Category Archives: Women in Tech

Woman in Tech of the Week: Pamela Mkhize

Woman in Tech of the Week: Pamela Mkhize

Name: Pamela Mkhize

Designation: Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Satellite

Company: Enel Green Power

What do you do every day? I solve problems. Sometimes they are presented to me as technical challenges, other times they are presented as “the usual way of doing things”. I always strive to get results and provide solutions in the most effective and efficient of ways, instead of just “the usual” way. This involves me being able to make tough decisions quickly, and being able to respond to the requirements of the organisation that I serve and lead in, before a need arises. Every day I am both a servant to the business and the functions within it, where I interact with the Heads of other units within my organisation and external stakeholders; I am also a leader in the department and the countries that I am responsible for, which include South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, and Morocco, to name a few.

How did you get into the tech space? I’ve always been passionate about technology. Growing up I was usually categorised as that boring girl who would always be found by herself reading articles related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), I wouldn’t read them because I didn’t have anything to do, but I would read them because I was passionate about a “connected” future, which at that time was perceived as unreality. This then led me to enrolling for Electrical Engineering, and majored in Telecommunication Systems. For close to 10 years I worked in heavy manufacturing industries, where I did programming, control systems, and automation. During that period, I was seconded to a German technology company, where I contributed to a ZAR 960 million rand project. A few years ago, I was headhunted by Enel Green Power to lead their ICT strategy and operations as they started their operations in South Africa. They were looking for someone who not only had expertise in ICT, but also in Telecommunications, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Today, about 15 years into my career, I am more excited about what tech means today, than I was when I started my career; not only is tech becoming more and more relevant in the energy and manufacturing sectors, but in our daily living as well.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Although I understand that I am a product of what many people have contributed in my life, the one advice that stuck with me was one that I received when I had just started my career. My then mentor would say to me: “Always have your finger on the pulse Pam, always”. It took me some time to fully understand what he meant by that. At that time I was working for an organisation where 5 minutes of downtime on a machine meant a loss of millions of rands to the organization; I learnt at that time to always think of “the worst thing that could happen” and solve that before it happens. That is what he meant by having “my finger on the pulse – before the pulse stops”, this is how I translated it. He, unfortunately for me, immigrated to Canada, but 10 years later, his advice is still applicable, both in my personal life and in my career.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? It is important to first understand how much tech has evolved over the past few decades. Even with a basic understanding of this, one can have insight on what possibilities exist in tech, and what further developments can still exist. With such developments, more and more challenges are arising. For example, with such large amounts of data in the form of information, the challenge is – How do we store this data? How do we protect it? How do we transfer it? How do we replicate it? How do we make it easily accessible, without jeopardising it and the people who own it? These are the problems that exist now, and we have not yet found the best solution that will attend to these challenges. For a person who does not just want to get into the sector, but who also wants to succeed in it, they need to be thinking about the solutions to the problems that exist in the tech sector at this point and in the near future, and they should be equipping themselves to be ready to resolve them. I am certain that the tech sector needs plenty of problem solvers who are willing to dedicate themselves to doing what others are not willing to do – to think as though they are already in the future.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day? My eagerness to make a difference in the world motivates me to get out of bed each morning. For me, each day as an opportunity to make a difference, whether in the organisation that I lead in, or in someone’s life. If I were not to get out of bed, it would mean that I have just deprived the world an opportunity to get the best of me. Seeing the results of what I do consistently each day, motivates me to keep getting out of bed every day.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be Pamela Mkhize who is able to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, while having and maintaining the humility of my inexperienced self, as I continue learning.

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pam-mkhize-57b79ab

How to increase women in tech

How to increase women in tech

Women are underrepresented not only in tech leadership and professional positions but also in most online forums. Here are six ways to raise awareness of opportunities in the tech sector and grow female engagement with online services, forums and tech jobs.

Education

Girls have frequently been steered away from STEM subjects and towards artistic, literary and administrative-type education. Increasing access to tech education early and throughout girls’ education, as well as encouraging them in that path, is a good first step. Outside the classroom, hackathons, boot camps, and workshops offer accessible, fun and social learning environments.

Visibility

Technology companies can market themselves directly to women as potential employees and customers. Women outnumber men on most social media, and are more highly engaged. Companies can raise the visibility of jobs or products on social media, even targeting content to women, either by design or through paid advertising targeting. Video maker software from Biteable can be used to create attractive and appealing multimedia content and take advantage of the algorithmic benefit of video on social channels such as Facebook.

Rewards

Tech sector jobs tend to offer better compensation, benefits and perks than other professional roles. Highlight the rewards when targeting job ads to women, and review your compensation, benefits and perks for gender equality. Consider whether benefits or perks are unevenly distributed by gender and adjust if necessary. Women, like men, trade their skills for rewards that meet their needs or appeal to them. Find the right reward, and you’ll increase the female to male employee ratio.

Flexibility

Not all women are mothers or caregivers, or will ever experience those demands on their time, but there is a statistical preference for flexibility at work in both hours and location. This fits with a wider employee preference for flexibility and more reasonable work hours with less overtime. Nevertheless, offering remote work, less than full-time hours, the ability to work a flexible schedule, and making it clear that constant overtime is neither required nor expected can make tech jobs more attractive to women, as well as to men.

Network

Relationships and mentorship help women find jobs in the tech sector and grow in their careers. Progress is being made, with formal incubators, professional speed dating, boot camps, clubs and academies with built-in chances to connect, and professional organisations to foster support among women professionals in tech. Companies can get involved by sponsoring these organisations, and by encouraging and supporting staff to get involved in networking and mentorship opportunities.

Purpose

Reframe your business in terms of what problems you solve, who you help, and what your mission is. Women, and a growing contingent of men, are motivated by work that will be appealing, challenging and meaningful. Identify your core values and purpose, and use storytelling in advertising, job postings and social media to communicate these. Video is an ideal format for capturing an inspiring story and making an emotional argument.

We can grow the proportion of women in tech through a multidimensional approach that increases and improves access to education, networking and mentorship, and reframing career opportunities to meet the needs of a wider pool of candidates.

Author: Sophie Irons

Woman in Tech of the Week: Sam Beckbessinger

Woman in Tech of the Week: Sam Beckbessinger

Name: Sam Beckbessinger
Designation: Writer, Money Dork, Entrepreneur
Company: Phantom Design

What do you do every day?
I am trying to build a world where money isn’t a complex, opaque thing, but is something that we all understand and can use to fund our most audacious dreams. I wrote a book about this, called Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup, and I run a company that helps to build apps and tools that make finances easier to deal with. We’ve built everything from smart credit cards to apps that show you where your money is going to cryptocurrency exchanges, and more.

How did you get into the tech space?
In my heart, I’m a writer, which means that I am fascinated by human beings and how we’re making the world. I started out writing about tech, and then realized that it would be more fun to also start making some tech products of my own.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The stuff that makes you weird is what gives you the power to change the world. Not everyone’s going to like your weirdness, and that’s fine.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
Tech is about building a new vision of what the future can look like. It’s far too important to leave to only one narrow type of person. Don’t assume you need to have studied computers at university or have been a gamer since you were 5 to have a successful tech career; you just need to pick a project you care about and start making something. We need people with a background in the humanities, in social science, in biology, in business, in ethics… in everything. We need you: come and join us!

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
My cat sitting on my face and demanding to be fed. But also, my work is really fun, so getting out of bed is easy.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
No idea. Only boring people make long-term career plans.

Twitter: @beckbessinger
Website: http://likeafuckinggrownup.com/
Blog: https://medium.com/@greenhamsam
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sambeckbessinger
FB: https://www.facebook.com/likeagrownup/

Do you know an inspirational women in tech? Please get in touch with Robyn (robyn@kato.global) to get her featured!

Do you want to sponsor Women in Tech ZA (our research, website and events around South Africa)? Please get in touch with Robyn (robyn@kato.global).

Do you want to advertise to the  Women in Tech ZA network? Please get in touch with Robyn (robyn@kato.global).

Bernelle Verster

Woman in Tech of the Week – Bernelle Verster

Name: Bernelle Verster
Designation: Water Maverick, Shit Stirrer
Company: indiebio
What do you do every day?
Writing, mostly. Sometimes growing things – bacteria, algae, plants, fungi, animals (like flies, worms). I am trying to learn how to play with hardware like Arduino and getting better at data driven visualization to help communicate my work.

I work in beneficiation of diffuse pollution through biology. This includes wastewater treatment, but I’m also moving into urban waterbodies like urban estuaries. I like interfaces, connecting the dots to fill in the gaps. So much of my time is spent translating between what, for example, engineers say and what ecologists say and try to find a way that both can be accommodated. Or, what the public perceives and try to communicate all the trade-offs and complexities. At the moment I am trying to see how to coordinate bottom-up, DIY type behavior with the efficiency and economy of scale that engineers prefer but that comes with environmental trade-offs.

How did you get into the tech space?
I wanted to become a vet, but then fell in love with biochemistry in first year of university and stuck with that. Then I realized the cost of biotech is way too high and needed to learn some tech and engineering to make the biology work better. I’ve sortof just stumbled along with things, there wasn’t ever much direction or specific support.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Do what you can with what you have; and you will always be someone’s dog (in other words, don’t expect to come out ‘on top’ and then all your issues are over. That just doesn’t happen). The advice I never listened to was ‘it’s time you stop dreaming and get a proper job’.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Dream. Big, small, doesn’t matter, but don’t lose sight of reality. Prototype, play, fail fast. Look at what is – the current reality, even if it is uncomfortable. Ask the tough questions, listen to what people say. You don’t have to believe them, but they are coming from somewhere, interrogate what they say. Don’t underestimate the value of incremental change.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
Frustration. Having a big goal is nice, but really it’s the frustration of ‘if only this small thing can work better!’ Generally I wake up thinking, I’m going to go at it from this angle, maybe that works today. I think the real value I add to society isn’t through my big dreams and passions, but the little itches and irritations I try to smooth out along the way. Connecting people who can help scratch 😉

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
A whole person. Not a whitewashed darling on a pedestal.

Twitter handle @indiebio
Website: indiebio.co.za
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/indiebio/

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Deirdré Fryer

Name: Deirdré Fryer

Designation: Product Management Africa

Company: SYSPRO

What do you do every day?
Lots of meetings…
Industry and product Research to understand our positioning in the market as well as our strengths with a focus on looking for improvements.
Customer and sales engagements to understand and solve business needs with software and technology.
Product messaging and positioning to drive enablement of the product across our employees, partners and customers.
Collaboration with marketing and sales teams to drive collaboration around our product and the value features add

How did you get into the tech space?
By chance, while writing my final exams I took a temp job in reception at a software company, SYSPRO, and never looked back.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
If people are not adopting or buying into what you are proposing, change your approach. You need to show people the value in what is being offered specific to them, not how you see it, solve their pain and they will embrace what you are offering without question.
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
Learn, read, learn, read and never say no to an opportunity, even the smallest and most insignificant task will teach you something.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
The thought that today I could be part of something that will make someone’s life easier. Making a difference little bit by little bit
Who do you want to be when you grow up?
A wine taster 😉
The best role model to my two daughters, showing them that having a career and good life balance is possible, you can have the best of both worlds.

Twitter: @FryerDee
Linked In: Deirdre Fryer

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Karabo Kanyane Malatji

Name: Karabo Kanyane Malatji

Designation: 1st Year Junior IT Auditor

Company: Nkonki Incorporated

What do you do every day? I start off my day with a prayer. Every morning I get ready for work and I make my way to the Gautrain to travel to work where I’d grab my coffee fix before making my way to a client with the team. Each day is different some days are filled with a lot of admin and paper work. Some days we work through client systems using application controls and ITGCs to test the systems. So my day purely depends on what the client wants or who the client is. So it is quite flexible compared to the jobs I did previously.

How did you get into the tech space? I studied a BIS Information Science honours degree at the University of Pretoria and I’m currently a Master’s in Information Technology student at the university as well. I completed two internships in Information and records management previously at the Human Science Research Council and Education Labour Relations Council. I am also a Golden Key International Honour Society member which is a membership awarded to the top 15% students in their respective degrees for two years in a row. I am also a self taught Microsoft SQL database creation.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? The best advice I got was from my father. To always work hard for what drives me and keeps me up at night, not be short sighted and not be too hard on myself. To work towards my dreams everyday but still acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses at the same time. He always advices me to work hard as though I did not know where my next meal will come from. And to basically be smart with my money.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
I would advice them to always make time for themselves to relax and unwind because it gets hectic very quickly and be willing to put in the extra work and extra hours . They must have a teachable spirit and be willing to take up new challenges. They must be willing to grow because the tech industry is constantly changing. So there’s a lot to learn and produce in order to grow our ICT industry.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
I am motivated by the woman I aspire to be on a daily basis. A woman who is comfortable in her skin. A strong woman; academically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. A woman who inspires young girls to be themselves and not let society and their circumstances define them. Lastly, I am motivated by my dream to be an entrepreneur in the tech and education space That’s what motivates me to get out of bed, to be that woman and she is constantly on my mind everyday.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be someone who has inspired the next person to dream big and reach for their dreams especially in the academic space. I’d really love to be involved in seeing more young girls entering the science and technology space and reach their limits/ potential. I also want to be an innovator that has taken our tech and business industry to new heights .

Twitter handle: @fabiekay
LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/karabo-kanyane-malatji-Oab13a6b