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Our Stories • Volume One

Leti Leilua

Talofa Leti.

What do you do?

I am the Head of Product and Marketing at Whānau Tahi, I focus on the Product vision and strategy that supports the direction of our Product roadmap based on the digital experiences that allows us to empower and support other organizations to serve their communities and whānau. I work alongside software development teams to solve problems and identify meaningful solutions whilst advocating for the end-user and keeping us close to the why.  I'm not a technical person at all, so communication is key to being able to share stories between our technology and business units and asking powerful questions such as 'What problem are you trying to solve? What does good look like for your customers? What is the impact on whānau?' etc these allow us to shift into a different tomorrow and push the boundaries with what is possible with technology. 

Why do you think it’s important to see our people in product?

By nature our people are navigators, orators and visionary people and these are key attributes to being an effective product person. When creating a digital product that fits tomorrow, it's finding the balance of honouring the experiences, pains and desires of people with empathy and leading with humility. It's knowing that you on your own cannot build a Digital Product, it's a collaborative role, it takes a village to nurture a product from seed to life. We understand how to navigate the complexities and we understand how to walk in two worlds. That’s the thing that is missing quite a lot when people don’t bring that extra layer of cultural intelligence and let's not forget a little bit of humor goes a long way.  

What’s your vision for yourself and technology?

That's a good question. If I'm being honest, I don't know how to describe it, but my vision for myself is something that is always evolving. I want to always lead with empathy and compassion to leave a legacy of impact at a scale with the help of technology.  For digital experiences to reach the hearts and minds of all people but especially those most underserved, with the digital experiences and solutions that have been built for them, by them.

How did you get started in the space?

I studied graphic design after highschool, I always took information technology and art but it wasn't the same as what the kids have access to today. My journey into Product and the Big Tech world started when I was  working in the Government Sector as a part of a transformation project, the application process was based on a creative brief: A 30 second video and 70 word paragraph outlining 'What service looks like to you.' They were looking for people who think differently and had the recruitment process been any different I probably wouldn't be in this space today.   


I remember my first 3 years clearly, it was long hours of mastering my craft as a Product Owner, taking Agile courses and any opportunity to learn from those around me. Product Ownership was fairly new at the time too, it was something you couldn't study at university etc so it was a big learning journey, even for the organization. So, I was really fortunate to be surrounded by great leaders and other Pasifika colleagues who helped me to find my voice, understand my strengths and helped me to build my belief that I too deserved to be sitting at the tables where decisions could be influenced and made for our people. 

What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career?

Over the last 7 years, I’ve learned that being Pasifika, female and young was a part of my superpower and not necessarily a challenge. Often, I find myself being the only representation of this in a room, which is missing for orgainsations and teams to not have our perspectives. However, these different experiences have shaped and grounded me furthermore into my culture, identity and my purpose in product and technology.   


Another challenge has been 'Imposter Syndrome' - where an individual doubts their own abilities. Imposter Syndrome is real! I am forever grateful to those who believed and saw potential in me before I could. 

 What’s the mantra that carries you as you’re navigating challenges and opportunities?

My word now is 'Possibilities' ...  There's always something that needs to be done, but I feel like we don’t dream enough! We're constantly in survival mode. Often, we don't hold space for ourselves to just sit and exhale when navigating challenges or opportunities. I like to ask myself and other peers... “Wouldn’t it be great if?” Let’s just dream. Holding onto that helps to shift our perspectives from “What are we going to do?” to “What can we do?”.

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