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‘Grab every opportunity that comes your way, and be brave’

“I was one of the few girls who showed up. I was the only girl with a computer. And I spent more time sorting out the switches and LAN cables than I did gaming,” chuckles Terryanne du Toit as she recounts a weekend tradition from her high school years: network gaming with her classmates. Back then, while her friends were honing their keyboard skills as virtual soldiers and rally drivers, BUI’s resident Tech Talk presenter and infrastructure consultant was already thinking about a career in IT.

“From a young age, I was fascinated by broken things,” explains Terryanne. “I think it came from watching my dad work on cars. As a mechanic, he’d spend hours taking apart all kinds of machinery. He’d find the problem, fix it, and put everything back in its place. I was about eight years old when our home PC stopped working, and I was determined to dismantle it and find the issue. I remember turning the PC on its side, watching the CD-ROM fall out, and looking to my dad for help. I think he could see that I was genuinely interested in computers, and from that day onward, he encouraged me to learn as much as possible.”

But learning presented its own challenges, even at the dawn of the new millennium. Terryanne was living in the Northern Cape at the time, and studying on her own to achieve the IT certifications that would open doors for her. “I managed to find all the books I needed to study, but the closest exam centre was in the North West, and that meant a very long bus trip to Potchefstroom every time. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.”

A learning journey

Terryanne started with CompTIA’s A+ Certification, which gave her a solid grounding in hardware and software support and administration. She then completed all the Microsoft Office exams, and later became a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert in core infrastructure. “I’m still learning,” she reveals. “It comes with the territory when you work in IT because technology is always changing, but I also believe in taking every opportunity that comes my way.”

Terryanne relished the chance to share her knowledge with the Welkom community, live on Gold FM 104.3, even though she’d never been a radio presenter before. “I live and work in the heart of the goldfields region, and I like to talk to people, especially about technology,” she says. “The Tech Talk show has been a great platform for creating public awareness, about everything from password security to artificial intelligence. I’m grateful for the support from BUI, and I hope that listeners walk away with a few ideas to help them work smarter.”

Would Terryanne consider a career behind the microphone? She laughs. “I was so nervous during the first few shows,” she recalls. “I would shake so much that I couldn’t even hold my notes! It got better as I became more comfortable on air, and the feedback has been amazing! My family and my friends and colleagues have been behind me from the beginning. I took a big step outside of my comfort zone and it opened up a whole new world for me, but I’m not ready to leave IT behind: I enjoy the buzz too much.”

A chance to make a difference

The buzz, as it turns out, is literal and figurative. “I love the hum of happy machines,” says Terryanne, sharing a personal quirk. “And I’m excited to be involved in the technology industry at a time when women are challenging traditions and challenging themselves. When I was growing up, certain jobs were considered unsuitable for women, and IT was still very much ‘something that guys did’. But I never let that stop me. I had the support and encouragement of my parents, and I worked hard to gain the skills and experience I have now.”

Are attitudes changing? “I think so,” ventures Terryanne. “Slowly, but surely… One of my first jobs was as a technician at a computer repair store, and I remember one client who refused to explain his PC problem to me. He said he didn’t think I could help him, and that he wanted to speak to a man instead. That was tough to hear,” she recalls. “But when people don’t know you, or what you’re capable of, I think it’s easy for them to make assumptions. I do my best to surprise them.”

As the infrastructure consultant in our Free State hub, Terryanne is the link between the wider BUI team and customers in Welkom, Bloemfontein, and other parts of the province. “My role involves organisational and technical responsibilities, as well as liaison work and mentorship within my group of local colleagues, but every day is different,” notes Terryanne. “Every day brings new projects, new deadlines, and new challenges. It can be chaotic and stressful one minute, and quiet the next, but it’s always interesting. And I like being able to help people. I like being able to make a difference for them, with the right tools and technology,” she concludes.

Missed an episode of Tech Talk With Terryanne?

Catch all the recaps on our YouTube channel! Listen in as Terryanne tackles trending topics, from cybersecurity to data privacy.

And don’t forget to follow BUI on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter for company news, industry updates, and helpful tech tips.

Attain your goals the way you want to attain them

Emmanuella Tieku joined BUI earlier this year as part of our internship programme. Her passion is cyber security and she’s determined to lead the way for the next generation of women in tech. We asked her about her career ambitions and her thoughts on South Africa’s IT industry…

Q: Emmanuella, what did you study at university, and how did it influence your career trajectory?

A: I went to Pearson Institute of Higher Education, in Midrand. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and at the time I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career. My love for cyber security didn’t come in varsity; it came after, when I went to a cyber security institute to do a course there. I thought I would be a software developer or a coder.

Q: What drew you to the field of cyber security?

A: My varsity has an entire office dedicated to helping graduates at the start of their career journey. After I’d finished my degree, they called me and said there was an institution that wanted to train students in cyber security. I knew I had to go for it. So, I grabbed that opportunity. And when I started the course, I thought it was so interesting. I felt like a real hacker! Like the ones you see in the movies. When I started to understand what actually goes into it, that’s when I got really interested in it… Since then, I’ve never looked back. Wherever I go, I know I want to be in cyber security. I don’t want to do other stuff.

Q: You’re a cyber security intern here at BUI. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

A: What is most rewarding is getting all this knowledge, and knowing that I can use it and my new skills to help somebody else in the future… Maybe somebody who was like me in the beginning.

Q: How do you feel about being the only woman in the cyber security team at the moment?

A: Even when I was studying Computer Science at varsity, women were always in the minority. In a class with 40 students, we’d have maybe 4 or 5 women sitting together.

Q: Do you see a similar trend in South Africa’s IT industry?

A: I’m definitely seeing it… Maybe things are changing faster overseas, but here in South Africa it’s still a big issue because we’re a developing country. I think a lot of people still believe that women can’t be engineers. And I know that it’s hard for a lot of young women to study today. I’d like to help change that, because we have to pave the way for those who come after us. I want it to become a normal thing for girls to study engineering or computer science.

When I used to fail at something, the first thing that would come to mind is ‘you failed because you’re a girl’. I had to change my own thinking. I had to stop comparing myself to other people – men and women. And I did it. I told myself: ‘Do what you want to do. Attain your goals the way you want to attain them. Don’t make it a boy-girl thing. Do it for yourself.’

Q: How has your internship been so far?

A: The whole atmosphere at BUI is lovely. When I come to work, it doesn’t feel like I’m coming to work. Since the lockdown, everyone has been working from home and I miss the office vibe… That buzz from everyone working together. I really enjoyed the BUI birthday party earlier this year. I have such fun memories from that day!

Q: What excites you about the tech industry?

A: If you look at the computers we used to work with in the past and what we have now… Who would have thought we would ever be able to carry around a computer in our bag. Things are becoming better and better. There’s always something fresh and new. There’s always something to learn and look forward to, so you aren’t stuck in the same spot, doing the same thing every year.

Q: How do you keep up with the latest trends and technology changes?

A: BUI posts a lot of technical articles and I like to check them out and grab information that is interesting and relevant to me. I also spend time on YouTube and social media; there are a lot of cyber security channels that I follow.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I’m all over the place. I’m a person who can’t sit too long doing one thing. So, I would either read a book, play games, or learn something new. For instance, this weekend I’m learning to sew with my mom!

Q: How do you think South Africans should spend Women’s Day this year?

A: I think people should make a real effort to highlight our country’s problem with gender-based violence. And personally, I’d like to see more projects to support young women, through education and job placement, so that they can find their place in society.