Boundless team spirit wins Sensand staffer a special distinction from his adopted state

5 min read

They say you shouldn’t bring your work home, but for Sensand software engineer Yuba Raj Panta it’s been a fairly nice problem to have. As both a software whizz and a conscientious community leader, “UV” has been in high demand across Darwin’s fast-growing Nepali community – where he’s gained considerable kudos of late.

It began back in April when, much to UV’s embarrassment, a friend nominated him for one of the NT Government’s most prestigious awards: the Excellence in Youth Leadership Award. Although he was knocked out in the semi-finals, his colleagues at the Nepalese Association of the Northern Territory weren’t satisfied with that – nominating him instead in the NT Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Yuba Raj UV Panta
home truths

Age: 30
Nationality: Nepali
First job: Web designer in Nepal (earning A$2 a day!)
Alma mater: Charles Darwin University (Master of Information Technology)
Family: Wife Soniya, and a baba on the way!
Hobbies: Volunteering, photography
Favourite vacation spot: Mustang region, Nepal

On October 20th, their persistence paid off when UV was declared Chief Minister’s 2022 Volunteer of the Year – the highest community honour earned by a Sensand staffer to date.

“We’ve always known that UV did a lot for his local community,” says Sensand CEO Peter Moulton, “but when I saw his nomination form, I couldn’t believe just how much he has poured his heart and soul into this voluntary work – while all along managing an extremely demanding workload from our engineering and backend integration teams.”

When he’s not managing the cloud infrastructure for Blockbase and Mintly, or doing any of the 101 coding, testing, monitoring, fixing and refining tasks that come with it, UV can – perhaps unsurprisingly – be found at his desk, burning the midnight oil for his beloved Nepali community.

Projects everywhere

As a NANT executive, UV became involved in a huge range of projects – from the busy Nepali Language and Cultural School, which reaches up to 70 local children each Sunday, to the NANT-sponsored Darwin Hearts soccer club, to a busy calendar of events celebrating Nepal’s vibrant poojas and other religious festivals.

In 2020, just after the advent of COVID, UV was appointed NANT President and took on even more responsibilities, as isolated members of his community reached out for reliable health information and support from local volunteers.

The “down time” of COVID also enabled him to turn his attention to the Association’s ageing management systems, which – being a software developer – he was keen to drag into the 21st century. First, he successfully applied for a $30,000 grant from the federal government, which enabled him to develop a new digital portal for the nearly 300 members, managers and volunteers involved in NANT’s projects and programs.

The system proved such a success streamlining the association’s administration, planning and reporting that it’s now being “shared” with several other community organisations in Darwin, and Volunteering NT, the peak volunteering body, is also interested.

“It’s really exciting because we’ve been getting so much positive feedback,” says UV. “You can find lots of similar software online, but they tend to be expensive and most not-for-profits don’t have the budgets for these sorts of things.”

This theme of replicating success comes up a lot in UV’s work. As well as organising several multicultural events with the NT Government, he’s recently helped document some of the language and literature lessons delivered through NANT’s Sunday classes into a practical workbook for other “cultural teachers” around Australia. So far, six other Nepali associations in NSW, Victoria and Queensland have adopted the workbook for their own use.

“Like many Australians who come from elsewhere, it’s really important to us Nepalis to keep our culture alive, particularly when our children are 2nd generation Nepalis born here,” he says.

In fact, he’ll soon have a chance to practice what he preaches, with him and Soniya expecting their first child in March!

Personal connections

Like several of our team, UV came to Sensand through a personal connection: his high school classmate, Bishal Sapkota, our engineering team lead. Two months after he joined as a contractor in September 2021, Peter invited him to join full time – and he hasn’t looked back.

In fact, we’re delighted to announce that UV and Soniya will be moving to Melbourne in mid-2023, so we’ll have one of our most important technicians on the doorstep. UV says he’s over the moon.

“I love Darwin, but I can’t wait to be close to the team. It’s been fine connecting virtually, because all the team are really flexible and open with their communications. But there’s a human connection when you meet face to face which I’ve definitely been missing.

“At Sensand, I find the team really works in sync, we’re very open and passionate about the company values – which encourage you to think big, and make new things work. In most corporate cultures it’s quite difficult to get something new inside the workflow – but at Sensand, the opposite is true.

“In this business, you can take ownership of new ideas and develop your own projects, and I really appreciate that. What we’re developing here is something unique, which will help farmers manage their farms and make better decisions based on real-time data. I can’t wait to see where it’s going to take us.”