Tauranga Welcomes You!

Tauranga Welcomes You!

Kiwi Immigrants Blog

Tia Lush | The Newcomer Bringing a World-Class STEMFest to Tauranga
4 April 2019
Tia Lush | The Newcomer Bringing a World-Class STEMFest to Tauranga

In October 2019, Tauranga will earn itself a spot on the world map of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by hosting its first ever STEM Festival.

Tauranga’s STEMFest is the brain child of Tia Lush – a Vietnamese-born, English-raised recent migrant to New Zealand. A graphic designer and technologist, Tia is eager to inspire the next generation to get involved in the science and technology sector. She knows what she’s doing – Tia founded STEMFest in Peterborough, UK in 2016, which has successfully completed a third year welcoming around 3,000 visitors!

Since moving to Tauranga in 2017, Tia has dedicated her life to two things: getting STEMFest off the ground and making sure her family is well-settled in their new home by the beach. When she can squeeze anything else into this busy mix, she also runs her graphic design business, Who Ate My Crayons

Here is Tia's seachange story.

Tia, where did you grow up?

Born in Vietnam, I spent my early years in Cambridge, England before my family moved to South London where I attended primary and secondary schools. I would say my formative years were spent being a proper South Londoner (but with a Cambridge accent).

Tell us about your career to date.

I studied fine art with every intention of being an interior designer. I got an office job to get some admin experience and, noticing that I was creatively inclined, my bosses offered me opportunities to work on design work. One project was to help create wireframe concepts for my company’s CEO who was starting a new business venture.

I discovered that I rather enjoyed graphic and website design. I built on those skills taking every opportunity to work on related tasks, paid and unpaid, until eventually I was offered a position at a media monitoring company as a graphic and website designer.

In 2005, my daughter was born and I didn't want to have to commute from Peterborough to London, so I set up my own company and began to work as a freelancer.

Can you describe the relationship between creativity and technology within your career?

Being a designer in the digital/technology sector gives me a huge scope to work from. I'm very fortunate that my job is not fixed in one sector or industry which means I get to work with some awesome businesses and individuals and no project is ever the same, which allows me to get my creative fix.

When did you start thinking about moving to New Zealand?

My husband is originally from Palmerston North, so from the start of our relationship the question of living in New Zealand always cropped up whether it was from friends or family. It wasn't a serious consideration until about four years ago though.

What made you seriously consider moving here?

Our best friends (who are also New Zealanders) had decided to move back with their young family and were thriving, sending back envy-inducing photos of the Mount and the beach.

Our eldest was about to start secondary school in the UK and we thought that if there was ever going to be a good time to make the move then it would make sense to do it before she got too deeply into her education career.

How did Tauranga end up on your radar?

We had visited Tauranga over 10 years ago but as it was to visit grandparents, I don't recall exploring further than the suburb we stayed in. When we were considering the move to New Zealand, our top picks were Wellington, Christchurch, and Tauranga.

I have always loved Christchurch as it reminded me so much of Cambridge and Wellington reminded me of London. But the appeal of moving to Tauranga was that we already had our best friends there, so it made sense to build on that advantage and not have to start from scratch. As I began researching, a city with easy access to the beach lifestyle definitely helped sway things in Tauranga's favour.

Tell us about Tauranga’s STEM Festival.

STEMFest is a free-to-attend world class festival, held in Tauranga, designed to engage and inspire a new generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. It’s an event that offers hands-on learn by doing and a celebration that is designed to inspire the whole whānau and community, for children, young people, and adults!

What was the catalyst for you to found this festival in Tauranga?

I founded a STEM Festival in Peterborough and really enjoyed it. Having proven the concept back in the UK, I was interested in finding out if Tauranga was ready for something similar. I met with my new friends at Venture Centre and I was encouraged by how strongly they believed in the festival. What started out as a modest idea grew into an exciting and ambitious street-based STEM Festival, the first of its kind in Tauranga and New Zealand.

Why is STEMFest important to you?

As a parent with young children, I want my children and all children to have the same advantages and opportunities. To be able to explore careers and jobs they may have never considered yet.

There's so much untapped potential, we need to empower our tamariki to become creative and passionate learners so they can be the leaders of tomorrow. We can only do this when there is a genuine willingness to collaborate and work together as parents, communities, educators, and industry leaders. This is the strength of STEMFest and I am thrilled to be involved at the start of this exciting journey in my newly adopted country.

What did you think moving to Tauranga would mean for your career?

I had built up a great network of friends and colleagues in Peterborough and I knew there would be challenges and it would take time and effort to find where I fit in within Tauranga’s tech community. But I realised that I had done the same thing when we first moved from London to Peterborough – if I could do it once, I could probably do it again.

Having worked for myself as a freelance designer for over 12 years meant that I was experienced in working remotely and I knew it really didn't matter if I was in Peterborough or a beach in New Zealand. I left the UK with a handful of clients whose projects I have been able to continue working on. I tell them that I am working from the future.

How have you found setting up your business in Tauranga?

My plans to set myself up as a designer has taken longer than I had anticipated, but that's squarely down to me. If I wanted to, I could have attended the numerous networking and business events that are on offer in Tauranga, but in reality what I have been doing is building my own social network and community and trying to find my place in a new culture and country.

What connections or support networks have you found helpful?

I have always been familiar with the concept of shared office space and coworking, so I specifically set out to find these things in Tauranga. I work out of Basestation, a coworking space in Tauranga city, which also given me not only a physical space to work in but also allowed me to part of a wider community.

I have also met with various people at Priority One through my work with STEMFest and I see great potential for collaboration. We are all working towards the same goal which is to have New Zealand lead the global stage on marine, geo, agri-tech, tech, and engineering advances; the future success will be reliant on us creating a new generation of collaborators and creative thinkers.

What has surprised you about Tauranga?

How much of an international influence the city has. It's a wonderful diverse mix of people and culture that makes for a very exciting future.

What do you love about living here?

The city/beach lifestyle. My Kiwi family, friends and my lovely house with its amazing views across the city and the Mount. Being able to do what you want and know that you are supported and there are people who have your back.

Has anything been challenging?

Navigating the existing communities and finding out where I fit in with it all. But I have been lucky to have some amazing guides. Time will take care of the rest.

What has moving to Tauranga meant…

For your career?

Unexpected path, but nevertheless an exciting one.

For your wellbeing and work/life balance?

Great so far! Time will tell if the work/life balance still remains balanced after the STEMFest.

My friends back in the UK ask if I'm happier and my honest answer is that I am not happier but happy in a different way. Ask me again in five years.


Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

No-one can tell you when you're ready for a change of lifestyle...but when you are, we'd love to have you in Tauranga!

1. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TaurangaWelcomesYou

2. Subscribe to our montly e-newsletter to receive stories just like this one about people who have already made the big move you are thinking of making. 

3. Have a story to share? We love sharing your sea-change or homecoming stories. Email me at kathryn@priorityone.co.nz to start a conversation.

Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz


Looking for work in Tauranga?

Send me your CV and a 100 word bio and we will send it out to local businesess who are on the lookout for good people. Priority One is not a recruitment agency, but as the economic development agency for the region we seek to make connections for people where we can. There is no charge for this service.

Email me at annie@priorityone.co.nz.

Annie Hill | Priority One
Communications/Project Manager

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