel fulfilled in purpose and didn’t spend so long beating myself up whether what I was about to do was the right move. 

What is one lesson you’ve learnt in your career so far?

You cannot be found if you don’t put your flame up… You have to back yourself to put yourself forward, you don’t keep yourself small - you gotta give your light, your flame, the chance to be seen. I got my job at HP because I was crazy enough to think there was a 0.00001% chance I might be seen, and that chance came true I did, and then I went on the journey of a lifetime. 

What is one cultural value significant to you that you carry with you in this space?

Mmmmm so service is the clear one as that has led me to this space! Though so much of what leads me is justice - though that might be a more recent value to come in that language but for generations our communities have been pushing for change, for our rights, for independence, in subtle and in bold ways. Approaches and strategies change and evolve generation by generation. Reminding me, we are fighting for change in this particular Industry but we are connected to the wider collective (both past and present) of those who are also pushing for justice. 

Do you have any words of advice for others wanting to move into the space?

For me, my advice to others wanting to move into Tech has changed. I want our people to see themselves as not only capable of working at a Tech company but building Tech companies and building tech companies that do good for the world. My advice is to not put a limit on how far you can go in this Industry - to dream of what it would look like to build your own vision for tech, your own product, service, software, AI, anything… that we can, and we should, be leaders in this Industry. 

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