The Chair of EFA’s Women in Ecommerce Committee, Mpho Sekwele, continues her series of interviews with key women in the ecommerce and digital economy space. This month she interviews Ngwanamatloa Matloa of abottech.co.za.
1. Mpho:What inspired you to embark into the tech industry?
a. Ngwanamatloa: Getting into tech was an unplanned second choice career. My initial career path was to become a Sports physiotherapist. After missing the deadline for applying, I had to find another course to do for a year (in 2000) as my mom didn’t believe in the Gap year concept.
b. At that time Travel & Tourism & IT were the picking in popularity, after much discussion with my mom, we decided that I should do an IT certificate for that year and then apply for Physio for the following year. My mom also preferred IT as it was applicable to all industries.
c. It was during 2001, that I had a visit to the doctor and my doctor, suggested that I should rather get a degree in IT before changing course to the Health Sciences. It was a great idea, because as I progressed with my IT studies I realised that there were more opportunities within the IT sector. I haven’t looked back since.
2. What made you start your tech companyabottech.co.za? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
a. The journey into entrepreneurship was inspired by my father, who was a real estate agent and my maternal grandmother, who was a dressmaker. So from a young age I knew that I wanted to have my own business, even though I wasn’t sure in which industry I wanted to work in. It was only until I met a friend of mine, Phaswa Mokone, from university (Midrand Graduate Institute) that we spoke about starting a business in the IT industry. As this time I had been working for 2 years in the IT sector as a Software Developer and Phaswa was working for Teknatic also as a software developer.
b. We had been great project partners in university, achieving distinctions on projects.
c. ABOT Technology was started because:
i. Phaswa & I have believed that you can do a lot with a little technology, thus the company name means: A Bit Of That Technology.
ii. Change the narrative that Black people cannot produce their own products, why are we always consumers. How do we create sustainable generational wealth, without creating a product?
iii. We wanted to create cool & usable technology where we can solve a lot of problems in South Africa and Africa.
d. ABOT Technology started off initially by providing branding, digital marketing office automation solutions to small businesses. In 2006 there were a lot of people leaving their corporate jobs to start their own businesses and few of them had the expertise to develop their own websites, design their brand identities, buy affordable computer hardware and install an office network. Providing these services to small businesses was an easy way into the market, but we always knew that developing our own products for the consumer and other businesses, was where ABOT Technology was aiming to be.
e.Over the years, as the website market became more saturated, we started to expand our services to corporate clients.
f. We are in the process of developing one of our products for job seekers.
3.You were in a Tech exchange programme in the USA- how was that experience for you? How has it impacted the work you do back at home?
a. I was selected to be part of the TechWomen programme in 2013 and it is an exchange that helps women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) grow in their careers or grow their businesses by being matched with& mentored by women in Silicon Valley that are playing a pivotal role at their companies. I was matched up with up Kalika Kekkar, at Disney Interactive who is the Director in the Business Intelligence division. I learnt about Big Data and how companies can leverage the use of data in product and service improvement.
b. I was also matched up with Baat Enosh, who is a Director of Strategy & Innovation at Intuit, Israel. Intuit is the company that developed the accounting package QuickBooks.
c. Since 2013, I have kept in contact with Baat and Kalika and our professional relationship has become one where they are like my older sisters, where I can also call or WhatsApp about personal advice.
d. I met many great women from other countries, through the alumnae and I see them as aunts for my children. These woman are smart, funny, provide great advice and are making tremendous strides in their careers and businesses.
e. What I learnt about data and innovation has helped how we at ABOT Technology are building our products and also how we advise our clients on how to leverage of their data and develop products differently.
4. As a woman in Software Development and Data Analytics- what would you say have been your biggest challenges?
a. In most cases, I’m still one female in a meeting with men.
b. You have to work twice as hard, if not 4 times as hard as male counterparts. Sometimes the prejudice doesn’t only come from men, but from other females too.
c.I have seen less experienced men, some of a different colour, get projects that I was more qualified and experienced for.
d.I still get asked, in some circles, if ABOT Technology is my company.
5. What advice would you give young females looking to get into the 4th industrial revolution?
a. There are many only platforms that are free & great for learning about 4IR technologies. One of them is the IBM Digital Nation (https://developer.ibm.com/africa/), where you can also earn badges after learning bout Data Analytics, IOT, AI, BlockChain, Cybersecurity to name a few.
b. For ladies that are working, they need to attend forums or conferences that deal with these emerging technologies.
c. Network.Read.Experiment and repeat. Try to find a use case that you can use IOT, for example to solve that use case. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
d. I’m also available and have friends that are involved in the 4iR technologies