Welcome to the first in our new series of blogs where we share the stories of inspiring Trailblazers in South Africa.
South Africa’s job market is a challenging place to find work at the moment. The unemployment rate rose to a record high of 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021. And with few prospects for further study or career development, the ongoing social and economic disruption of the pandemic has further marginalised thousands of job seekers.
That's why companies from the Salesforce ecosystem are joining the Talent Alliance programme. They’re working hard to change the narrative. Together, we want South Africans to know there is a whole world of exciting career opportunities in the Salesforce ecosystem. They're open to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or educational background.
In fact, IDC expects the Salesforce Economy to create and support 5,240 jobs in South Africa by 2024. Moreover, McKinsey expects wider industry digitisation will help create 1.6 million jobs for women in South Africa alone.
Natsai – or Nana, as her colleagues know her – grew up in a small town with little exposure to the technology industry. And as of 2020, she holds an honours degree in Computer Science from the University of South Africa.
Today, she's an accomplished Salesforce Developer at BlueSky, an award-winning independent cloud agency in South Africa and strategic partner to Salesforce. BlueSky also trains, coaches, and mentors aspiring tech talent to help them achieve academic certification and real-world experience through BlueSky Academy, which supplies 40% of its recruits.
Natsai is preparing to launch an initiative to help introduce young women in South Africa to the tech industry. We spoke to her about her own life-changing journey so far.
After completing her first degree in 2017, Natsai started looking for ways to develop her computer science experience into a career. It didn't take her long to discover BlueSky Academy where she was accepted on an initial two-month course.
“I spent two months with an instructor, exploring business analyst and software development roles. It helped me find a path that suited my skills and interests.”
During her internship, Natsai's instructor asked if she was familiar with Salesforce. After learning more about the Salesforce ecosystem and the opportunities available at BlueSky, she decided to pursue training for the platform.
"After graduation, it's normal not to have a clear idea of where you want to focus. That's why I loved being able to explore my skillset at the academy," says Natsai. "My instructor recognised my Java background and told me about Apex Salesforce. I liked that it didn't use normal programming languages, and my existing knowledge helped me better understand the platform."
Natsai's initial training at BlueSky Academy was followed by a more independent study period. She started learning through the Trailhead online learning platform, with ad-hoc support from seniors and other students at the academy.
"Trailhead is just this wonderful open book," says Natsai. "Its practical scenario-based modules not only helped me master the Salesforce basics, but it equipped me with the skills I needed to apply my knowledge of Java and programming syntax to Salesforce."
For some students, learning alone online – through YouTube, for example – can quickly lose its appeal. But for Natsai, Trailhead provided a consistent source of new content to keep her engaged and willing to learn about Salesforce.
“Trailhead is constantly updated, and there's always something new to implement each day.”
"You also have the Salesforce developer forums,” says Natsai.”You can go and discuss the latest solutions and share your experiences. I love it."
As Ursula Fear, Business Unit Manager for Learning & Development at BlueSky, tells us, Trailhead's free accessibility plays a vital role in helping build new career opportunities for young South Africans.
"The variety and depth of content you can access is unparalleled and the global Trailblazer community is always standing by to help you," says Ursula. "I believe giving people – especially young, often vulnerable women in South Africa – the opportunity to upskill like this will have such a significant impact on the job market."
After completing her academy training, Natsai became a Salesforce Developer at BlueSky, where she was assigned her first client, MiX Telematics.
Now a permanent employee, Natsai uses her experience and resources to raise awareness of tech as a career path in schools. She also uses her expertise to help women succeed in what remains a primarily male-dominated environment through the 'Our Women in Tech' initiative.
“Growing up, you're always told to be a doctor, an engineer, or a teacher. Nobody ever told me I could be a software developer or business analyst. We want to reach out to students and let them know that these opportunities exist.”
It’s through this work that Natsai also hopes to address the stress and imbalance many women must contend with as they grow their careers.
"As for being a woman in tech, it's not always easy. Few are given a seat at the big table," says Natsai. "Many women also struggle to balance the expectations of being a wife or mother while developing their career, so we want to help them find that balance and be the best versions of themselves. We're always learning, and we'll continue to share what we learn with others."
Just what does it mean to be a Trailblazer? For Natsai, attitude is everything.
“The attitude that you put out into the world defines your experience within it.”
"You need to be resilient and be willing to learn from your mistakes,” says Natsai. “If you have the right attitude, you'll always find the support you need to overcome your challenges and grow as an individual."
The future is looking bright for Natsai, and we hope her story will help inspire others out there to blaze their own trail in South Africa. Get started with Trailhead today!
To join the Trailblazer movement and learn more about career paths in the Salesforce Ecosystem, check out the Talent Alliance website.