29 Mar

Hacking my First Lean In

My time is currently being seduced by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the ultimate feminist intelligence-backed and manifesto for women in the world (who are fortunate enough to access this kind of resource) engaging their will in lead in the workplace and outside of it. The book is authored on the foundation of not only Sandberg and her experiences, but the data that supports the reality of feminism as much as it exposes the world’s commitment to keeping feminism as a promise, and nothing else. The reality is that in the workplace and outside, women’s voices are not heard equally, and the rallying cry of this book, is calling women (and men) to lean in.

It’s no secret that the space of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a white, male dominated space, and in every capital technology city and corporate one encounters. This is why I’m obsessed with being a Mentor and Sponsor advocate – so many young women professionals need this knowledge sharing.  A 2012 McKinsey report surveying more than 4000 employees of leading companies found that 36% of men wanted to reach the C-suite level of jobs compared to only 18% of women. Admittedly, I cringed when I came across this finding. Granted, not every woman aspires to be a CEO of a company, but for young ambitious women like me who would, representation matters, and we need more of them to be there and so that we can lean in. And, because of having such representation in my network, I ended up hacking my first lean in.

I had just penned my first resignation from a digital agency and wanted to immerse myself into a job and career with more of STEM and startup focus, not knowing that a responsibility of two months would lead me to it. Immediately after my resignation, I had an advisory meeting with my mentor, where I expressed to her my current state of thinking and the direction that I wanted my life to take. A few days later she told me about an opportunity to assist her at coordinating a hackathon for “a company, you’ll see it when we get to the meeting, but I know it’s right up your alley”, and indeed it was, also the company turned out to be Thomson Reuters (no biggie, right?). A week later my mentor received a call that she needed to be in London for about 5 weeks with Mozilla, and told me that she and my current boss had decided that they’re entrusting me to be capable enough to handle being the project manager of the hackathon. The first thing that went through my mind was nothing, because my insecurities arrested my mind, and secondly, it was a Thomson Reuters hackathon, were these two women insane? The fact that they, whom together have almost 45 years in the technology, product development, digital and innovation industries entrusted my capabilities to execute this job was eclipsed by my insecurity. You’d think with the experience they bring to the table, I’d trust their decision to trust me, and whatever potential they saw in me. I didn’t feel deserving, as though they were doing me a favour as opposed to deciding on merit. Sound familiar?  I wanted to pay a penalty for my potential with doubt. I wanted to silence myself, even though I wanted to lead with ambition. The job I was entrusted with couldn’t house both feelings, something had to give.

It was the latter that I gave up. I ended up working with an incredible team of women (with one man on the team) who hacked my insecurities and enabled an environment of thriving and leaning in. The execution of the hackathon was a success and my nervousness to fail that was on cue, lost its way to my expectations of the two day event. Through the hackathon we managed to mine some great ideas about land transparency through ICT, trended on social media on both days and enriched both civil, private and public sectors through knowledge sharing and engaging with creative business solutions.

The opportunity was mine to lose. And to be honest with you, spending time with these two women in the two weeks we had before the mentors’ London trip, and hearing their vision for young, black women in STEM and the private sector, their discussions were the answers to what I would do if I wasn’t afraid. It was knowing that there had to be more to life than stereotype threats, and having the confidence and humility to know that the women who invited me to the table, entrusted me to lean in and lead. This is why I’ve created this platform, so that I could lean in, by sharing my experiences, thoughts and conversations as a young woman in STEM on the continent, we need more of us in this space, a more normalised picture of women leading in this industry.

I was 21, and orchestrated my first life hack(athon). It was the audition that opened the door to the job that I enjoy doing the most, being an Innovation Project Manager with an opportunity to engage with private and public sector, together with startups to innovate with the mission to add business value and create social impact.


Hack it till you feel it, and believe it. Then embody it, and run away with the will to lead, and to feel deservingly have your mark made.


Read 1481 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 April 2017 12:53


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  • Christa posted by Christa Saturday, 02 September 2017 18:49

    Hi there! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 3gs!
    Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to
    all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!

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  • Hattie posted by Hattie Monday, 12 June 2017 06:31

    An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I do think that you need to publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people don't discuss
    these subjects. To the next! All the best!!

    Comment Link
  • Ayanda Cuba posted by Ayanda Cuba Tuesday, 11 April 2017 17:04

    Woooow, I have always known that your are a great writer. Powerful stuff Vee plus Mam Bara has always had an eye for greatness. Looking forward to reading more of your work and.. Forever a fan

    Comment Link
  • Thabie posted by Thabie Thursday, 30 March 2017 16:50

    Beautiful write up & I am proud of you

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My name is Vuyolwethu Dubese and I am 23 year old Girl in Media and Technology, exploring Innovation, Intelligence, Inclusion and Entrepreneurship. With a focus on African technology and entrepreneurship, the intent is to be a part of the ecosystem and organisations driven to develop the African lives and the narratives that are shape shifters in how Africans and the world perceive the continent.


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