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Reality Check: Sharesies' Sonya Williams

As part of Idealog's Technology Month, we've picked the brains of some of the movers and shakers in the industry to find out their favourite tech-related things, their biggest fears for the future and what other companies and individuals inspire their work. Here's Sharesies co-founder Sonya Williams.

What’s your favourite…

Technology you can’t live without?

The internet.

Underrated or old technology?

Search engines – maybe they’re not ‘underrated’ but one of those things I’ve gotten so used to, that I felt the need to give it a shout out.

New Zealand tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

The team at Banqer – such a great way to help kids learn about money.

Global tech company or individual in that space that’s doing seriously cool things?

Pretty much anything Elon Musk is involved in.

Tech project or product you’ve had a hand in?

Sharesies<3

Tech project or product that isn’t yours, but you’re envious of?

8i – so cool.

What first drew you to this industry?

I guess I’ve always been involved. I got the bug while working at Springload while I was at uni, and then at Xero. It’s pretty cool space to be in. Especially living in NZ. You can have a primo lifestyle, but work in global companies.

What do you enjoy the most about working in tech?

It makes a bunch of stuff more accessible than it has been before, which means more people can get involved. You don’t have to be able to afford rent of a shop to get your products to customers.

How would you describe New Zealand’s tech culture?

I think we’re a pretty driven and innovative bunch who are super resourceful. We’re pretty far away though, so have to stay connected to what is going on in the world so that way we can see the scale of the opportunities.

Where does inspiration come from for you?

Working with awesome people.

Reality check

How has tech impacted on your work? How will it impact on it in the future?

Heaps – I remember my first job in an office I didn’t even have a computer. Now I can’t even imagine what I’d do if that was the case. It also meant we could build Sharesies. Traditionally you’d need heaps of money to start investing. Especially when it comes to the cost of supporting a customer. But with scalable technology like AWS, it doesn’t really cost us any more to have 10,000 customers with $5 than it does to have one customer with $50,000.

What’s been the most concerning change that technology has made to human behaviour, in your experience?

Prob the addiction to refresh, or to be constantly checking something.

How would you describe your relationship with technology? Do you think you’re addicted to any form of it?

Hmmm, prob based on previous answer, I’d say I was pretty addicted. I try to leave the house without the phone from time to time, though. 

Do you think social media is a blessing or a curse?

Depends how you use it. People are closer than ever, but it can be an epic time waster.

Do you think technology needs more laws surrounding it, or a form of resource consent regulation?

Not sure if it needs laws. But more ownership with individuals and their data would be great. In the UK, for example, they’ve made all banking data open to the customer, rather than owned by the bank. This really allows people to create more choice about their experiences rather than feeling locked into one.

What needs to be done to tackle the diversity issue in tech?

Everyone knows why diversity is important. Great things happen when different points of view come together. People are definitely more aware of it now, but it seems we have a problem putting it in action. Make it a priority! Actively seek different points of view to your own, and create an environment where those differences are valued.

When we were putting together our co-founder agreements for Sharesies we chatted about how maternity leave will affect shareholder vesting. We found this isn’t in the templates that exist online. We came up with our own way, but it makes you think – if people aren’t there to ask the questions, then it won’t be baked into a company's infrastructure from the start.

What worries you the most about technology?

Privacy and how being constantly on show changes how people behave.

What’s your scariest prediction for the future? Will the robots kill us all?

Hah! At a webstock a few years back Genevieve Bell spoke about Robots and humans. And how we’ve always been obsessed that the robots are going to have all the worst human qualities. But it’s pretty awesome to think about life where the robots aren’t evil.

What will New Zealand look like as a country in 2037?

It’s fun to think about what the future will be like. Will there even be countries? How will money work? I hope at least that we’ve started protecting our natural resources a bit more.