WeThinkCode_ is seeking small and medium company partners to join its SME Placement Programme, which places its students as interns in partner companies during their work placement period.
Name: Lisa Lyhne
Designation: Managing Director
Company: Jump Software
What do you do every day? My business, Jump Software, works as a tech-co-founder to startups. I love the energy and faith in the startup world. I also love the disruption that is possible through technology. Tech startups deserve the best possible systems to meet their early and growing businesses, and often it’s their tech that fails, rather than their business ideas. At Jump Software, we partner with founders to build flexible solutions to meet their technical needs. Keeping their larger business strategies in mind, we create, extend and maintain software solutions which power our partners’ businesses.
On a daily basis I work on projects with my very capable tech team to deliver on our promises to our founders. I also meet with many folk in the startup networks – founders, funders, accelerators, incubators and the like, to secure new sales for my business.
I also do a fair bit of consulting as a software development mentor. I work for Microsoft in their Bizspark programme, mentoring their startups, as well as for other startup businesses. In these sessions I work with founders to improve their software development processes, as well as define and refine their business offerings.
How did you get into the tech space? I was really lucky. I did a BCom (IT) at university, and was sent on a year’s student exchange to Copenhagen in Denmark. I was meant to spend six months in the IT department, and move to the accounting department for the next six months. After the first six months I asked to stay in the IT department, which was agreed. That was 1986 – and I’ve worked in IT ever since.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Don’t worry about doing it right – just do it and back yourself to get it right. Carry on and on and on. It is the determined that win, not the brilliant!
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Most importantly, get educated. There is no substitute for a thorough, formal (preferably university) education. There is soooo much to learn, and you will only ever scratch the surface if you try to do this via personal exposure. If this is not feasible, try to find your way into a position that will support your education while you work.
Then, get working. Work for a tech company if you are looking for a variety of experience. Cleave to the better skilled of your colleagues and learn-learn-learn-learn. Read widely.
As a woman, know that you’ll need to be pushy. Women are not given the prime opportunities. Even now, we are paid about two-thirds of what men earn in the same position. (Unfortunately I know this from personal experience. It has been the case for me, a pushy woman, for my whole career (even as a director). Now that I am the boss, maybe it’ll change!
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? I am really energised by my new business. The startup space is vibrant and optimistic, and I love the idea of getting dreams off the ground.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? I want to grow businesses (my client-founders and my own) and grow veggies in my back garden.
Name: Cara Turner
Designation: COO & Agile Coach
Company: Project codeX
What do you do every day? At codeX I train talented people to be agile software developers, while setting up and running a disruptive education initiative. As the chairperson of the Scrum User Group SA in Cape Town, I work with a great committee to build the agile community through monthly events and an amazing annual conference.
How did you get into the tech space? I studied to be a sculptor – the last thing I imagined was working in IT! I took a temp job in 2001 and found myself at Software Futures – a large outsourcing company in Cape Town & Joburg. I discovered that my experience on creative projects fitted right in on IT projects, and I fell in love with the projects space. I worked behind the scenes learning the ropes before moving into consulting and eventually finding a real home in the agile community.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Be authentic. Focus on what you care most about, even if it doesn’t make sense to others. It’s the key driver behind what we do at codeX, as well as the creative work I do with (ordinary) software teams.
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? This is a vast and incredibly varied industry. So pick a focus that you care about and spend a while in that space learning as much as you can – then don’t get hung up on it! There is a huge scope for change – not just in what you do, but also in changing the industry itself. Keep moving in the direction that fascinates you. And collaboration is the secret sauce that strengthens every aspect of our work.
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? Knowing that today is unique and holds untold possibilities for breakthrough change. It really does help to see the magic that happens all the time.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? My biggest inspiration at the moment is probably Linda Rising, a change-management and collaboration expert. At retirement age, she is still traveling the world helping people understand each other in order to work better together.
Name: Cecilia Haak
Designation: Electrical Engineer
Company: Aurecon South Africa
What do you do every day? Energy stuff!! The energy sector in South Africa is full of exciting opportunities for people like me and there is so much going on at the moment that you are really spoilt for choice! A typical day can range from drawing a single-line diagram showing the overview of an electrical transmission or distribution network all the way to advising stakeholders in the energy industry (both locally and internationally) on how best to solve their energy problems.
How did you get into the tech space? As a kid I really wanted to be an astronaut, and this dream resulted in me studying mechanical engineering. My career path did eventually lead me to NASA in the USA, but getting there was a bit of an anti-climax. So instead I came back home to South Africa and now I’m doing energy stuff!
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? You can be anything you want to be. You must just be willing to work for/at it. (My mom gave me that advice!)
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? You can do anything you want to as long as you are prepared to work hard! Also, never let anyone’s negative comments get you down or stand in your way of achieving what you want to achieve. Never doubt yourself.
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? My hatred of traffic and being late into the office! Actually, I love my job, so I want to get up and go into the office to see what is lined up for me for the day.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? Superwoman! I’m actually very happy to just be me when I grow up, though I do wish to lead a more balanced life. At the moment I am focussing too much on my career, so I’m neglecting other aspects of my life.
Name: Jacqui Maroun
Designation: Head of User Experience (UX)
Company: NATIVE VML
What do you do every day? I am in meetings all day, helping my UX team
and project team solve problems, facilitating consensus on issues, or brainstorming amazing outcomes. We find ways to innovate around the user experience and technology, and offer our clients solutions that will transform their relationships with their customers for the better. Each day is an exciting maelstrom of ideas and people, so the evenings are often when I get to email and any presentations I have to put together, usually for pitching our work to new clients, which I love, so I don’t mind doing it at night!
How did you get into the tech space? Unwittingly. I studied a BA in Industrial Psychology and Philosophy and then joined a publishing company to earn money from the only skill I felt was marketable: an ability to write. I explored many areas of magazine publishing including journalism, editing and magazine layout. One day I was laying out a book review called “I Sing the Body Electronic”. I was so gripped, I read it there and then, and realised I needed to jump from print to digital, which seemed to be an intriguing convergence of all media. I phoned the only company I had heard of that developed websites, VWV Interactive, and got a job that week, writing their proposals. My first day on the job was the first time I saw a website, I was so clueless. And every day since then has been thrilling. I cannot remember how boredom feels.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? A Buddhist teacher advised me to see myself as responsible for the creation of my world, that every thought and every action manifests my next reality, both immediate and far-flung. That positive, kind, loving thoughts bring great joy. I try to practice this, in my work too, as far as I am able. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of its truth.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
Learn to love the feeling of “not knowing”. Train yourself on how to learn fast, because you will be faced, constantly, with new ideas, new technologies, new paradigms. If you tingle with excitement at the prospect of learning something new, and are prepared to work hard, you will have what it takes to thrive in this industry.
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? In UX design, we get to make a positive difference in real people’s lives. We may just be helping them get an admin task done more easily, or we may be brightening an activity with fun and reward, or we may be changing their lives. But no matter how humble or grand, the sense of responsibility to do good with the resources that clients give my team and I, is what gets me up… but the complete picture would include some groaning, mad rushing from one snooze too many, and much caffeine.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? The hardest question, because I’m happy being me. So I’ll turn it to my dream of a future that continues the work I love, but has time for travels to the world’s mystery sites, and archaeological digs, and shamanic training, and teleportation, time-travel and a ride on a spacecraft through our solar system and beyond.
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Name: Ilza Lindeque
Designation: Business Intelligence specialist
What do you do every day? Most days are filled with exciting data analysis, spotting trends and areas to potentially improve business process, reporting and decision-making. With this comes technology innovation – designing and building sustainable business intelligence solutions whether they be data warehouses, cubes or reports.
How did you get into the tech space? Completely by chance. I studied Accounting and completed my Honours degree in Financial Management. When I started job hunting, an opportunity came along to join a consulting division in a large IT company that specialised in corporate performance management software. Later on I made the transition into a formalised BI environment. I did attempt a career in finance, but soon found myself craving the dynamic and fast-paced world of solution design and technology implementations.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Always exceed expectations in life.
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector?
Be inquisitive and ask lots of questions. People can teach you a lot, but never underestimate your own capacity to learn and discover.
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? Our great continent with all its treasures and opportunities. The diversity makes it such an exciting and beautiful place to live in.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? A traveler/explorer – like Kingsley Holgate.
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Name: Danelle Stiles
Designation: Head of Projects
Company: NATIVE VML
What do you do every day? Every day is a new challenge! I have a healthy mix of responsibilities, which include revenue forecasting and targets that I manage with my team daily, as we are responsible for NATIVE VML’s services revenue. I am constantly reviewing and implementing project management process, standards and best practices. From a new business point of view I work closely with our chief growth officer to ensure all new business opportunities have a solid plan to bring our proposals to life. I am responsible for a team of 15 project managers across Jo’burg and Cape Town so a good portion of my day is spent directly with the team either from a personal point of view or hands on with project work.
How did you get into the tech space? With a bit of luck actually. After school I did a web development diploma, which was really the tip of the iceburg in terms of skills development. I managed to get an interview at Cambrient, a web development company and started there in July 2002. From day one I was able to practice my new-found web development skills along with all my other duties which at that point was anything and everything. Twelve years on, Cambrient has merged to become NATIVE VML and I have been very fortunate to continue to develop all my skills within the same company with amazing teachers and mentors.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Fake it ‘til you make it.
What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Never work in a silo. Learn everything you can about all the disciplines you cross paths with and be willing to blur your role in order to get the job done. Be a team player – teamwork and open communication is the key to success.
What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? I work with incredible people who all inspire me in different ways. Each day is an opportunity for us to do something new and crazy and I love being part of it.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? The owner of a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere.
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Name: Tamsin Oxford
Designation: Slave to the machine
Company: Interrobang Editorial
What do you do every day? Write about technology, learn about technology, talk about technology and immerse myself in geek stuff. That includes making stuffed toys out of geek cultural iconography.
How did you get into the tech space? There was a wormhole. Also, it was because I have programmed since I was about eight on a ZX Spectrum, played computer games since the first ones came out, loved the idea of what tech could potentially do to change the world and wanted to be the first to find out when it did. So I tumbled into tech journalism and then pulled it into every space of my life that I could find.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Don’t take it personally and just do the damn job.
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Be excited by it. It’s very easy to get lost in jargon and office politics, but the real frontier of tech with contact lenses that can track your health or 3D printed blood vessels, that’s pure brilliance. Bask in the light that these people give off and learn from it.
What motivates you to get out of bed every day? Usually the idea of coffee. Also the fact that there is always an exciting piece to write or pitch, or something that someone has done that’s too delicious for words. Every day I wake up thinking that there is so much possibility in the next 12 hours. I could write something that changes someone’s life or uncover something that could stop bad things from happening. I have done both in my career and received letters of thanks from people across the world. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than that.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? I STILL have no idea. How unfair is that?
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