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Young Software Development Students Advice SA’s Youth

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Vusi Melane
Vusi Melane
Staff Writer

As South Africa grapples with reducing the unemployment rate, young people face a dual challenge: acquiring an employable skill and understanding where to secure sustainable employment.

Given the rapid evolution of technology, it’s unsurprising that software development emerges as a career path expected to safeguard young people’s employability both now and in the future. Yet, recognizing software development as a promising career option is one thing; understanding how to navigate entry into the industry is another. Frequently, young individuals find themselves inundated with information on what to consider, how to prepare, and the essential traits for success.

Taking this into consideration, a cohort of students dubbed Sprinters from redAcademy convened in a workshop to offer guidance to youth on effectively entering South Africa’s software development sector.

redAcademy stands as an innovative skills and experiential learning hub dedicated to cultivating developers ready for the workforce and guiding them toward fulfilling IT careers. This mission is achieved through strategic partnerships with South African businesses contending with a significant skills deficit. redAcademy employs a hybrid approach, combining theoretical learning with hands-on experience in real-world business settings. Here, Sprinters collaborate with seasoned developers, gaining invaluable practical insights.

Managing Director for redAcademy, Jessica Hawkey says, “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.”

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