#TADHack2016 - there are opportunities for women in tech

10/14/2016



Valerie Jarett, senior advisor to president Obama once said, "the jobs of the future are going to be in tech".

Tech, that disruptive system that has made women like Virginia Marie Rometty chairwoman, president and CEO of IBM rich. I want in and I hope you do too.

So tonight I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Hackathon called #TADHackSA in the country sponsored by MTN and other tech companies. This is the first time we have TADHack in the country. The event is meant to bring developers and people like you and me who want to learn, share, code and create using the tools and technologies available in telecommunications.

I must admit that this is the one space that I never paid much attention too. I know my way around the computer and a few tricks here and there but not enough to be called a developer.  And whenever I meet women developers I am fascinated but like most women I've been holding this idea that coding is hard and that you have to be a computer science geek from Harvard to know what's happening. But today I was pleasantly surprised! I was told that anyone with a problem solving mindset, can do this, you just need to know where to go to learn. I was blown away by the caliber of women I met today. It made me realise that I've been holding myself back. Now isn't this typical of us girls... we like to think ourselves out of opportunities.


I was looking for women developers and the first person I met was Eartha Hansmann, who is part of the WeThinkCode NGO. She told me that she was in Matric when her brother encouraged her to take an online test with the same NGO. She then passed the test and was allowed in the boot camp. She did well and now she's one of the 8 girls out of a 100 people. I was a little dissapointed with that number but she pointed out to me that girls and women are scared of taking risks. How true? We do it in most industries and we keep thinking this is not for me. She said that many women could code if they put their minds to it. Eartha also told me that young people (18-35) who attend the school are paid a stipend and they are later offered opportunities by various companies. So basically what she was saying is that there is room for women developers in the industry and all they need to do is take a chance. Another thing that fascinated me by WeThinkCode NGO is that it was started by women - Arlene Mulder (left) and Camille Agon.

I had to google them. In one interview Arlene said, "we are experiencing a digital revolution. Every single company requires tech skills."

The ultimate goal of the NGO is to create an ecosystem of new talent that will not only drive innovation but also aid in job creation in South Africa as well as other markets in Africa.

As Bathabile Mpofu said opportunities are looking for us as women, we just need to avail ourselves to them.

I was really inspired and I am going to take the test on the WeThinkCode website and see how far I can go. I am sure I can do it.


Later on I met three girls, Tinyiko, Jeanette and Zandile who started their own NGO called Girl Code. They attended a few Hackathons and after seeing a lack of women in the industry, they decided to start their own  NGO to prove that women can code too! Hello Disruptors! The three girls have day jobs but they also have big plans for their NGO. Next they are planning to start a school. I was inspired by these young girls with BIG dreams.

After attending the first day of the event, I look forward to tomorrow's Hackathon. I trust my mind that I will pick up a few tips and tricks to get started. The essence of this is to find those opportunities that can make us women money. I mean if tech is the present and future, why not learn it now so that we can be like Virginia and call the shots too. It's possible.

And while eaves dropping on a conversation, I heard Eugene de Wee from Huawei saying that he is hoping that the next Mark Zuckberg will come out of this country and his company will fully support that person. Who knows, may be it's me... may be it's you. But we will never know until we try.

I encourage you to come through to the MTN Innovation Center. As women, we need to expose ourselves to all kinds of opportunities. This is the only way we are going to find innovative solutions to our own, day to day problems, and in the process we can make be financially independent. Look at all the guys in tech, most of them are rich or able to afford their lifestyles. Isn't this what we all want.. to live without any worries for wealth?

It's our turn now. Let's disrupt these industries and let's make things happen for ourselves. And the only way we are going to do it is by being interested in opportunities that are outside our normal "interest".

Thanks to MTN for  the opportunity. I will bring you more tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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