Women in Tech Series 2 – Overcoming the odds with determination and drive

Episode two can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15QsSuqS_0s

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing some of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations, hosted by Women in Tech ZA’s Samantha Perry.

Doreen Kekana, Large Enterprise ASR, Dell EMC South Africa and Carolyn Arnold, Legal Counsel for Dell EMC South Africa could not look more different, on the surface. Underneath, however, both harbour a fierce determination and drive to succeed and to be extraordinary.

Doreen was number six of seven children, who lost her mother at the age of 16. She knew then she needed to do something to change her life, as she saw no hope, and she knew her choices would determine her future. She chose education. “I knew education was the only thing that would break the pattern. Education was something I could own that no-one could take away from me.”

Funding was a challenge, however, and Doreen struggled to get her matric, and then get into university. Once she had done that she faced another challenge – in her first semester she fell pregnant. Not being one to let anything stop her, however, she studied through open learning and correspondence while looking after her baby, and finished her studies.

“It was difficult but fulfilling. I look back now and I do not cry, I just smile. I know I’d made it so far.”

Doreen landed in tech as she studied informatics which has broaden her options. Unsurprisingly, to anyone who knows her journey, she’s excelling. She knew she needed to study something that would give her viable career options, and that was within the reach of her resources, so when she enrolled at Unisa, so selected a BCom Informatics, which gave her a passion for information systems. That passion led her to applying for and getting a role in administrative sales support at Dell 14 months ago, and has just been promoted to an internal sales rep – a substantial promotion in a short period of time.

Carolyn’s challenges have been self-induced, she admits. She’s completed the gruelling Absa Cape Epic twice, no small achievement, and juggles sport with parenting and her role as Dell EMC’s senior legal counsel.

“I was lucky that, when we lived overseas, and my children were younger I was able to work part-time. When we came back to SA they were older, and I decided to get back into sport. There are challenges to maintaining that kind of structure in your day – and it is about developing structure. At the end of the day you don’t feel like you’re losing out of any element of your own life because you can be with your children in the afternoons, pursue my career and be involved in sport. Working at Dell they’re fantastic at work life balance, and as long as you get the work done how you structure your day is up to you.”

Both say their journey has been rewarding and are grateful they’ve ended up in a sector that provides personal and professional support and fulfilment.

Women in Tech Pretoria August meet up

Women in Tech Pretoria is holding its monthly meet-up at MMI Holdings on Thursday, 30 August at 5-30pm.

The evening will include a keynote address from Kefilwe Morobane, award-winning public speaker and entrepreneur entitled ‘The Power of Showing up”, followed by a talk by Ngwako Ramohlale, Founder & CEO of Nunnovation Africa Foundation.

We will then provide a short update on September’s planned event from Sdu Matlala followed by some fun and giveaways from Offer Zen. Wine and snacks will be served before and after the formalities.

Men and women welcome!

Date: 30 August
Time: 5-30pm, for a 6pm start
Venue: MMI Holdings, West Avenue, Centurion 
RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/972863979561073/

MTN announces shortlisted candidates in MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards

After days of reviewing hundreds of nominations for this year’s MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards. The adjudication panel has shortlisted the top three entries that will be competing in their respective categories for the top accolades.

The MTN Women in ICT – Partnership for Change Awards is a platform that recognises, honours and celebrates the contribution made by women professionals to the growth and development of the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in South Africa.

The top three nominees in each category are as follows:

Leadership Recognition Award: recognises senior female executives in the ICT sector whose proven depth of experience in leading change, influencing business outcomes and leading teams has impacted positively on the organisations they lead. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Christi Maherry
  2. Pamela Mkhize
  3. Mariana Kruger

Innovator Recognition Award: recognises women who have introduced new methods, ideas, or products that are contributing in one way or the other to the delivery of a bold, new, digital world. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Marlize Holtz
  2. Mariana Kruger
  3. Hlengiwe Mazibuko

SME Recognition Award: recognises wholly-owned, women-run enterprises that are viable businesses making inroads in the ICT sector. This is also extended to MTN employees who run their own enterprises on the side, using ICT to enable their businesses. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Seshni Doorsamy
  2. Nisha Maharaj
  3. Iman Malaka

Community Builder Recognition Award: recognises a woman who has made a considerable difference in her community through ICT, or use of an ICT tool to make a difference in the community. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Zandile Keebine
  2. Lee-Anne Wyman
  3. Lindiwe Matlali

Lifetime Achiever Recognition Award (Women Pioneer): recognises a woman who has longstanding success in the ICT industry, has demonstrated a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and has continually stayed ahead of the curve. The shortlisted candidates in this category are:

  1. Santie Botha
  2. Loren Braithwaite-Kabosha
  3. Joan Joffe

Excellence in ICT Journalism Award: this category seeks to recognise a journalist who has contributed immensely to creating a better understanding of the ICT industry through her reporting. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Yolandi Booyens
  2. Lauren Kate Rawlins
  3. Michelle Constant

Graduate Award (Tertiary): this category recognises a top ICT graduate from a tertiary institution who finished top of her class.  The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Elizabeth Bekker
  2. Tebatso Moape
  3. Retselisitsoe Lejaha

CEO’s Award: this award recognises an MTN employee who has made a difference within the organisation with the use of ICT and Technology. The shortlisted candidates are:

  1. Mapula Bodibe
  2. Mariana Kruger
  3. Nomaciko Ngoasheng

In addition to the categories listed above, a significant woman, whose contribution has helped to facilitate access to telecommunication services, will be announced by the Minister of Communications, Nomvula Mokonyane.

Says Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive Corporate Affairs at MTN SA: “We are pleased with quality of entries received and grateful for the sterling work done by our adjudicators”.

The adjudication process was audited by BDO auditors, winners will be announced at a gala event that will be hosted in Johannesburg on 30 August.  Remember to follow the conversation on Twitter: #MTNWIICT2018.

Women in Tech video series 1 – Rising Above

It’s Women’s Month, and Women in Tech ZA is once again hosting a video series showcasing the ladies of Dell EMC, hosted by our own Samantha Perry.

The first episode can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCpdg2xettk&t=4s

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing eight of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations.

Emogene Smith, Khulisa Academy co-ordinator, Dell EMC is a single mom to three boys, and the survivor of an abusive relationship. One she was able to walk away from, she says, partly due to the support she got from her boss and colleagues.

“It took some time for me to get to grips, to tell everyone, and speak out. Speaking out is one of the first steps you need to do, and to take a stand,” she says.

Her children, and the need to get them out of a fearful situation, motivated her to make that stand and take those steps.

Reagile Mosaka, account executive, Dell EMC, experienced a different struggle. Born under the Apartheid regime, her father chose to register his children as coloured in order to give them what advantages that could. Named Susan Morgan during her early life, 1994 gave her the courage to reclaim her real name and surname.

She says she felt like she had a different identity at work, and at home and that it was only after school when she reclaimed her name that she could unite those parts of herself, and be the real Reagile.

For both of them, the technology world offers a place they can play to their strengths. For Emogene that is in nurturing the school-age children they take through the Khulisa Academy, which takes children from rural areas with no opportunity to study, teaches them high-performance computing and then finds them jobs. For Reagile, she gets to explore transformation, education, and empowerment, all topics close to her heart and her personal journey.

Helping Dell EMC’s women play to those strengths is the Women in Action Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sabine Dedering regional sales director at Dell EMC, says Women in Action was born out of the idea that both men and women in the IT sector would like to be able to support their colleagues, and help to nurture the next generation of ICT skills through networking and outreach in the community. The ERG hosts regular meetings, including mentoring match-making to connect mentors and mentees inside Dell EMC, and working with colleagues and girls in nearby communities to help them overcome the social stigmas around girls and women being able to do maths and science, and what the tech sector offers them.

The Art of Female Gaming


eSports is one of the fastest growing sporting sectors and could be worth over US$5 billion globally by 2020. But this is not the most interesting aspect of this fast-rising and highly competitive world. Instead, eSports – the competitive play of certain video games for prizes – is proving to be a great magnet for women.

According to a PWC study, even though the gender split among gamers is 50/50, more women identify as professional gamers than men. There are two reasons for this: more women are starting to play games at a young age, thus improving their skills faster, and gaming is an egalitarian sport where strength and other physical advantages do not apply.

This is certainly the experience of Jana “SaltyMonkey” du Toit, captain of Bravado Gaming’s all-female Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team, Bravado Finesse: “Anyone who has played games – maybe played Call of Duty with your dad on a console – has a chance at professional gaming. If you’ve played anything, there might be something out there for you. I think many women are just unaware that it’s something that you can do.”

This was certainly her story. Even though Du Toit played games all her life, they were mainly single player and often on consoles. In her twenties, she discovered competitive gaming, which aligned nicely with her competitive nature. An eager sports participant during her school years, Du Toit was one of many whose itch for competition needed a lot of scratching – and esports delivered.

Changing the face of a male scene

But this idea is still foreign to a world that generally regards gamers as loner boys hiding in basements. Such perceptions are changing fast, not the least because new generations have normalised gaming to the same level of movies and music – it’s just something everyone does. But despite being around for more than two decades, female gamers have had a much tougher fight to be recognised.

Du Toit says that at one stage you could expect disparaging behaviour from guys: they either hit on you or make chauvinistic remarks. But  this has been changing in the past few years: “It was very difficult in the beginning. Most people didn’t want to play you because they either didn’t want to lose to girls or they didn’t feel like the skill level was similar or beneficial to them. To a great extent that was true. The skill level wasn’t quite there. But we did find people who were willing to assist us and play us and help us.”

Yet attitudes in South Africa have been changing, she adds, particularly over the last eighteen months. The shift is happening due to a combination of factors: female gamers have shown they can compete and win, games that appeal to women such as Hearthstone have become popular competitive titles, and gaming groups are much more focused on attracting female gamers and treating them as equals.

“It’s become a lot more normal to find girls in gaming and who don’t have the same issues we had before, where guys looked down on you. It is a way friendlier environment. All of a sudden, if I join a game, now I’m hardly ever the only female in the game.”

Serious competitors for a serious sport

This is not an idle pastime. Du Toit and her fellow teammates put in four hours of practice a day, six days a week, while balancing full-time jobs or studies. Their preferred game is CS:GO, which she initially avoided due to its violent gunplay. But the wider appeal of the game – chess-like strategy, viper reflexes and serious team cooperation – drew her and her teammates in.

Today Du Toit and the rest of Bravado Finesse – Kayhla “KayC” Calder, Rachel “rayChillza” van Dyk, Christin “2SSB” Meistre and Carmen Joe “Cjay” Mcleod – have set their sights on the big leagues of eSports.

Says Meistre: “Stereotyping in female gaming, in particular, is: “‘Oh, if a girl spends time sitting at a computer, she’s fat and lazy and typical stereotypes that everyone knows about’. We strive to eradicate this. We are much more than just a female team. We’re a team coming into the scene and wanting to create huge waves.”

A humble dream has evolved into something much bigger for them, Du Toit says. “We started off last year when we formed this team and we wanted to change female gaming for our scene. We wanted to make it acceptable and normalise it. Having achieved something so small and then realise it worked, we realised that we work together as a team and we can dream. For the first time we are dreaming about things like going international, be some of the best players in SA – that is something worth doing. That’s where I realised it’s what I want to do.”

But the fight for recognising female gamers is not over. Attitudes persist. The way to end that debate once and for all is for more women to join the ranks, play well and make their name as the best. This is why Bravado Gaming, sponsored by Dell EMC, Intel and Alienware, has an open invitation to any aspirant players, especially women.

“Put yourself out there. Don’t stop – keep doing it,” are Du Toit’s words of encouragement. “Keep practising every single day. Eventually, it will all get together. Don’t give up and it will work. We love to help female gamers. If there are female gamers who don’t know what to do or have got specific questions or issues, they can reach out to any one of us. We are on social media and we are happy to help.”

Not only is eSports set to become one of the greatest sporting movements in history, but women gamers are poised to be its dominant force. So next time you get beaten by a girl, remember: you’re paving the way for a future champion.

Watch Bravado Finesse at Rush Esports Expo 2018 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=298UcnhZ9CQ

Woman in Tech of the Week: Ruanne Lloyd

Woman in Tech of the Week: Ruanne Lloyd

Name: Ruanne Lloyd

Designation: Recently retrenched – Chief Information Officer.

What do you do every day?

A large part of my job is coaching and mentoring. I do believe that this is very important and women can do this job well, as we are natural nurturers. Ensuring the engine is running smoothly, and the correct processes are in place, creates the environment for both creativity and innovation.

I ensure the different teams communicate well with each other and support each other. Project managers, business analysts, developers, designers, testers and support staff are all part of the same team, and communication between them is key. I put a lot of emphasis on team work.

Every morning we do stand-ups for all the projects. This gives the whole team a clear direction on what they need to prioritise for the day. It is important then to let them get on with the job and not to allocate new tasks during the day.

I will then answer emails, have meetings with clients, and if necessary help with small tasks if required.

All critical tasks will be managed throughout the day, getting regular feedbacks so as to ensure the client can be updated.

I dedicate Wednesday afternoons to technology meetings where everyone can participate and come up with new ideas.

Friday afternoons are for training sessions or sometimes the sharing of motivational videos.

Exco meetings are held weekly where as a director I will participate in the strategic planning of the company.

How did you get into the tech space?

After matric, I knew that I would go to university. I really wanted to become a physiotherapist, but failed to get in. I decided to do Computer Science, as I knew I did enjoy programming. I had been taught by close friends to program in Pascal. I did Physics I, as a backup plan. After getting a first in my first year, I knew then, this is what I wanted to do. I eventually majored in Computer Science and Computational and Applied Mathematics. I had obtained a bursary, so I started working for the company, but continued to complete my Honours through UNISA part-time.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

To believe in myself and to have faith. It was my first job, and I was very shy, but I was keen and motivated to learn. During the first six years we had implemented an ERP system and were very busy with many other internal development projects. At the age of 27, my mentor and I.T Manager resigned to immigrate to America. He recommended me to take over his position. I was completely surprised, and also knew I was the youngest person in the team. I took the position, even though I did not feel I was capable at that time.  That leap of faith grew my confidence exponentially. My mom always said to me that there is no such word as can’t.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?

This is a very exciting space to be in, technology is changing the world. There are so many options to choose from, front-end / back-end development, security, data analytics, artificial intelligence etc. Most people would think you would have to be a very logical person to enter the technical sector, but this is not true, it also requires a very creative mind.  The best results always come from those who are allowed to tap into their creative side.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?

I will always ask myself, what difference can I make today? I am blessed because I really enjoy my work and I am a very passionate and driven person, so there is no lack of motivation. 

Management for me, is more about mentoring and motivating individuals to become their best-selves. It’s truly motivating when you see individuals grow before your eyes.

“Managing people is so much about being able to listen.”

Who do you want to be when you grow up?

The great thing about life is that no matter how old we are, we are always growing. I am proud of my achievements so far and becoming a Chief Information Officer.

Over the years I have seen how I.T departments would drive businesses. There has been a shift over the years, and businesses have started to drive technology, especially now that everything is becoming digitalized. Technology can be fun – having all these “toys” to play with, but without a business use case the “toys” hold no value. 

In the last six months I have become involved in a cryptocurrency project to learn more about blockchain. I am also currently learning more about machine learning as I have had many years of experience in working with data. I am hoping in the next few years my career will take me into these fields.

I really want to be the best version of myself, and that is what I will strive to be as I grow older. I want to be a mentor for other people, especially to women entering the technology sector.

Twitter : @ruanne_lloyd

LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/ruanne-lloyd-66161899/

Woman in Tech of the Week: Dominique Sandwith

Woman in Tech of the Week: Dominique Sandwith

Name: Dominique Sandwith
Designation: Co-founder
Company: Yellow Door Collective

What do you do every day?
I manage the day-to-day running of the agency, as well as oversee web development and design projects for our clients. Essentially my job entails making sure that the team feels supported and that all of our clients are getting what they pay for.

How did you get into the tech space?
I have always been tech ‘savvy’ – but I started my love affair with digital marketing just after university, when social media for business started taking off. I think the digital world has opened up so many doors for companies that may never have had the exposure that they can have today. Everyday I see Internet successes such as a small business which started in Stellenbosch and within a few years is selling their products to customers in the US and the UK. These stories excite me about the tech space and how digital marketing can change the way businesses are succeeding today.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Create your own job. So I did.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
A lot of my own success just came from good luck and being in the right place at the right time. That being said, I’m a huge believer in fate and know that every decision I make, whether it ends up being the right one or not, has some impact on my future. So I would say it’s important not to dwell on things that don’t work out, rather figure out what you learnt from the situation and move on to the next thing. And more specifically for the tech space: go out and meet people, chat about your work, be involved in your industry – there is no industry where networking is more applicable that in the tech sector, especially in a ‘small town’ like Cape Town.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
I am motivated by the people I work with who are excited about their jobs and that makes me excited too. It also motivates me to know that I am helping other small – medium businesses to gain success in their market.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be someone that people in my industry think highly of, respect and also understand. I want to employ people and make my little corner of the world a better place to be.

Social Media
@domsandwith
http://yellowdoorcollective.com/blog
https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominiquekotze/

Woman in Tech of the Week: Emma Donovan

Woman in Tech of the Week: Emma Donovan

Name:  Emma Donovan

Designation: Co-founder and new business director

Company: Yellow Door Collective – www.yellowdoorcollective.com

What do you do every day? I develop new products for Yellow Door, meet with potential clients and give strategic input on all our current projects and retainers. Every day brings a new set of challenges and I love that no two days are the same. We have a diverse range of clients that keep us on our toes and give us the opportunity to expand our knowledge, try out new marketing ideas and delve a little deeper into the tech space.

How did you get into the tech space? My Media & Writing degree at UCT only just scratched the surface when it came to exploring the tech space – but it whet my appetite and left me hungry to learn more.

My first job gave me the opportunity to write about a broad range of topics and really delve in to the fast paced and ever-changing online world; however it was the guidance of a few great mentors and partnering with Dominique Sandwith to launch Yellow Door Collective in 2014 that really enabled me to effectively adapt and use my skills in the tech space.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?  Speak with honesty. Think with sincerity. Act with integrity.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Before you dive in to the tech sector (or any industry for that matter) my advice is to network, research and get as much work experience as possible. Job shadowing and short internships will give you a good sense of what you’re in for – and will help you make an informed career choice. Work experience is also great on your CV and is likely to help you get a foot in the door once you’ve hand picked the companies you’d really like to work for.

Find out what you’re really passionate about, and then do that.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?  Having the opportunity to lead a balanced life and add value in different ways – mentoring our team, creating strategies for clients, and enjoying time with the people that matter most.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? A successful entrepreneur that still appreciates the small things in life.

Social Media