Elaine Wang is an all-round tech enthusiast with a passion for the transformative power of the cloud for SMEs. She inspires and embodies tech leadership and is constantly finding innovative ways to solve problems. In this interview with Heath Muchena of Business Africa Online, Elaine explores innovations driving technology adoption, business leadership, and issues of diversity and inclusion in the technology sector.
Heath: You have a passion for helping SMEs figure out how technology can support their businesses. What’s your approach to engaging local enterprises?
Elaine: Rectron works indirectly through the various channels to help SMEs. We partner with our resellers to deliver technology solutions that help local enterprises run better. We are more familiar with the tech and how it can grow a business’s bottom line, so when we engage in our sales process, we aim to empower our resellers to communicate this value to the end customer.
Through the cloud solutions that we offer, we assist SMEs in collaborating better and being more productive, all while ensuring that their software is secure. Rectron’s SaaS solutions bring big business functionality at SME price points.
Heath: What are the trends you’ve noticed within African marketplaces in terms of uptake of enterprise cloud solutions?
Elaine: It is reality that infrastructure problems are holding back cloud usage in many African markets, but senior technology executives are accepting that cloud technology is a necessary ingredient for business growth. African marketplaces are in the early stages of development in terms of the uptake of enterprise cloud solutions but the impact of cloud services is already far-reaching.
For the African marketplace, cloud, virtualisation and the broader evolution towards serverless computing are the most disruptive technology developments since the advent of the mobile payment revolution. Infrastructure issues remain, but tech executives are realising that cloud technology is the way to optimise their IT costs, speed time to market and grow their businesses.
Heath: Your operations extend into countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia. Any future plans to expand Rectron further into Africa?
Elaine: Rectron is well known to vendors and is recognised as being a distributor of choice for the South African and southern African ICT market. We will continue to forge close working relationships with vendors and facilitate joint business development by opening doors to our broad reseller network further into Africa. Our vendors work closely with our executive team to tap into new opportunities within our reseller partner base on African continent, leveraging Rectron’s core strength of being able to reach the breadth audience as a platform to mutual success.
Heath: Are we seeing enough innovation in the ICT/Tech space in SA? What challenges do you face under the current economic climate?
Elaine: The ICT/Tech space is critical to drive sustainable growth in South Africa and has shown strong output and investment in the past decade. The ICT sector continues to face challenges on a national level: education and skills shortages; job creation and empowerment; policy conflicts and regulatory failure have led to poor outcomes and slower development. A shortage of technical skills is the major challenge on company level and as technology continues to evolve rapidly we cannot always build on what has gone before, we must find new and novel solutions to the country’s unique challenges.
Heath: How do you develop consultation programs and training services to help drive adoption of technology and to ensure that businesses in Africa derive the maximum value from their technology investments?
Elaine: With a national footprint in the Southern African region, Rectron aims to provide excellent support to our customers with the purpose of assisting to drive the adoption of technology and ensure that businesses in Africa derive maximum value from their tech investment. To make the process as simple and as convenient as possible, Rectron offers online support services as well as walk-in face-to-face support in all major South African cities.
We have service centres located across the country staffed by skilled individuals who provide customers and end-users with service information, advice, returns, swap-out options and financing solutions. Our support staff can assist with assembly problems, preparing products for use, testing, configuration. They are readily available to provide support, advice and information.
Heath: What do you think is the best part of being a female leader in the tech industry and what advice would you give to women looking to break into the tech field?
Elaine: Being a female leader in tech, we really stand out! Women bring different views to the boardroom, which help to generate tangible business value. My advice to all women looking to succeed in the tech industry is to put up your hand to get involved, even when you are not sure if you should. Be brave and don’t back away from a new challenge, especially in a traditionally male-dominated environment. Through enthusiastically signing up for the next assignment, you are investing in the next steps of your career.
Rectron’s own programme, Basadi, was launched last year with the aim to empower the women at our company and to encourage each one to stand up and get involved. It’s really important that women support each other, and only by doing so, we will succeed in our goal of increasing female representation at all management layers within the company.
Heath: What is your biggest piece of advice for IT companies getting started with diversity and inclusion?
Elaine: Diversity and inclusion must be regularly discussed around the boardroom table; it requires buy-in from top management. Metrics should be put in place to evaluate the success of any such initiative. Organisations do well to involve their staff in Diversity and inclusion campaigns because diversity is meaningless without inclusion.
Heath: In your leadership role, how do you maintain a business focus while ensuring that innovation within the company stays on trend?
Elaine: Innovation is crucial to a business being able to improve its processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, increase its efficiency and, most importantly, improve its profitability. Whatever form it takes, innovation is a creative process. The ideas may come from inside the business, e.g. from employees, managers or in-house research and development work or outside the business, e.g. suppliers, customers, media reports, market research published by another organisation, or universities and other sources of new technologies.
Successful leadership requires that innovation becomes part of our thinking on every level. Business focus comes from filtering those ideas, identifying those that the business will take forward on and applying resources to achieve them.
Heath: How do you maintain work-life balance and what are your views on goals, timelines, and measuring success?
Elaine: I am goal driven by nature, and that has been key to the success that I’ve seen in my career. I believe that smaller goals are extremely important to one’s career as they represent milestones to reach – as they say, you eat an elephant one bite at a time. However, while I’m always looking forward to the next goal, I understand the importance of looking back and reflecting on my achievements. I’m fortunate that I work for a company that values family and work life balance. However, one trick that I have learned to be able to switch off from work is to remove email notifications on my phone.
Heath: What influences your leadership style and what values are important to you? How do you balance cooperation with others and independent thinking?
Elaine: I have been fortunate to have had some incredible managers in my career and I would say that they have heavily influenced my leadership style. Day-to-day, I strongly believe that one’s ability and willingness to learn is key to achieving success. While I believe it is important to have an opinion, any effective leader needs to be able to listen and mold their opinions, updating them with new information.
Girl Engineer Day: Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World
Image source: Pexels
The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.
As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.
The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.
The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:
- Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
- Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
- Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.
More stories of female leadership in engineering can be seen here:
To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.
North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion
North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)
North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.
The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.
The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.
“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.
The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.
“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”
Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.
Gebeya Inc. Launches App to Accelerate Access to Job Opportunities and Skilled Talent on the Continent
Gebeya Inc. announced the launch of its new app: Gebeya Talent. With this, the Pan-African online talent marketplace will expand access to its network across the continent and around the globe. African talent seeking their next freelance work opportunity will now have access to these features:
- A quick and easy application process
- Save time with automatic matching with exciting projects inline with their skill sets
- No bidding; get paid at rates that represent their capabilities and experience level; get paid in multiple currencies
- Being part of an engaging, growing community with exclusive professional networking, events, free upskilling, and mentorship
- Showcase their best work via custom portfolio and profile
Prior to the release of the Gebeya Talent app, the process to apply to join our talent network was largely manual, requiring intensive human involvement. Now, leveraging improved processes and automation, the process has greatly improved. Throughout the year, additional features will be added to streamline and further optimize the process, and leverage the full power of artificial intelligence and automation. From application, to testing, from interview to onboarding, potential candidates can expect to enjoy a seamless experience.
“We strive to be THE most-referenced freelance African Talent company. Having fast, reliable, seamless digital tools at the heart of our marketplace is a MUST,” said Amadou Daffe, CEO and Co-founder of Gebeya. “Currently, the process for talents wanting to join our marketplace takes anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. “Our objective is that, with the Gebeya Talent app, we will be able to onboard a talent within 24 hours after they submit their application.”
A New Kind of Talent Marketplace
The year 2020 was abuzz with phrases like “future of work,” “gig economy,” and “remote work.” The release of the Gebeya Talent app proves that this bold, new future predicted has arrived. Access to opportunities for talent has expanded, as they are no longer restricted to their immediate geographic location; we follow a remote-first work model. And: anyone can download the app.
“This is only the beginning,” said Thierno Niang, Chief Platform Officer at Gebeya. “We launched a mobile app before a web application, because all of our talent have access to a phone. As we add features to the product, we will also expand to include a web app.”
The most in-demand talent for startups and corporations include: software development, graphics & design, project management, digital marketing, product management, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. But, as market needs evolve, so will the Gebeya Talent pool.
Best of African Talent for the World
The Gebeya Talent app grants access for talented professionals in Africa and its diaspora to join a community built with them in mind. Rather than bid against millions of freelancers in an anonymous pool of talent, they can be assured that every opportunity caters to their skill set and agreed-upon rate. No more underbidding, missed payments, or ghosted clients. Because Gebeya manages the entire process of matching, plus administrative and finance processes, talents are ensured timely and fair delivery of payment in exchange for their work.
Within the next three-to-five years, we anticipate identifying and vetting the top 100,000 talent. From that, we expect to onboard the top 20,000 best. If you’re a talent from Africa or of African descent, seeking to join a community that will care about you, download the Gebeya Talent app and apply today.
A web-based application to connect clients of all sizes, including individual entrepreneurs, startups, and large enterprises with talent, will launch later this month. This will be for clients that are seeking to: diversify their workforce, augment their existing team, or expand into new markets without the hassle of opening a physical office. Our goal is that clients will be matched with talent within seconds, and within 24-to-48 hours of contract-signing, begin the work.
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