Palmerston North software developer Gray Hockley manages Levno’s mobile app. Photo / Provided
Gray Hockley is living his dream by working as a software developer for technology company Levno in Palmerston North.
Hockley, 27, describes herself as “a bit of a tech geek.” A gamer from a young age, she has always enjoyed keeping up to date with the latest technological developments, whether it’s new virtual reality headsets or robots.
Despite her keen interest in all things technology, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she left school. Originally from Feilding, Hockley spent his 20s bouncing around the country working in retail and fast food. She also dabbled in academic papers, but was uninspired.
Then one day in 2018, she was on a one-day job trial with a weed spraying company and she had a realization that would change the course of her life.
“We were basically hanging around the forest all day trying to spot a weed so it could be sprayed. I thought it would be so much easier if we had a drone with a camera on it. We could just fly all over the bush to spot the weed, then we’d know exactly where to go.”
It was then that she realized she could put her passion for technology to good use and make labor-intensive jobs like this more efficient. When she returned home that afternoon, she applied to study software engineering at Massey University.
By the end of 2021, Hockley was on track to complete her studies and had two more papers pending for 2022, then she could graduate. As summer vacation approached, she needed to find a job, but she didn’t want to work in retail as she had in previous years.
It was during this time that she attended a technology meeting in the city. The monthly networking event was open to people working in or interested in the technology sector.
Hockley had worked on a software project with Jonathan Giles, a senior Microsoft Java architect, in college and he convinced her to check it out. During her stay, she took the opportunity to submit her resume to the leader of Manawa Tech, Steve Pavarno. He passed it on to Levno and a few days later the company offered Hockley a paid 12-week summer internship.
“It was crazy,” she says. “Within a week, I went from thinking, ‘oh no, I have to go back to job hunting and working some shitty retail job on Christmas,’ to suddenly, ‘oh my God! I’m going to get paid to work full time in the job that I’ve wanted to do all along’.”
At the end of his internship, Levno offered him a full-time position as a software developer. The business suited her perfectly, so she jumped on it.
Levno develops on-farm systems that monitor milk, fuel, effluent, water and feed. The data is then transmitted to the Levno team, which transforms it into readable data. Hockley says they can alert farmers to issues such as water leaks and faulty equipment via text message.
His role is to maintain Levno’s mobile application. She uses her knowledge of software coding to add new features and fix bugs, in order to optimize the customer experience.
For Hockley, joy comes from working within the confines of coding and creating something new.
“I’m sitting here looking at my lines of code and then you hit ‘go’ and the world can see it on the App Store. It’s like, ‘there it is. I made this! Look, this’ is all shiny’.”
Learning to code has been a steep learning curve, but as the “baby of the team” she relies on the experience of her colleagues.
“I have to ask a lot of questions, but everyone is happy to explain and coach me on how things work and how to do things in the future.”
Six months into the job, she’s still as excited about working in the tech industry as she was when she signed up for her degree. She loves her job and earns a decent salary.
She will complete her degree this year and the future looks bright.
So what’s it like to be a technician living and working in Palmerston North?
“I’m having a blast. Everyone I’ve met in the industry so far has been so friendly and eager to help.”
She encourages anyone interested in working in technology to follow her passion.