Time flies when you’re innovating, and doing so at the intersection of user (customer) experience, business and (emerging) technology. Integrating into the system of product management is more than processes, data and advanced technologies, it’s the people that essentially ensure that there’s strategy for elimination decisions, de-risking and development for new products. And I’ve been fortunate to do this in an environment that is, as we’ve termed in the Labs, “inno-positive” for all this innovation to take place.
I joined the company as a contractor, specifically in the innovation and enterprise space. When I came on board, I did so as a project manager, the first one being the Land Hackathon that looked at how we can use emerging technology to create transparency with land administration and digitization of processes. The successful outcome of this project lead me to take on one of the biggest projects I’ve ever done, which was to lead the launch of the Thomson Reuters Labs™ - Cape Town in October 2016 with an incredible team and the support from our other global network of Labs. With the growth of the Labs, meant that so did the work, relationships, content and responsibility, and so did my role.
I then transitioned into the role of Innovation Programme Manager which leveraged on my experience in working with startups, being a dot connector with the network of the business to the data and innovation Labs and ensuring that we have a community that we can collaborate with when a particular customer-led opportunity came along, this across sub-Sahara Africa.
My expansive role now as Ecosystem Manager requires me to manage and build relationships that we have with customers, partners, ecosystem stakeholders and startups; being the connective tissue in engaging the business with Africa’s startup and technology and innovation ecosystem. With these relationships, comes the architecture of business innovation strategies that'll engage the work that we do, this externally and internally. Once these relationships are forged and the excitement of kickstarting to build a new product gets underway, it’s at times easy to get lost in the enthusiasm of it all.
Scope and Defining at High Level
Coming up with an idea can take a few minutes, days or hours of light bulb moments, connecting opportunities and challenges to existing products or product development is where product management begins. From the conversations, the idea needs to be defined, and usually organisations want a high level overview of the deliverables without scoping the project’s life cycle, but understandably, because cost and schedule for stakeholders involved is on the line. To work from this point of perspective (high level to granular) has usually worked in most cases, but each case is as unique as the innovation.
With the unique positioning of the Labs being to develop products that are customer led, engaging and gathering the voice of the customer is part and parcel of what drives impactful and creative business solutions. Corporate innovation requires a high frequency of customer centricity so as to experience and determining the feasibility of the product being worked on. Once the right customer representative is brought into the conversation and ideas are birthed, engaging them in (every) step of the process is ideal to having a successful proof-of-concepts proven.
Evangelise within the Company
The one thing that I’ve learnt with corporate innovation and working inside a large company, is that you cannot do it alone, especially in a network that’s over 45000 strong, globally. You need to know which departments, executive sponsors and in my case, Labs buddies (connecting with someone in other Thomson Reuters Labs across the work) to network and connect to. You cannot do it alone!
Product management is a team effort. It takes a corporate innovation village in order to ensure that we’re connected to the right markets, holding conversations with the right customer departments, partnering with the right internal teams, and so much more. It’s been an awesome year in product management, one with a couple of successes paired with failures that you learn to do very fast and pick yourself up again.
Here’s another year of innovation!
Before I had decided to have a sit down with my former employer and pen my resignation, I had had many dress rehearsals with myself before I decided to go ahead with the decision. The rehearsals were not to change my mind about deciding to leave the company; it was trying to figure out a timetable of when I’d do it, and how. I had decided.
“You want to feel that you have the power to bring your full, spirited self to the situation, stripped of the fears and inhibitions that might typically hold you back.” - Amy Cuddy
Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, in 2014 had been introduced to the startup and enterprise development world via The Hookup Dinner. This is where I learnt to be a dot connector with the tools of knowledge sharing, networking and being able to find the business in the value proposition between startup and the entity that the entrepreneur is trying to build with.
In 2015, because of wanting to return back to school, I decided to halt any employment and focus my efforts on school 100% to obtain my Higher Certificate in Brand Building Practice, this because I wanted to be a dot connector to who could build and develop brands. With about 4 months of school left, I received an opportunity to work at a small Public Relations (PR) firm, which enabled me to understand, that being in PR was not the only way to build brands, and that it was a field that was unfortunately not my cup of tea. I needed to return to startup and enterprise development, that’s where my passion lied - and I couldn’t let the fear of an unknown tomorrow or the lack of a Plan B deny me the opportunity to return to an environment that created value for me as I did it.
Back to dress rehearsals.
It was during this season of my life that I needed to return to what I like to call my personal board of directors, and have more dress rehearsals, this time, with them. I needed to find value in my reasons, and to be carried by their wisdom.
Align Passion(s) with your Paycheck(s)
I believe that I attracted and retained my mentors (and sponsors) because at every opportunity I could, I gave them a reason to see value to my work by adding to it with either their time or network - which ever currency they deemed my work laudatory to be. My passion and hard work got me to where I was eventually, with the value that other people saw in my work.
Converge and Create Career
I’m quite passionate about the diversification and inclusion of technology and innovating on a global perspective with a key focus on Africa, doing this at the intersection of product management and emerging technology. I find it quite irksome when people are ministered to only do one thing and not diversify their skills and interests. We’re living in a Workforce 2.0 era where the convergence of skills is leading to the over 60% of future jobs (which do not exist right now) are being created now, through employment or entrepreneurship. You can be both, I am both, a master of one trade and jack of many others.
Mentorship is a Transaction of Trust
It was after these conversations and consultations that on the 15th of February 2016, I braved what seemed to be one of the most difficult things I had to do, and resign. I had decided.
Being a mentee is not about being taken to a restaurant to have coffee with your mentor, or name dropping because of an accolade they achieved, it’s the dress rehearsals (they have with you, themselves and/or their peers) that prepare and carry you to the life-changing decisions that will create many turning points in your life. And more than anything, mentorship is a transaction of trust beyond networks, as a mentee, you have one of the most valuable currencies given to you by someone whose work and character you admire, their trust.
You know how Facebook has the capacity create a credit risk profile for your bank just based on the amount data (that we all willingly share and open) they have on you over the years of being a user? In the same breathe, a couple of weeks ago I got reminded through a post that I shared four years ago of how far I had come, both in how many emojis I used in one word and my journey with Christ and in getting to know myself in this phase of adulthood.
My 23rd birthday is approaching in the next two months, and adulting has for the past few months been a prayer that In the absence of getting lost in my identity, may God pull up a mirror of His WORD to remind me of the falsehood of insecurity and the truth of WHOSE and WHO I am. The past year itself has brought upon so many blessings that have needed me to stretch and bend myself in a way that I thought I was incapable of doing. Blessings opportune moments met with preparation that had me, and still does have me utter words of gratitude for the opportunity to serve in love with passion and humility in the work that I do.
There is no right way of adulting. I have had the compass of failure, success and integrity to guide me through the past year. And to be transparent, I lose motivation and I doubt my worthiness and capabilities to see and carry relationships and projects to fruition, no matter how entrusted I am by other parties. It’s in these few things that keep my spirit afloat and comfort and secure me in my value to my purpose …
It’s in Marianne Williamson’s quote in one of my favourite daily devotional compilations, 365 Days of Miracles where she says "I will not deflect, diminish or invalidate my dreams today, or concoct excuses for why they can't happen.", that inspires me to dream even bigger. Having a word in the morning to start your day sets one on the right path to creation of what comes out of the tongue.
Doing this also allows me to strategize how I'll go to the King, how I'll go before God and prioritize my prayer. In this, applying His promises to my prayer life as He’s designed for me as I go before God's throne.
I pray your thoughts and faith rest in the overflow of God's Truth about your life. That His promises encourage you to dream dreams that are not confined by thoughts and time. I pray that like the infinite God I serve, that you operate your faith in the realm where ALL things are possible.
A Journal of Gratitude
We’re in Day 143 of 2017, how many things are you grateful for so far? Or rather, how many moments of gratitude have you miss because the bigger picture seems to be what hasn’t been conquered or happened as yet? What I’ve started doing is collecting and cleaning mayonnaise jars, and making those my Gratitude Jars. Each Sunday, I note something that I’m grateful for that’s happened the week prior, to keep my humility in check, and to validate the awesomeness and greatness that comes from the bigger purpose of my life.
I keep a record of opportunities and moments that I encounter in the week, it doesn’t have to be a promotion, it could be another woman in technology that I’ve met or the fact that I got to eat my favourite slice of carrot cake with a red cappuccino on a day that wasn’t going so well. It’s the little things that count.
Deliberate Digital Disconnect
It is also the big things that count, like staying away from my gadgets and WI-FI, I am a millennial after all. Jokes aside, it is SOOOO difficult for me to be separated from my gadgets, especially during the week, and not work. What I try and do to deliberate about disconnecting from the virtual world of work, is to not take work home, read a book, listen to great music, go flower shopping (it’s so therapeutic)and watch fantastic series like Billions, Scandal and Quantico.
This also serves as the opportune moment to invite and practise solitude and facilitate thoughts that you’ve consciously and unconsciously vacuumed over the course of a dedicated time period.
Believing in Myself and the Opportunities to Create
The past year has been such an inspired year for my career, and that could’ve only happened through the gateway of believing that I was deserving of the opportunities that I was creating and were created for me. In the past three weeks, I’ve had the opportunity engage UCT Graduate School of Business MBA students about Innovation, New Venture Careers and Corporate and Shared Business Value as it relates to Millenials and imparting Innovation and Data knowledge about career opportunities in STEM to high school students in Khayelitsha.
The value of relationships (including mentors and sponsors), and the social currency that it is, that I speak to in Networking Your Networth, has also been an accelerant in being where I am at present in my career and my spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth. I believe that one does not only speak and it comes to fruition, but what you allow the people in your circle to speak over you, there’s power in what you allow to be affirmed over your life, with your permission.
This brings me to intentionality, particularly over my finances. I believe now more than ever that discipline aside, anything that I’ve spoken over about my finances has come into fruition, including being broke. Saving is also no talk shop, it’s work, constant work that needs the discipline of a debit order of R100 (or whichever amount you’re able to allocate) every Friday into a fixed account. I’ve also kept in mind that saving is a carrier to the destination of investing. Save to invest, and invest to create wealth.
The relationship between money and self-esteem is great. So I’m quite aware and have become responsive in being very urgent in discerning when the temptation of insecurity creeps in because I’m not able to spend, or afford. Finance is one of the things in your life that can arrest many components of your life, and your blessings.
I’m hoping that this has been quite useful, and perhaps some tricks you’ll implement. I’d love to hear from you in how you tackle everyday adulthood.
Looking forward to engaging with you.
On the 2nd of May, Thomson Reuters Labs – Cape Town, in partnership with The Durban Innovation Hub and The Makerspace, and supported by the World Economic Forum Global Shapers hosted an Africa 4.0 Innovation Breakfast Experience with a focus on The Power of Co-creation and Africa 4.0 as a pre-cursor to The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa 2017.
Unpacking Africa 4.0
The breakfast brought together corporate innovation panellists from Grinrod, Thomson Reuters and Kusini Water to unpack Africa 4.0 and provide insights into Africa’s data scarcity gap, how corporate innovation has its role to growing the continent and exploring where Africa is going. Thought leader of industry and founder of WEF, Klaus Schwab describes the Fourth Industrial Revolution as a revolution that is empowering and human centred that is driven by the convergence of new technologies with the physical, digital and biological worlds. It is a revolution that will impact economies and industries, and will stretch itself to challenge ideas in how we communicate, consume and produce.
What does investing in the Fourth industrial revolution mean for Africa - dubbed Africa 4.0?
In understanding what Africa 4.0 is and its impact, Thomson Reuters’ SVP, Head of Innovation for Africa, Saidah Nash Carter kickstarted the discussion by unraveling what was at the centre of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Humanity and the impact that technology has on people is the ultimately the heart of the latest revolution, and our role as Thomson Reuters can be to leverage its proven strength in data innovation to convene and empower the increasingly interconnected ecosystem.” Nash Carter expanded on the concept, talking to the opportunity that Africa 4.0 presents for inclusive growth for developing markets.
Tapping the opportunity of Shared Business Value creation through Africa 4.0
“It is possible to do good business, profit and social impact are not mutually exclusive.” Using the Port Maputo in Mozambique as a case study, panelist Cathie Lewis, Group Company Secretary of Grinrod, expressed the concern about shared business value creation when engaging in the commercial value of corporate innovation. Grinrod is a global holding company that operates in the freight logistics, shipping and financial services, and does so with the unique objective of servicing Africa trade flows.
Speaking to the company’s customer relationship with Maputo Port, Lewis expressed the opportunity to create a shared business value chain in Mozambique since the aid-reliant country’s financial aid cut by a couple of donors in 2016 meant unstable economic growth and activity. The opportunity in shared business value creation is in the World Bank’s Mozambique’s strategy in reinvesting the natural wealth and the country’s build environment asset of the Port and decentralize it for human and institutional capital and do good business.
The value created from solutions of such challenges lies at the intersection of Africa 4.0 and its technologies and recognizing that value add needs to come from the corner of multi-stakeholder engagement. This ecosystem is one that recognises the stakeholders at Port Maputo, the Mozambican government to workers, and immediate communities. The objective of Africa 4.0 should aim to look at how we can harness these new technologies to share business value creation for all stakeholders involved
Investing in multi-stakeholder cooperation across all industry
Bringing the conversation to multi-stakeholder investments, Nash Carter recognised the value of entrepreneurs in empowering communities and economies, just as Murendeni Mafumo is with Kusini Water. Using nano-technology and solar power to produce water, Kusini Water thrives on sustainable business models of lease agreements, pay per litre of water used and sale of the systems. A passionate water scientist and entrepreneur, Mafumo echoed his conviction of decentralization of resources in industries, and using the opportunity of collaboration as a tool of accelerating innovation, and shared business value.
Collaboration of startups, private and public sectors is at the heart of innovation, this value creation should not only be empowering, but be built on self-sustaining models like Mafuno's business.
Harnessing the power of Africa 4.0
With a defined term of Africa 4.0 for us to understand, how do we leverage the potential of this revolution of humanity to achieve SDGs, Vision 2030 and the agendas of all stakeholders involved? This can be enabled with disruptive leadership that is both responsive and responsible, and continued investments in push strategies of partnerships that share the same purpose in value creation and empowerment for everyone involved in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
From the 3-5 May 2017, the world had their eyes on South Africa as the coastal city of Durban hosted the World Economic Forum on Africa with over 1000 global leaders from across the world. This year, the forum explored the theme of harnessing the opportunity to enable access and to empower the economically excluded in Africa by Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, an economic opportunity that has bypassed millions of Africans.
The Future of Africa, Booming Youth
In attendance were young and old executives, entrepreneurs and WEF’s Global Shapers community whose presence was an opportunity in answering how we can employ one of the continent’s most valuable asset of its booming youth, and African leadership. As a young person, I cannot express how discouraging it was to see an overwhelming number of youth delegates who were in attendance, not having many seats at the WEF speaking series of panel discussions, I’m hopeful that 2018 will orchestrate a different story.
The 2015 UN Department of Economic Social Affairs, Population Division report revealed that the youngest country in the world at present is Niger, with half of the almost 20 million population under 15 years old. The country, with Somalia, Angola and Zambia will by mid-century be the youngest countries. Fast forward to 2050, and the continent of Africa will be youngest continent. In fact, as we speak, Africa has the youngest population worldwide.
I’m of the belief that in order to unlock the potential of Africa’s economic growth and development, the appropriate policies, strategies and investments must be employed to empower women and youth, as to complement the concept of inclusive growth and shaping Africa.
How do we include women and youth in the design of policy and solutions that’ll empower them and the continent? ONE Africa highlights the theme of the Demographic Dividend as an opportunity to employ the appropriate policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and youth. To take it a step further and expand on the idea, ONE Africa hosted a WEF panel discussion that was moderated by their Africa ambassador, Bonang Matheba, shining the ONE Africa Inclusive Growth strategy of equity and equality of education and increased budget spend on education, and finance flows and transparency of it.
Unpacking Inclusive Growth
“For growth to be inclusive, it needs to touch the lives of many African people. For us to have inclusive growth, we need to ensure that people from the rural and urban areas, and informal and formal are also benefitting from growth. And we know that from a social and economic point of view, women across sectors face harder hurdles in getting education opportunities and work twice as hard in the workplace. For ONE Africa, growth that does include and recognise women, is not inclusive growth.” says ONE Africa Interim Director, Nachilala Nkombo.
In my conversation with Nkombo, the underlying theme of the exchange acknowledged that in order to achieve inclusive growth, it won’t be a silver bullet. Certain frameworks will not necessarily create jobs, but will create enabling environments for job creators and creations, as well as owners and drivers of production.
The Demographic Dividend at Play
In order to achieve the objective of the Demographic Dividend, to be in a position where the working-age population (also are economically engaged) have fewer dependants and more capital in the household, the stakeholders need to be they who have their objectives set on the opportunities of the African challenges with lesser lip service and more action.
Quite prominent in the ONE WEF panel discussion was the call to action from government, and the pot of gold promises they have, with lesser accountability strategy. Inclusive growth needs responsible and responsive self-organising leadership who have a sense of urgency, and an agenda and strategy of implementation and communication, to mitigate movements like #FeesMustFall . In my conversation with Nachilala Nkombo, the conviction of an empowered, skilled and knowledgeable youth population that’ll drive growth, create opportunities and drive change echoes is what ONE Africa has done, and the work and engagement being done at present.
For the ecosystem, investing in young people should be no afterthought but, instead, an opportunity to co-create with stakeholders (between corporate, private and youth sector) in policy creation and discussions that are centred around the real needs of young people.
This can be achieved with self-organising stakeholders that are building an environment that is conducive for creation of means of production and empowerment of lives through sustainable inclusive growth measures.
Data from the 2015/16 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey reported that South Africa’s rate of established businesses was at 3.4% (more than below Africa’s average of 8%), while necessity-driven entrepreneurship was up 18%. To complement this statistic was the Total Early-stage Activity (TEA) which had increased, while the rates of these phases of TEA remained relatively low. With 62% of businesses closed South Africans and only between the ages of 25 and 44 are the most entrepreneurially active, why would current societal pressure blur the opportunity of being employed (and educated)? After all, is that not one of the values and impact of entrepreneurship, social or not?
It seems the greater cause of entrepreneurship is being totally missed at present with the aspirations to make it the latest trend without consequence to its opportunity of job creation. Starting a startup is no glamorous venture. It’s beyond scheduling Instagram posts with #MotivationMonday captions, uploading a picture of a “Meeting well done, can’t wait for what’s to come” when in actual fact you got a call a day later and lost the deal you thought was putty in your hands. Beyond the glamour frenzy, downplaying the aspirations of an employed peer because entrepreneurship is the only way to actualise one’s dreams and monetize passions, is what has been irking me for some time. Are we ever going to recognise and introduce the opportunity of Intrapreneurship to aspirant workers and entrepreneurs without the worry of being an entrepreneur with a lack of resources? So what is this concept of Intrapreneurship all about?
Intrapreneurship is a fairly recent concept that has a key focus on employees who are drivers of innovation in the company and have grand appetites for risk and return on investment. Intrapreneurs are more than in it for the paycheck, it’s innovating and crafting business value with the bigger idea of advancing not only their growth in the company, but the vision of the entity and adding value to the culture and employees of the company aswell.
For the aspirational entrepreneur, intrapreneurship is a platform to hone your entrepreneurial skills with all the resources at your disposal and the opportunity to fail fast and build and grow a business or product within the company. Intrapreneurship is the opportune playground to kickstart your entrepreneurial journey. And should one have no aspirations of being an entrepreneur, is intrapreneurship still for them? Absolutely! The concept is ideally about leadership, recognising and fostering growth to become a truly innovative leader. Entrepreneur or not, everyone with a role and responsibilities expectant to be remunerated for their services needs these skills.
With the high income inequality, underemployed, unemployment, weak job creating capacity in this country and the GEM highlighting that the job growth aspirations of entrepreneurs likely declined 4 times in 2015, the opportunity to intrapreneur has never been more ripe.
The rise of the entrepreneur does not have to equivocally bring shame to the employed, or a salary be seen as a bribe to pay off one’s dreams. Believe it or not, you can actually be both, an intra- and entrepreneur. If you are of the opinion that a salary is a pay off of one’s dreams and you’re pursing entrepreneurship, whose dream will you be paying off?
Clichés have maintained their reputation because of the baked truths that lie in them. The lexicon meaning of what a cliché is, is described as “an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.” Operative keywords from this definition are “effect and “meaningful”, with the common denominators as evident in this definition being time and relevance of these factors to a person’s circumstance. A cliché that’s quite meaningful to me is: “Your Network is your Net worth”. Do you still consider this cliché meaningful, or has it lost its original meaning?
Allow me to recall my introduction to the startup ecosystem, how I got my feet wet in the industry. It was in 2013 and I had accompanied a friend of mine to this social enterprise that he wouldn’t stop talking about and where he was running his business from, which was Hubspace Khayelitsha . In his humble swag, then Managing Partner of the Hubspace, Melilizwe Gqobo introduced himself to me and continued to facilitate introductions to me with the entrepreneurs and organisations within the Khayelitsha (and greater parts of Cape Town ecosystem). He intrinsically became my first dot connector. I became a Hubspace regular almost every Mondays (I was interning at Live Magazine from Tuesdays – Fridays at the time) and that was how the relationship building began. And, what had made the relationship valuable was that I made it my business for him to know as much as I do about and of him as he did about me, so that when the moment came for a chance to be introduced to an opportunity, I was someone on top of his head that he could connect the dots to.
In essence, I had to build my relationships before I could use them.
No one likes to be used, everyone appreciates leverage. This is how you build value around the relationships that you’re desiring to get something out of.
It’s cool to know people and be a business card hoarder, the true measure of your network is not how many people you know, but in turn how many of them know you and your product offering. Because, at the end of the day, the net worth in your network is in how many people you’re able to be connected to with the intention of growing capital – social or monetary. Therein lies networking 101.
I get the frustration or the exhaustive expectation of the “Your Network is your Net worth” to be an agile prototype of how fast you’ll get somewhere or to someone, but everything need nurturing before it comes into fruition – this including relationships, professional and personal. In order for someone to invest themselves, their vision and power to pursue the alignment of your objective(s) to their resources, you need to prove yourself worthy. In order for this phrase to have the meaningful impact, effect and mileage in your networking and network, validate what net worth means to you and in which capacity of capital you regard to be of value to you with a particular contact and circumstance. It’ll be in your best interest to manage and expect expectations.Your network goes beyond a Twitter following, email threads or a business card that’s collected dust in your room or office. It’s the “Hey, here’s an article and I thought you’d be interested in this piece especially since …” reach out, an honest and sincere “Let’s do lunch/coffee and catch up” with no ulterior motives or a “I would like to apologise for my radio silence and let you know I/we are still very excited about the prospect of working together…” email.
People change and updates happen in their lives and their companies (employed by or owning), how you nurture your relationships is up to you, because at the end of the day, that’ll gauge the value that someone is able to bring into your business and/or personal life. Do it with kindness, do it with tact. Think about it like this, ever downloaded that application from Playstore of Apple store and agreed to have them push notifications because you thought it in your best interest to be kept up to date about the app? And then the spamming works on your nerves because the notifications are never relevant? Wouldn’t you like more tailored notifications that can enhance your experience with the app and knowledge sharing? This is the same application with networking. How?
Use the engagement engine that’s data at your disposable about your network to retain and convert, be it to drive purchases, revenue or however you measure net worth for that particular network.
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.
“I did not originally set out a career in technology. What excites me the most about working in innovation and technology, is the fact that it's a connector, a tool that connects me in Cape Town (Silicon Cape) to someone in Silicon Valley and that it enables people, from whichever LSM that you're from, to have access to information.”
I remember receiving the email in my inbox and that being the highlight of my day:
The Silicon Cape Women’s Sub-Committee invites you to participate in a series of video clips to celebrate women working in a range of technology roles in and around Cape Town.We are inviting you, as one of a hand-picked group of talented and dynamic women, because we think your voice should be heard. Whether you’re a developer, founder of a tech startup, making strategic technology decisions, researching and innovating new technologies or still working your way up from the ground floor - you have something to say to others who want to be like you!"
I ofcourse had a moment of "WHAT?" and then after rereading the mailer, connecting with my confidence and nothing but flattery and appreciation for the recognition. I had just turned 22, it was a big deal! To this day, it still is, and I had to recognize that. Having this website will now also enable me to converse with you, and be transparent as I can about my life, because at the end of the day I want to see more women and black girls in STEM, (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), Entrepreneurship and Innovation work space. This is what this video is about, appreciating and showcasing the many faces of women in STEM and just some of the ways you can be a woman in technology, shot in 2016.
I hope you enjoy my Silicon Cape Women In Tech Video Interview.
“As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way. “ - Mary Anne Radmacher
My manager, Saidah Nash Carter, is always echoing this quote when we’re presenting our work to the innovation community or customers, and with each paraphrasing, the understanding deepens. Mary Anne Radmacher’s quote, contextualised in corporate innovation speaks to understanding the customer led innovation is an opportunistic collaboration which has the potential to add business value and create social impact.