Phillip Siegel, a 31 year old Palmerston North-based drummer and father of two working for infrastructure construction company Higgins, is not likely to strike you as the type of 'computer nerd' you see portrayed on television shows. Sporting a wolf tattoo and a love for rock music, he is living proof that high-waist pants and geek-glasses are more likely to be found in the wardrobe of a hipster, than on today's computer experts.
Like many New Zealanders, Phillip has travelled the world. After returning home to Palmerston North from the UK with his wife, he decided his time in hospitality was up.
"I've always had a passion for computers," says Phillip. "But I'm also a tinkerer - pulling things apart to learn how they work. Whenever family members have problems with their computers, I am their go-to guy," he says.
"So when we returned from the UK, I decided it was time to go after a career doing something that I truly loved. It was time to get serious about computing."
After completing his Diploma of Systems Technology at national computer training organisation, Computer Power Plus, Phillip landed a job for Higgins Contractors back home in Palmerston North, something he attributed greatly to the on-the-job experience he gained as part of his course. Now, Phillip is a bit of a hero, using his 'computer powers' for good, and helping those in less-fortunate circumstances.
In 2013, Higgins Contractors was awarded a contract for the maintenance of the roading network for the Western Division of the main island of Viti Levu Fiji. When some company laptops became redundant in New Zealand, Phillip saw the opportunity to make a difference in Fiji. He spent numerous hours of his time rebuilding the old laptops and loaded them with educational programmes for urban schools in Fiji, including the Yasawa Group of Islands.
The Yasawa Group of Islands have very little in the way of shops, banks and even medical services. The tourist industry is the main provider of work for the local people.
"The arrival of the laptops to coastal communities in Fiji has been met with complete and abundant joy," says Phillip.
'You have been sent from God', was the comment from the Director of Volunteer Vinaka, the organisation that manages the distribution of donations to the area.
"Rural schools in Fiji have limited access to technology, but with this initiative we're helping to bring them up to speed," says Phillip. "The computer training I received through Computer Power Plus and the support of Higgins Contractors meant that I could make a critical improvement to the education of children in this area. I'm pretty stoked to see my hard work pay off, and to give the rural schools a bit of a hand up," says Phillip.
Phillip's next move is to study IT management and to enjoy his recent relocation to a new home in central Palmerston North with his wife, Laura, and their two children - four year old Ryleigh-Jean and two-and-a-half year old Samuel James.