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Successful young software development students share advice for SA’s youth

CAPE TOWN – AS SOUTH Africa struggles to bring down the unemployment rate, young people are faced with a twin challenge: They need to learn an employable skill and they need to know how, or where, to find sustainable employment. 

With technology evolving at an incredible pace, it is no surprise that software development is front of mind as a career expected to future-proof young people for a life of employment. However, knowing that software development is a great career for the present and the future is one thing, but what should young people know about entering the software development industry? Often young people are overwhelmed with information about what they should look out for, how they should prepare and the types of characteristics they need to succeed. 

With this in mind, a group of students called Sprinters from redAcademy gathered together in a workshop to provide advice for youth on how to successfully enter South Africa’s software development industry.

redAcademy is an innovative skills and experiential learning hub that develops work-ready developers and sets them onto fulfilling IT careers, by partnering with South African businesses facing a massive skills gap. It does this through a hybrid of theory and actual live work in live business environments, where the Sprinters work alongside seasoned developers. According to redAcademy MD Jessica Hawkey: “This approach ensures that when the young people finish their year at the academy, they’re ready to step into their careers without the need to further build up experience through internships. The 2024 cohort is considered to be especially successful, which is why they gathered to share their advice with the youth of the country.”

What some of the students advice is:

Awonke Danti:

“redAcademy has made me research a lot about the tech industry. I used to do freelance jobs at startups, and if it wasn’t for redAcademy I would have gone into a public sector career.”

When comparing the first six months of theoretical training at redAcademy to the second six months of working on live client projects, Awonke says that during the second phase he was able to integrate theory and professionalism learnt in the first phase. “This professional approach was needed to help me make the transition to where I am now.”

Iviwe Mjajubana

“redAcademy has taken me out of my comfort zone and this is due to the support of my lecturers and fellow Sprinters. I now don’t see failure as a failure, I see it as a way of always growing myself.”

Iviwe says that the hybrid environment of theory and practical live work has taught time management and accountability, which are crucial characteristics for young people who wish to succeed as software developers.

His advice for young people? “Be curious… Why is a thing the way it is? You need to have this mindset when it comes to tech.” 

Jared Moodley

When asked what advice he has for youth hoping to have a career in software development, Jared says that young people must look at their own personal characteristics compared to what the training institute requires. 

“For example, redAcademy wants young people who like to solve problems, people who are solutions driven and understand that code is a tool. It demands accountability and a can-do attitude. We work so well because we either have or are prepared to learn these traits.” 

Uzair Kamaldien

Uzair says that young people who want to enter the technology industry must be prepared to do research. “If you don’t know something, or if you have very little knowledge about technology, then do the research. There are so many resources out there. Be a go-getter because it is important to find out for yourself if you have a passion for this.” 

Erin van Graan

According to lecturers and management, Erin has adapted well to the team environment. They say her communication skills have led to her becoming a mentor to other Sprinters. 

When asked what advice she has for youth looking to embark on a career in software development, Erin echoes Uzair: “Do the research required and be open to trying something new.”

Yaaseen Khan

A former plumber, Yaaseen once worked at a Microsoft event and met someone who he admired. “I met with him and he said I don’t have the skills needed for a Microsoft job. The advice he gave to me was to get the technical background that I needed if a career in technology was something I was serious about. Since being at redAcademy, my knowledge gap has decreased.” His advice is to be prepared to put in the work.

Nabeel Crichton

Nabeel says that receiving the training in-person has been more beneficial than learning online, like one does with some institutions. He says that young people should decide what type of training is best for them. His advice centers on being prepared to work in a team and to develop resilience. 

What the lecturers say

Mahomed Goolam

“Passion stands out strongly for me. Sprinters need to be adaptable to change. I do a C# test with potential Sprinters in their interview which introduces a technical question and shows me their interest, passion and the research that they have done. 

“One of the biggest red flags is a young person who walks in looking to pursue the programme only for the stipend.”

When asked what advice he has for youth, Mahomed says: “Put in the time and effort. A big factor is self-motivation. Every failure is not a failure.”

Nashid Cassiem

“It is important for young people to realise that we are not recruiting for the sake of recruiting at this level. We focus strongly on attitude – the focus on technology is secondary. Attitude and problem-solving ability is our main focus.  

“We appreciate people with some life experience, people who have faced challenges and want to find solutions to these. This push in life makes you grow and thrive in an environment like redAcademy.”

Sprinters share key traits that have driven their success at the academy

  • Drive, commitment and discipline
  • Feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Being able to adapt fast
  • Good time management 
  • Learning how to challenge yourself 
  • Being humble and open to feedback
  • A passion for technology – the course is a full year and a career is a lifetime
  • Accountability and pride in your work
  • Willingness to learn the soft skills one needs to thrive in a real work environment
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