This is the second edition of our new Indigenous Innovator Series where First Nations Technology Council alumni tell their stories about how digital skills have made a positive impact in their lives and communities.
Words by Ryan Voght, Technology Council alumnus
When the pandemic hit, it gave me time to evaluate my life and what was important. I was working as an automotive mechanic at the time following dropping out of a bachelor of science program. I wanted to become a mechanical engineer, but my schedule was filled with elective courses in subject areas I had no interest in. It felt like a waste of my time. I wanted to design vehicles, so I decided I would pursue work as a mechanic to gain a working knowledge of them.
Repairing vehicles is a dirty job, literally and figuratively. Yes, I would come home with grime on my hands after a 45-minute commute, but it was the thought of spending my time supporting the use of toxic chemicals and burning of fossil fuels that really changed my perspective. I was sick of feeling ‘stuck’. It was time for a change.
I recall when I first learned about the First Nations Technology Council. I was spending time at a remote lake during the pandemic and saw an ad for one of the web development courses. I read all about the programs offered, and to be honest, it sounded too good to be true.
My time at the Technology Council embedded the belief in me that I can learn anything new if I put my mind to it. I was given a whole new perspective on what was possible. Not just career-wise, but what was possible with my abilities. It was time to find a meaningful role in tech that allowed me to positively impact as many people as possible.
When I was a kid, one of my uncles would do tape recordings of the Salish language of our people for schools in Merritt. He understood the importance of documenting our languages as fewer people were speaking them. This stuck with me, but it wasn’t until I entered the tech sector that I connected the dots. The way our people learn and pass things down is by word-of-mouth; very little was written down. Technology enables us to preserve our languages and cultures. That’s exactly what CultureFoundry was doing when I was hired as an intern and is what I continue to support as a software developer today.
We’re a small start-up in our third year that has developed a web-based language learning platform for communities to connect to their members through the revitalization of their languages. Currently, we’re assisting school boards in Ontario in teaching Ojibwe using our platform, and we’re expanding to add more Indigenous and non-Indigenous languages soon. CultureFoundry resonated with me right away. It’s the way they carry themselves and celebrate the different skills and lived experiences each team member brings to the table. On top of that, I enjoy a remote work environment which for me results in a higher quality of life.
It is vital that our people claim our space in the digital age. If you have an interest or idea, I say go for it. Tools as a result of technology allow us to do almost anything, especially with the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence. As Indigenous Peoples, we have different perspectives and worldviews to offer the tech industry, and access to technology is better than ever. No matter what you decide to do in your life, tech or not, hold true to yourself and believe in yourself – you’ll be respected and celebrated for who you are and the skillset you bring to the table.
GET INVOLVED TODAY
Learn more about our digital skills training programs here.
Contribute to our Digital Skills Bursary Fund here.