Welcome to the STEAM Room. As women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) I thought it would be great to create a space for us to have candid yet insightful and inspirational talks about issues we experience in our respective fields. And here we are!
Many employees have been proposing and even fighting for their employers to adopt policies which allow them to work remotely. However, in most cases this was seen as absurd, despite employees having access to laptops, cell phones and data. But realistically, it was also a trust issue: could employees be trusted to work from home, unattended, out of sight, away from the manager’s watchful eye? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced employers to find out. IT guys (this includes the girls, of course) around the country have been working tirelessly, especially during the days leading up to the lockdown. IT guys had to make sure employees are ‘lockdown ready’, connected to servers, given laptops, bought routers… you know the drill.
The amazing thing is, we could have done all of this even without COVID-19’S intervention. South Africa has, for the longest time, had good technological infrastructure and resources. Internet banking. Online food orders. Zoom and WhatsApp calls. Google Docs. We’ve been doing this. What’s great is technology is solutions-driven; on 2 April, 30 of the world’s leading digital technology experts gathered in a virtual roundtable to help advance the World Health Organisation’s collaborative response to COVID-19. And much more is being done with technology.
We kick off our COVID-19 themed STEAM Room series with one of our own, Womandla Head of STEAM, a self-confessed nerd who is in the field of technology.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Rumbidzaishe Maisva. I am the Head of STEAM for Womandla Foundation where I forward the agenda of encouraging young girls and women to pursue careers. I am part of a great team that aims to educate and equip communities in STEAM related opportunities. I am based in Cape Town where I am also a Senior Quality Assurance (QA) Automation Engineer at Global Kinetic Software Engineers, a FinTech (Financial Technology) company. At Global Kinetic, I am part of awesome QA and project teams delivering simple and effective solutions to complex problems. Additionally, I am an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation mentor. I am passionate about education and making it accessible to people in underprivileged communities.
How does a day in your life look like (pre-COVID-19)?
A day in my life – well, that depends… It’s constantly changing. I go from being a Mentor in one hour, to strategic planning as a software engineer or as the Head of STEAM, the next. But normally I’m just your nerd next door: working with computers and trying to find ways to make an impact including and outside of that. I get into work in the morning and read an article that’s relevant to me, increasing my knowledge. I then check my meetings for the day, plan my day and aim to achieve my goals for the day. I’m a checklist kind of person and I like ticking my list off.
How has COVID-19 impacted your industry?
I feel the Software Development industry has been ahead of the curve. I have been working from home once a week for the past year and for most software developers, for even longer. What I do believe has changed, has been the amount of work that people now realise can be automated.
If anything, COVID-19 has acted as an agent for the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) at an exponential rate.
On the positive side companies have been able to continue business and not lose revenue even with the current lockdown in place. This will prevent a large number of people being retrenched as a result of the company being in financial distress. I know of a number of companies that have been implementing COVID initiatives to this regard. Also, there is 4IR opportunities for more jobs being created but this will require people to acquire the necessary skills for the new roles.
On the negative side a large number of people might be unemployed if they roles have become automated and no longer require human involvement.
What do you think can be done to help your industry recover; what are some of the practical steps we can take to assist?
Major steps include educating communities on how to acquire the necessary skills that will be essential for their jobs. The IT industry is constantly looking for people and the new opportunities will create even more jobs than we currently have the capacity and the necessary skills set for. We need to have these conversations; government and communities need to find a way to optimise on these new opportunities.
As we get ready to go to emerge out of lockdown, it is then important to look at what these ‘new opportunities’ are and how we can capacitate people, especially the youth, so that they can benefit during what will no doubt be trying times.
About the Author:
Amandla Kwinana is a strategic content and communications specialist and member of the Womandla Foundation STEAM Committee.
About The STEAM Room
The STEAM Room is a space for women in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) to explore innovative solutions to the challenges facing our communities and share intriguing stories from their respective worlds. The platform also provides an opportunity for STEAM entrepreneurs to profile their ventures. As with a traditional steam room, women step out of the STEAM Room feeling rejuvenated.