VIDEO: Interview about Womandla with Rumbi (QA)

Rumbidzaishe Maisvai (QA) sat down with us to chat about the NGO, Womandla, and the inspiring work they are doing for women in South Africa.

Find out more at: Womandla.com

Her Story: Elaine Ernst (iOS Developer)

by Elaine Ernst (iOS Developer)

In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry.

How did you get started in tech?

I have always been interested in computers.  Just like any youngster, I despised doing homework and dreamed of creating a robot that could complete my homework for me.  I would often open my PC or Sega console because I was curious about how these machines work. Needless to say, I have not successfully constructed that homework robot.

During my matric year, I enrolled at the University of Pretoria in Computer Engineering, but life handed me a curveball. My brother passed away in that same year and I could not muster the strength to go study. I took a gap year in the hairdressing industry where I remained for a good 3 years before I realised I had to pursue my passion.

I enrolled in an undergraduate degree in Megatronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch.  However, during my second year of study, I was presented with an opportunity as an intern which I couldn't refuse. At that point in time, I did not have the faintest idea of what Objective C was, but I had to learn quickly.  Short courses, quick courses, online courses - I really burned the midnight oil and was determined to make a success of the opportunity.

What do you love about working in the tech industry?
What were the challenges you faced as a woman in tech?

The biggest challenge you face as a female in a male-dominated industry is to have your voice heard. Unfortunately, our opinions don't always carry the same weight as our male counterparts. You really have to fight hard to make your mark and be taken seriously.

What is your advice to other women?

Don't take remarks and comments personally. Remember, it is only business.

You will have to be headstrong in the industry.  My mother always says: "You teach people how to treat you".  Don't tolerate disrespectful, domineering behaviour from colleagues, full stop.

Never give up on your dream.

Her Story: Denisha Surjoodeen (QA Lead)

by Denisha Surjoodeen (QA Lead)

In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry.

How did you get started in tech?

I have always had a passion for electronics and technology since I was a little girl. I grew up as a tomboy and found it quite fascinating to break up my remote-control cars and then put them back together again.

I did not have any exposure to computers until my late teens. It was then I knew for sure that IT degree was what I wanted. I did not get accepted by the university of my choice, and so I resorted to studying towards a BCOM degree with specialization in Information Systems. During my studies, I decided to join the working world and found a job as a first-line support technician for a UK broadband company. I was the only female in a group of 20+ male support technicians and was expected to work 12-hour late-night shifts. Despite being the only female, I used the opportunity to learn as much as I could and discovered that troubleshooting technical problems came naturally to me.

After a few promotions along with a wealth of technical knowledge, I decided to take up an opportunity at a software testing consultancy. I was introduced to the interesting world of Quality Assurance and embraced the opportunity to dive deep into the software development scene. This direction in my career eventually brought me to Cape Town, which opened many doors, allowing me to gain experience in different sectors such SaaS and e-commerce. Today, I am responsible for leading Quality Assurance competencies on all projects and teams at Global Kinetic.

What were/are the challenges you face?

I guess I have been lucky in that in the past 12 years I have rarely had any issues due to my gender. That being said, there is one incident that has always stuck with me. A few years back when I just began my tech career, I was shortlisted for a promotion along with my male colleague. After a grueling interview process, I was successful. But it came with a price.

The hiring manager thought it would be entertaining to have me break the news to my colleague. I felt uncomfortable but at the time felt obligated to prove my strength. So, I finally plucked up the courage and delivered the news to my colleague. My manager then confessed that he in fact made provisions for two positions and promoted both of us. He lacked empathy and insight towards recognizing that his “playful/harmless” behavior is responsible for making a woman feel inappropriately uncomfortable. Unfortunately, some companies foster these types of behavior, or lack of sensitivity towards those that don’t fit a certain mould.

As uncomfortable as this was for me, I feel fortunate to have not experienced anything more extreme than that which other women tolerate daily. It's unfortunate that in the tech industry, we as women need to work much harder than our male counterparts to get the recognition we deserve. There are also times when our hard work is not recognised.

What do you love about working in the tech industry?

I love that the nature of the tech industry is ever-changing, and it offers limitless opportunities to upskill in different areas. Because of this, it allows me to try out new things, experiment and become a better version of myself in terms of career growth.

Your advice to other women in the industry / girls wanting to join the industry

Her Story: Rumbidzaishe Maisva (QA)

by Rumbidzaishe Maisva (QA)

In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry

How did you get started in tech?

My journey to tech was an interesting one. I didn’t even know I was heading to IT. Like many other children, I had an ever-changing future career. It went from air hostess to actuarial scientist to psychologist and to many others. I first discovered my love for IT in University in the middle of a double major in Accounting and Computer Science. I considered being an auditor or an accountant because I come from a family of accountants - mum, dad and my brother were all accountants at some point. However; I realised my highest grades were in Computer Science. My passion for it grew with every distinction and I started considering a career in tech.

One of my lecturers recommended me for an interview with a tech company when I was doing my Honours. I went for the interview; it was an amazing company and I got the job as a Quality Assurance Analyst (a role I didn’t even know existed before preparing for that interview). Thus, began my amazing journey in tech.

What were/are the challenges you face?

I’m not sure if it’s working in what is deemed to be a male dominated industry or just a confidence issue at the root of it that creeps up, but I know at least 3 in 5 women who have Imposter Syndrome. That never-ending feeling that you are not good enough, you are just lucky, and you will be exposed as a fraud even though you work really hard and people keep telling you “you are doing a great job”. I have been there before. I started tracking my career and looking up to women in the industry and realised if they can do it I can to. I have been very fortunate to encounter well-established women in tech who want to mentor me. Thus; my confidence built with my interactions with them and that total shift of focus from internalising what I thought everyone around me was thinking to achieving has been a game-changer for my career.

Another challenge I have heard women in STEM face is company cultures that are not inclusive. Stories I have heard include views of women not being considered valuable to their male counterparts. I am very fortunate to have worked with 2 companies that value people and make inclusiveness part of their value system.

What do you love about working in the tech industry?

Tech is the industry to be in. If that Google movie (The Intern) didn’t sell it to you, I’m not sure what will. My personal favourites are:

Your advice to other women in the industry/girls wanting to join the industry

Her Story: Katherine Moffett (BA)

by Katherine Moffett (BA)

In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry

How did you get started in tech:

Tech wasn’t on my radar. I studied Oceanography and had a part-time job at a fisheries vessel management company. I did quite a bit of data analysis at my part-time job and my studies taught me how to think analytically. There was no full-time opportunity at the fisheries company, so I decided to look for a new job. I was really lucky as I knew someone who helped me get my foot in the door at Global Kinetic as an Intern Business Analyst. My soft skills helped me get a head start in my career and before I knew it, I had fallen in love with the profession. The amazing Chief Operating Officer gave me the opportunity to stay, and I jumped at it. Global Kinetic provided all the training and mentorship to get me where I am today, and I will always be grateful for that.

What were/are the challenges you face?

I am not sure I had challenges getting into the industry; it was more a case of not realising that this industry was available for women. It was just ignorance. I didn’t realise technology was an option; it hadn’t occurred to me.

I went to an all-girls school where the only option for learning about technology was CAT, a class where you learnt how to type and use the Microsoft suite, which also did not provide any credit for university, so there was no incentive to take this class.

Interestingly, at our brother school, the boys were offered the opportunity to take a class where they learnt to code. Looking back now, I am disappointed that at the girl’s school we did not get the same opportunity to learn to code.

There were actually multiple subjects that weren’t offered at the girl’s school, that were offered at the boy’s school, such as woodwork, technical drawing, and AP maths (university levels maths).

If my memory serves me correctly, there were also some classes that weren’t offered at the boys' school, such as ballet and consumer studies (cooking classes).

There could be a multitude of reasons why coding wasn’t offered as a subject at the girls' school:

  1. There was not enough money to add coding as an extra class.
  2. In previous years, the girls had been offered the class but weren’t interested.
  3. Coding was just something the faculty decided wasn’t a subject that girls could/should be doing.

If it was reason 2 or 3, I would be quite disappointed.

I am not sure what classes are available at the school today, and I do hope this has changed. Anecdotally I think that school is the starting point of the discrepancy in certain fields. I hope that girls are now being shown that tech is a great option for them.

What do you love about working in the tech industry?

I really enjoy that it is a really creative industry and that there are always challenging problems to solve. People in the industry also tend to be fun and quirky, and I really enjoy that.

The industry is not limited to a specific subject as many different industries rely on technology, meaning you get exposed to multiple fields such as Finance, HR, E-Commerce etc.

Your advice to other women in the industry /girls wanting to join the industry:

It is an incredibly interesting and fun industry that also has the benefit of paying well. You get to create things and see them flourish in the wild, which is really fulfilling.

The industry gets a bad rep for being male-dominated, but try not let this intimidate you. For the most part, the men (and women) I have interacted with at Global Kinetic have been really supportive and really helped with growing my career. This doesn’t mean that everyone has the same experience. There have been one or two colleagues who have not been easy to work with and that is ok, that will always be the case, you can’t get along with everyone.

I think as long as you can stand up for yourself, don’t get too intimidated (it can be intimidating walking into a room full of men for a meeting), be curious about how things work, and always learn, it will be great.

Her Story: Lorén Rose, Global Kinetic COO

Her Story: Lorén Rose, Global Kinetic COO

by Lorén Rose

In honour of women’s month and in celebration of the strength demonstrated by the women of South Africa in 1956, we decided to put the spotlight on some of the women of Global Kinetic and asked them to share their stories and their advice to other women wanting to enter the tech industry. 

How did you get started in tech?

I had always been interested in computers growing up, but unfortunately had little access to them during my school years.  I went to an all-girls school that didn’t offer computer science; if you wanted to study computers you needed to take it as an extra subject after hours at the boy’s school. Up to that point, it had never occurred to me that being a girl, I might not have access to the same opportunities that boys did. I was fortunate in that I grew up believing that I could be anything, as long as I put in the effort.  I think having that kind of attitude as a foundation was incredibly important, and has served me well in my career in tech.

On leaving school I chose a degree that led to a somewhat predictable career as a Charted Accountant, but that also included Computer Science as a major because tech had always intrigued me. I didn’t know anyone that worked in tech (there were no role models, male or female, at the time), nor even what a career path in Computer Science would entail. It was only in my 4th year that I actually made the mental shift to pursue a career in IT (the exciting choice) instead of doing my articles (the safe choice).

I got my first job through a university recruitment programme and I have been working in technology, specifically Fintech, ever since.

What do you love about working in the tech industry?

While I don’t get to code anymore (and that was an incredibly difficult transition), I do still love being part of the ever-changing landscape. And I do still get to solve problems and do performance tuning, these days I just use different tools.

What were the challenges you faced as a woman in tech?

There were even fewer women in tech when I started out.

The challenge for me in the early years was trying to maintain the balance between being friendly but not too friendly, being accommodating but not too accommodating. Too friendly and you risked attracting “unwanted attention”. Too unfriendly and you were labeled uptight which served to further exclude you from “The Boys Club” and as such isolate you from opportunities in the workplace.

While being an outsider meant I didn’t get to work on the fun stuff that “The Boys Club” did, it did mean in general that I had all the challenging work, the integrations, the 3rd party products, the multiple languages. This allowed me to expand my skill set, hone my problem solving and troubleshooting skills, and overall make me more marketable, which in turn allowed me to move freely in the industry and seek out new opportunities.

It may sound clichéd to say every obstacle is an opportunity, yet with each obstacle you face, you always have a choice to either let it get you down or to use it as a stepping stone toward better things.

The paradox of working in tech is that if you are competent, you immediately get the respect. Yet as women in this industry, one of the biggest barriers we face is actually getting the opportunity, or platform, to demonstrate our competence.

I am a COO yet still attend meetings where only my male colleagues get addressed. I have been asked to take notes in meetings and to check my colleagues' calendars for free slots to schedule meetings. The assumption being that as the only female, I must be the PA and not a required attendee.

In the tech industry, we are trained to solve problems and recognize patterns. Therefore, given the lack of female representation, it’s not remarkable that others may underestimate my position. As a female, I am also not one to offer up that info on the first handshake (elbow bump); however, after fighting to get a seat at the table, it does get a little disheartening when some people assume you are only there to take notes.

The other challenge that I had to navigate when moving into a leadership role, one that I think is universal in a male-dominated industry, is that compassion and empathy are seen as weakness. As female leaders, we generally become overly reliant on being hard and leading with aggression or with fear. Only after some time, when our competence is no longer in question, do we settle into a pattern more consistent with our own personalities.

I was incredibly fortunate to meet the fabulous group of people that I call my partners today, early in my career, and have stuck with them ever since because of our shared values and mutual respect.

I also acknowledge that it was these challenges I faced through the course of my career that led me to where I am today. I work for an amazing company with people who empower others regardless of gender, race, or orientation to reach their full potential.

What is your advice to other women?

To the young women wanting to join the industry: Don’t settle.

The industry as a whole will need to rely on the younger generation to change the narrative.

Go and add value to a company that values your contribution. As a result, that company will thrive and be able to open more opportunities to women like yourself.

I know this advice seems simplistic; in other industries it’s not that easy to leave and find a new job. In tech, however, we are in the fortunate position where our skills are in high demand - take that opportunity.

To the women already in the industry:  Support other women.