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My journey as a woman in tech

Article provided by PayFast

Woman’s Month is more than just a month of celebrating the women in our lives – our mothers, sisters, daughters, and wives. It’s about appreciating everything the previous generations have accomplished, offering us the freedom to achieve what we set our hearts on today. Lucy Whyte, QA Analyst at PayFast, reflects on what it means to be a woman in tech, her journey of developing her skillset and why she loves doing what she does. 

I started as a tester by chance, or call it fate if you will, by working as a Compliance Officer in a call centre in Cape Town that sold funeral cover and legal plans. We needed software that could automate leads with an inbuilt phone system. The Director of a Software House (who I thought was just a Client Manager at the time) came to the call centre and taught me how to use the system so that I could teach my other colleagues.

We developed a good working relationship, so when I resigned from the call centre out of frustration and told him I was leaving, he asked me to meet him at his office the following Monday and to bring my CV along. So off I went, and after a five-minute interview, he offered me a job. He created a position just for me, on the helpdesk, and then from there introduced me to manual testing, and sent me on a course to develop the skills I needed for the job.

Growing my career in tech

Unfortunately, that company went under two years after I joined them. Luckily, I was handpicked to join some of my colleagues who were starting their own company. As there were only five of us, I started wearing different hats and ended up as a tester and trainer full time as the company grew. This was where I got fully emerged and gained a passion for this role. However, I felt like an imposter because I never attended tertiary education like my peers around me. Yet, despite this, I happily remained at the company for 10 years.

Overcoming career hurdles

While I enjoyed my job, I decided to take a leap of faith and find out if this was my calling career-wise. Well, the leap of faith lasted for only six months at a new company which head-hunted me via LinkedIn. I ended up getting retrenched, which was a major blow for me.

I sat at home for seven long months searching for new employment, during which time I came across a testing seminar being held by Allen Gray. So, I went in with the hope to network as I was very desperate at that stage. There I bumped into an ex-colleague of mine who I worked with at the company I leapt from. We ended up spending some time catching up and he asked me to send my CV to him, even though I had no clue where he worked. From there he organised an interview for the following week where I learned that he and another colleague of his from a previous company were setting up the first QA Department at PayFast and he felt I would be a good addition to their team. I was beyond excited and after the interview with the panel, I was sent an offer that same week.

Growing my career at PayFast

Of course, I accepted the job offer and the individual who got me the job turned out to be my Team Lead at PayFast. It was the first time I was working in a team of testers, since previously I always worked solo and even to this day was always the only female tester. In my new role I experienced new challenges because now instead of just being a manual tester, I had to learn new technical skills which I was lacking. I needed to learn to work in the Ubuntu Terminal and that was a nightmare for the first six months at PayFast. I had to learn a new language and had to be more than semi-functional within a small-time frame. This was a huge challenge and within my probation period, I felt like giving up and throwing in the towel multiple times. 

But then as fate would have it and the universe heard my cries, I started interacting more with the dev team and what a great help they all have been. My teammates, Tyrone and Justin, the Dev Manager, Leon and then the developers I was interacting with, all assisted me to get through this new challenge and I became seriously motivated to pass. Tyrone pushed me from day one and refused to back down. I will forever be grateful for his endurance, and I’m sure I am part of the reason for his hair loss. Justin, the “bad cop” in the picture accepted no excuses but positive results. The rest of the guys were all very patient with me.

What it’s like being a woman in tech

As a woman in tech, I will say this: expect no exceptions, you are seen as an equal when it comes to the work that needs to be completed and maintained. Working for a great company that puts people first and that treats you as an individual irrespective of your gender also goes a long way. Being one of the few ladies amongst the dudes, I don’t find myself feeling misplaced or awkward. I’m treated with the same respect I show. 

This is a well-rounded career path which I encourage more females to get involved in. It doesn’t simply mean working with hardware that needs to be fixed and built or being a developer. As a tester, your skillset and your ability are highly valued. The exposure gained and new things learned are endless, exciting and rewarding. But like anything, it takes commitment, hard work and passion.

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