Women in Tech of the Week: Gabi Immelman

February 22, 2022 in CEO, Founder, Profiles, Women in Tech

Name: Gabi Immelman
Designation: Founder and CEO
Company: Mindjoy

What do you do every day?
I try play in expert mode at Mindjoy.

We are working to keep growing our inbound leads so that we can unlock the potential of children, ages 8-14 by connecting them to peers and projects that they love learning to code with. Our goal is to prepare youngsters with the critical digital and collaborative skills required for the future of work. We also aim to build children’s confidence in expressing themselves through technology.

How did you get into the tech space?
My desire is to have an impact beyond serving a small group of children at a micro-school I ran and leverage that technology in to larger communities.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Discipline = Freedom

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into tech?
Focus is underrated. Start super small and and experiment weekly. The faster you can figure out how to get things done and develop a weekly executional cadence the more likely you are to make progress.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?
Forget about getting out of bed, trying to create experiences where kids can find self-expression through building with technology keeps me in the fight. It is all for the moments where a child realises that they now have a superpower allowing them to make many valuable insights.

Who do you want to be when you grow up?
An astronaut
But I’ll settle for a pirate

Women in Tech of the Month: Kelly Hoffman

November 29, 2021 in CEO, Entrepreneur, Profiles, Woman of the Month, Women in Tech

Name: Kelly Hoffman
Designation: CEO and Digital Navigator
Company: Vocalysd.ai

What do you do every day?
I spend countless hours understating with a hands-on approach of every aspect of my new start-up and taking strategic steps to build something great. Something that genuinely makes a difference and aligns AI with human performance – I am not here to replace the people element, I am here to enhance it. I get my hands dirty, I intrench myself in all aspects and (at times to my own detriment) go at full speed to achieve results. So, in short: I never sit still. I also drink a lot of tea 🙂

How did you get into the tech space?
By accident, out of necessity to be frank. Yes, I feared this monstrous word “tech” (due to zero experience) BUT with a genuine and passionate love for business development – I took on a role to open the African leg of an established global software player – Initially focused (and still do) on the growth factor, but one has to know what they are selling and believe in the product. My love affair began – I am resourceful, and okay with asking for help. I don’t have to be the “know-it-all” in the room. I have learnt from my peers and continue to do so. This very experience led me to build my own baby. A work in progress (soon to be launched) – “Designed and developed by South Africans, for South Africans” FYI – not a competitor product to what I do now, I have integrity and loyalty 🙂

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Mandela (true story – he keeps me going) ” Nothing is impossible until it is done” – every week I learn more, accomplish more and love what I do. I feel less “stupid” than the week before, and proud of the little steps I take. I am empowered by the knowledge and industry I envelope myself in. Yes, tech is exciting, and I am obsessed BUT my greatest teachers are the people I engage with daily!

I literally take baby steps (realistic to me and my understanding), and his words and example remind me to keep pushing and to never give up!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into tech?
Remain human. Be authentic. Tech is fun and share that passion with others. Allow your mind to be stretched and listen to your audience. Technology is constantly evolving, enjoy the ride but above all, always be ethical and stand by good practice. lastly, it is okay to be the student, in fact that’s the best position to hold. Have fun and be kind to yourself.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?
Mmmm… interesting as this involves multiple factors that may not be tech related (directly that is), however – family! Building a legacy, I am proud of and my children will benefit from gets me excited every day! I also am completely addicted to innovation, data and all kinds of self-growth.

Vocalysd, a start-up is my own version of “Kelly’s MBA” – I want to envelop myself in every aspect, understand from the bottom up. So, when I stand before others, and the head of a boardroom table of a global monster – I earned that seat, I deserved it and I have the knowledge and experience to back it up.

My true aspirations are more around business growth and becoming a CEO of a power-house tech company, that absolutely drove innovation and changed lives. Its way more than just a title.

Matric results: Perhaps it’s time to democratise how we assign competence

August 11, 2021 in CEO, Events, News, Opportunity, Training and development, Women in Tech

Nyari Samushonga, CEO at WeThinkCode_

Every year when South Africa announces its matric results the country goes into education discourse hyperdrive as analysts, politicians and the civil society attempt to make sense of the numbers. However, in our scurry to project meaning onto the milestone, it’s important to ask whether we are missing an opportunity to democratise how we assign competence, writes Nyari Samushonga, CEO at WeThinkCode_

As always, this year there has been acknowledgement of outstanding achievements in both the government and private school systems, coupled with questions about the national pass rate, bachelor’s pass, subject choices, and much more.

 Make no mistake, the country needs excellence and high achievement in Matric and other academic endeavours should be celebrated. It is right that we value impressive education behind neurosurgeons, legal minds, engineers, mothers, fathers, and more. However, in our milestone mindset, have we begun to shut the door too soon? Is it not a bit extreme to shut off access to future learning opportunities on the basis of how a young person performs on this single test? Are we too rigid in what we communicate to high school leavers about viable options for their futures?

It’s a minefield to traverse. Statistics SA’s unemployment figures have made it abundantly clear that youth unemployment levels are inversely proportional to the level of education. Graduates are the least unemployed, followed by those with some post-matric qualification and then those that just have a matric. Youth who don’t have a matric have statistical odds weighted strongly against them. It is to this woeful backdrop that we have, possibly unselfconsciously, developed an obsession with education milestones – as if they alone will solve our unsustainable and world-topping unemployment rate.

This could not be further from reality. This is perhaps most vividly demonstrated in a series of interactions WeThinkCode_ had recently with various stakeholders in our journey to develop an accredited bachelor’s degree programme, in addition to our accreditation, that we currently offer our students.

A sentiment we continue to encounter is this narrow view of the path one should take from high school to university to the workplace. Any professional will tell you that learning a craft is a lifelong journey and that much of their competence is acquired not in the classroom but on the job. Not just from the lecturer, but also from the many people you collaborate with as you do the work. And yet we continue to insist that a matric result alone is a fair and appropriate proxy for how well or how poorly a teenager will one day perform in a job.

We deem it sufficient to condemn scores of youths to a life of no access to further education. However, if we read that against a reality of only 37% of people that enter the education system passing matric and, worse, only 6% of South African adults holding a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification, it seems a stretch to feed the narrative that an academic endeavour is the only possible route to exiting the unemployment queue. Which begs the question, how do we begin to create a more inclusive perspective on competency without compromising its core concepts?

To be fair, following the traditional academic trajectory currently represents the best possible chance of securing a stable, employed future in South Africa. However, I’d argue that there needs to be a paradigm shift among all stakeholders when it comes to assigning competence within the workforce. This shift informs the core mission of our academy. We’re driven by the belief that talent can come from anywhere, that with the right opportunity that talent can thrive, and in the right environment that talent can acquire the tools and skills to be workplace ready. 

In addition to being a ladder towards developing professionals across fields, education should also be about preparing young people for the workplace, not just an exam. It should be about equipping young people to be productive. Passing or failing, six distinctions or an E average, present a milestone moment but they don’t accurately mark a measurable preparedness for employment.

Back to the matric class of 2021: Those that performed exceptionally will likely expect a smooth ride into their careers. Those that did not get university exemption, or those who didn’t pass, will likely believe their future is bleak.

The reality is that life becomes deliberately more difficult for people who failed or did poorly in matric. These young people will make up the majority of those that just get lost in the unemployment statistics. It’s no surprise that we, or even the young people themselves, believe they’ve missed the chance for a better life. However, as more institutions like ours create accessible and sustainable pathways to meaningful employment, my hope is that more young people realise that they have options. Options even after failing matric. Options even after passing matric and still not being able to pursue a particular degree due to limited resources, and options even after they’ve made it into their degree and things didn’t work out half way through for whatever reason.

So, how do various stakeholders begin to shift this paradigm? How do we practically and systematically expand perspectives of competence without compromising its true definition?

Corporate leaders, recruiters and team leads can become intentional about opening up their sourcing pools to slowly test the theory that competence isn’t necessarily a particular qualification from a particular institution. We’ve worked with a number of organisations over the years that have been incorporating WeThinkCode_ students into their graduate programmes to see first-hand how they perform against their university peers.

Secondary schools, particularly those within underserved communities and even private schools that have bursary programmes to take in students from underserved communities, can begin to expose students to their options by presenting them with non-traditional pathways. We partner with various schools and youth development programmes to mobilise talented youth within previously underestimated groups.

Lastly, and most ambitiously, perhaps the government, legislature and accreditation bodies can review new pathways that enable high school leavers to move forward towards meaningful employment despite not having matric qualifications. Although our programme at WeThinkCode_ is open to anyone between the ages of 17 and 35 with or without a matric, those that do not have matric gain the same skills on the programme but do not necessarily have access to the same work opportunities after the programme. Because of not having a matric, we are unable to give them the formal accreditation that the programme offers.

Of course, a paradigm shift like this is not the sole preserve of the IT or coding industry. It can, and should, be applied across a broad spectrum of society. There’s a strong argument to be made that while milestones are important metrics and measurement tools, a more holistic approach to developing a preparedness for a productive life should underpin all education.

This mindset is about restoring dignity. We tend to be punitive and one dimensional about milestones such as examinations and prescribe a “you are worthy” or “you are not worthy” badge.

Adopting this alternative mindset in no way undervalues the importance of quality basic and tertiary education. It is about broadening the criteria we use to ascribe competence and deciding who deserves a chance. There are a host of environmental factors that may or may not have contributed to a learner’s performance in a single exam. Let’s congratulate the achievers, work to improve education in all its guises, and honour the principle that everyone deserves a chance to be prepared for a productive life.

Woman in Tech of the Week: Michelle Lissoos

May 21, 2018 in CEO, Director, Profiles

Woman in Tech of the Week: Michelle Lissoos

Name: Michelle Lissoos
Designation: Director
Company: Think Ahead / iSchoolAfrica

What do you do every day?
Think Ahead and iSchoolAfrica work closely with schools across South Africa to ensure that our youth are receiving the skills to prepare them to thrive in today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution. We implement full education technology solutions in schools.
So every day I am engaging with school leaders, partner funders , teachers and students . I am also working closely with my team to ensure our solutions meet the needs of our partners.
I spend a lot of time researching global education technology trends and thinking how these are relevant to our local context .

How did you get into the tech space?
My brother was pioneering in South Africa in terms of setting up Learning Channel . In 1999, I joined him to head up Learnthings – a digital curriculum company – creating online learning resources for the Guardian UK.
I realized my passion was not about technology for technology sake but rather the social impact of technology within the education space.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My late father was my mentor – he showed us by example that you can never stop learning, and only boring people get bored . His advice to us was to be kind, be honest to yourself and others and always keep learning.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
Ask yourself – What do you what technology to achieve ? what problem do you want to solve ? Be aware and engaged …..always act in the position you want to grow into …

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday?
I love what we do . For example we have a progranme – iSchoolAfrica Inclusion programme – empowering children with disabilities with technology – the personal success stories of thid programme inspire me .
I am also driven by the partnerships and relationships that Think Ahead and iSchoolAfrica has afforded me.
And my nieces and nephews keep me grounded ……

Twitter handle: @MichelleLissoos

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).

Woman in Tech of the Week: Lindiwe Matlali

May 14, 2018 in Brand Manager, CEO, Entrepreneur, Founder, Profiles, Training and development, Woman of the Week

Woman in Tech of the Week: Lindiwe Matlali

Name: Lindiwe Matlali

Designation: Chief Executive Officer

Company: Africa Teen Geeks

What do you do every day? I spend an hour or two every day keeping up with tech news on Techcrunch and MIT Tech Review.  Staying informed is very important.  “I also make a list of the top three things I must get done each day.  I also make a list of the three things that must be achieved each month and each week to ensure that we remain focused and committed to our strategic goals.

How did you get into the tech space? I didn’t study technology at University. I got involved in tech because I saw the need to expose children from disadvantaged communities to tech not only as consumers but as creators too. I believe that the difference between a child born in Sandton and a child born in Diepsloot is lack of opportunity not intelligence. My passion is to close the opportunity gap and hopefully inspire the next Mark Shuttleworth or Elon Musk.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? My grandfather told me to never compare my weakness to other people’s strength. Consistency can achieve more than intelligence. I need both to succeed.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? My advice for anybody wanting to get into the tech sector is to just do it. There are may free resources now available for one to learn how to code from Edx, cousera and others. All it takes is commitment and determination. In as little as three months you can be a software engineer. 

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? I am motivated by the impact we have made so far. We have children who before joining ATG had never touched a computer but now are writing a Java code and coding robots. They now have dreams to be the next Mark Shuttleworths. Instead of looking up to celebrities, they now have raised their aspirations and see themselves as the youth who could change the world one day. That for me is what inspires me and help me get up in the morning even when things are tough. Knowing that in my small way, I am making a difference.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I would like to teach one day. I am furthering my studies torwards my dream of becoming a University lecturer within the next 5 years.

Twitter: @LindiweEM

Blog: https://medium.com/@lindimatlali

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindiwematlali/

 

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).

Brittany Hawkins

October 20, 2015 in CEO, Entrepreneur, Profiles


Name:
Brittany Hawkins

Brittany Hawkins

Brittany Hawkins

Designation: Chief Experience Officer (CEO)

Company: Explore Sideways

What do you do every day? As the CEO of a startup I wear many hats. At the end of the day, I do whatever it takes to get our company and our team to the next stage in growth.

How did you get into the tech space? I lived and worked in Silicon Valley for 7 years, which sparked my endless fascination and adoration for technology. The frenzied tech space is the perfect place for people like myself that don’t see problems, but rather, potential solutions. It’s when technology and imagination collide that I’ve seen the most incredible things happen.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Don’t be afraid to fail. Technology is wildly mutable and faster paced than any field in history – all you can do is embrace the insecurity and learn as much as you can along the way.

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Approach each day as a new opportunity to learn. If you focus on deriving enjoyment from the process, rather than the outcome, you’ll be both successful and happy.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? The opportunity to learn something I didn’t know the day before.

Twitter: @hawkbritt
Web: exploresideways.com
LinkedIn: https://za.linkedin.com/in/hawkinsbrittany

Darlene Menzies

September 15, 2015 in CEO, Entrepreneur, Founder, Profiles
Darlene Menzies, TDH/SMEasy

Darlene Menzies, TDH/SMEasy

Name: Darlene Menzies

Companies and Designation: The Development House (TDH) – Founder and Chairman, SMEasy Business Software Pty Ltd – Founder and CEO

What do you do every day? Team role – leader and innovator. I run a business that develops simple scalable software solutions that address gaps in the small business market. I enjoy the risk and challenge involved in taking an idea from concept to commercialisation – going from initial ideation and market research to product design, the development of a minimal viable product, market piloting to demonstrate early user traction and then raising venture capital to fund product commercialisation. In terms of my role in the team I am the ideas person, the team leader as well as the product evangelist. I love my job.

How did you get into the tech space? I started work as a bank teller and got involved in the bank’s IT division through my interest in helping test new IT systems that were being implemented in the bank at the time. I was moved to the regional IT division in KZN in the late eighties, there were no ladies in the division at the time. I worked in corporate IT for 15 years before starting my own software development business in 2004.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? If you don’t totally love what you’re doing stop doing it, immediately…then do everything you can to get started doing what you are passionate about. This one decision will change your whole life.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? I encourage them to do it, it’s the future, the opportunities are endless. I tell them they have to be prepared to work hard, very hard. If they are starting a tech business I usually tell them to be prepared to make big sacrifices and take massive risks, the rewards down the road will far outweigh the sacrifices in the early years. Also that the key to success and growth is your team. If you focus on building your team, your team will build your business.

For people who ask me if I have any particular advice for women wanting to get in tech – I tell them to forget about gender and just do what they are gifted to do and passionate about, that is what will ensure their success. It’s not about gender, it’s about ability, timing, hard work and a bit of luck!

What motivates you to get out of bed every day? I totally LOVE what I do; I would do it even if I didn’t get paid. I wake up on a Saturday and Monday feeling equally excited about the day ahead.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? A mix of Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep and Katy Perry… LOL. I think all these ladies are incredible in their own fields! Seriously, I want to be me but with loads more money; I would like to be able to make the kind of social and economic impact that someone like Melinda Gates is making. It’s a privilege to be able to change people’s lives.

LinkedIn: https://za.linkedin.com/in/darlenemenzies
Twitter: https://twitter.com/darlenemenzies / https://twitter.com/thedevhouse

Annette Muller

October 7, 2014 in CEO, Founder, Profiles
Annette Muller, DOTNXT

Annette Muller, DOTNXT

Name: Annette Muller

Designation: Founder & CEO

Company: DOTNXT

What do you do every day? I multi-task, I build, and watch people grow, I innovate.

How did you get into the tech space? I was born in the tech space. 🙂 But my first real entry was working on MTN”s nok nok, its mobile social network back in 2007.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Everyone is just human, if they can do it, you can do it.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? It is the future of all industries, every company will be a technology-driven company so don’t even think twice, just do it.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? Being a part of delivering something extraordinary every day and being surrounded by people smarter and wiser than myself!

Who do you want to be when you grow up? I am not planning on every really growing up!

Find me on:
Twitter: @nettyml
Web: http://about.me/annettemuller