Learning lessons from women in ICT

Zimkhita Buwa outlined her top tips for finding success in the ICT space, at College of Cape Town and On the Ball College's first Women in ICT Seminar in August.

Johannesburg, 30 Aug 2018
Read time 3min 20sec

Some of the business and ICT industry's most talented women came together to tell their stories as part of the College of Cape Town and On the Ball College's Women in ICT Seminar earlier this month. An event aimed at showcasing the successes and challenges of women working in the tech space, the various speakers shared their insights about how to make a mark in a typically male-dominated industry.

Delivering the opening keynote of the event on a chilly morning in Cape Town, Zimkita Buwa, COO at Britehouse, spoke about her journey as a woman in the ICT sector and how she ended up where she is today.

She explained that her first hurdle came before she even entered the working world. Awarded a scholarship to study in Malaysia from Petronas and the Department of Minerals and Energy, she assumed she'd have a job waiting for her when she graduated. But this was not the case.

"Imagine being 'over the seas' as my dad used to call it, with everyone in your family having all of these hopes for your future and you come back after more than four years and you're unemployed," she said.

But she didn't let this setback deter her.

She sent e-mails to every company she wanted to work for in the hope that she'd get an opportunity, a move that saw her being hired by Accenture and then later gaining experience at Engen, City of Cape Town and IBM, among others.

As part of her keynote address, Buwa shared a few pearls of wisdom she would've liked to know before entering the working world. Firstly, she detailed the importance of standing out from the crowd. "What does this mean? It's all about ploughing seeds that differentiate you from other applicants. It's about doing things today, to set yourself up for success in the future."

Secondly, she noted changes are being made in the tech and ICT sector when it comes to gender representation, but there is still so much to do. She didn't realise how underrepresented women were when she first started working and it meant she often kept quiet and felt uncomfortable because she was the only woman in the room. "This is not the right approach. Young women keen to pursue careers in tech/ICT must find comfort in the uncomfortable situations they find themselves in. This is where support systems and mentors are so important."

She noted that women need to support each other: "This is where it's essential to find your 'tribe' and to be discerning about filtering out the noise. Don't allow anything that doesn't serve you to get you down."

As part of identifying these support networks, Buwa advised that young women seek out mentors already working in industries they're keen to explore. The relationship you develop with your mentor shouldn't only be beneficial to one party, as mentors also stand to learn a lot from the young people they are advising, she pointed out.

A piece of advice Buwa described as being "so, so, so important" is paying it forward. "I really do believe that you rise by lifting others," she explained. Finally, she stressed that nerves and fear are normal, but it is what you do to overcome these doubts that makes the difference.

"One of my mentors always used to say: 'Do it afraid... be afraid, but honey, do it anyway,' and this is something that still resonates with me today."

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The 6 August 2018 event was the second Women In ICT Seminar to be held by On the Ball College.

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