Liezl Hesketh

What is your role at TheRoomLink, what does it entail and why did you start it?

I am the founder and owner of TheRoomLink, and it has been my responsibility to mould its creation, take it to market and grow it. I started it because I was hoping an internet business would make it easier for my husband, who is British, and I to spend more time in South Africa and enable us to move here permanently. I had been living in the UK for 15 years and really missed South Africa. But I didn’t just want to start any internet business, I wanted to start one that could have an impact.

How has the journey to creating this service been like so far?

I don’t want anyone to think the journey is easy, because that is the one thing it isn’t. It has been very hard work. There some days where you think you were stupid to embark on the journey at all! But all of those are overridden by spells of pure elation, growth, excitement and reward. And luckily there are many more good days than bad days. I can honestly say that I have learned more in the past year than I did in the 10 years before that!

When we received our first email from an ecstatic client, I was in seventh heaven. It proved that TheRoomLink was providing a website and service that people needed and loved. All the tough days were worth it. And of course, I have a very supportive husband who believes in me, which really helps.

What did you have to study or learn to prepare you for this job?

The reality is: you don’t really have to study anything, but if you have studies and experience behind you, it’s going to improve your chance of success. These are the skills I brought into the business with me: I am a qualified accountant, a performance, CV and life coach, programme and project manager, change management and management consultant. I have led big IT projects, but I still didn’t think I had all the qualifications I needed to embark on the journey, so I enrolled in an intensive Search and Social Media course. And there are still gaps in the skills set I need: graphic design, coding and digital marketing are 3 more skills I wish I had!

What do you think are the advantages of having girls/women in the tech space?

Women/girls bring a different perspective and I love having them on my team. In my experience girls/women are conscientious and diligent multi-taskers. Women want to get ahead by proving they can excel at the job and master it. And the reality is that working in tech requires hard work, adaptability, willingness to change, creativity and agility, all the traits that many girls possess. And having girls/women in the tech space provides balance - a balance delivers positive outcomes. 

What do you think would help to get more young girls interested and involved in tech-related activities?

Start young! Schools can really help to show the fun side of tech - it’s not all about testosterone- fuelled gadgets and coding. Think of things that girls are naturally interested in, like fashion - show how tech can be used in the fashion world. Most women like pretty things, well designed things - how can tech influence these worlds? Pinterest is a perfect example of someone who took the love of pretty things and created a worldwide brand from it. Make every girl watch the video

on and get involved in the Hour of Code (#HourOfCode).

With what you know now, what advice would you give to your 17-year old self?

Learn to code! I wish I had. Even if I wasn’t going to use it in my day job. It’s another language like Chinese, French or Spanish is - it helps you trade within a global world. Also, university isn’t the only place in the world where you can learn. The internet is a fountain of free training - learn some skills from free MOOC courses, or even YouTube videos. Learn the skills and try to apply them. Get yourself a CV that makes you stand out from the crowd and finally, learn to listen more. Surround yourself with people you can learn from. If you’re not learning something new every day, you’re in the wrong place! 

Lynette Hundemark

What are the challenges that women face in the technology field and how have you overcome them?

Integrating work and family life: Circumstances change as you progress in life and this becomes very apparent when you have kids. I've overcome these challenges by basically just rolling with the punches and making the best of the situation and accepting that demands do change and constantly learning to integrate family and work facets of life so that I can be the best that I can at both.

Working on negotiation skills: Society and tradition has taught women to be thankful for what we get but throughout my career I found that my male peers especially were often on higher salary brackets than me. When I investigated the reasons behind this, it wasn't because they were better than me, but merely because they never accepted their initial offers. It took me a long time to get over the fear of asking for more money but as I gained confidence in my capabilities to do the job, my negotiation skills improved considerably.

Fighting the fear of failure syndrome: Women in particular hate failing and this can be a career inhibitor if you are always afraid to take risks. As a business owner I am continually learning how to manage this and to see failure as an opportunity. At the end of the day it is about turning obstacles into opportunities.

What had been the most rewarding experience in your career so far?

Knowing that the work that I've done is being enjoyed by the end users. When I first released the ster-kinekor app and if I happened to strike a conversation with someone about what I did, as soon as I mentioned the SK app, they would immediately pull out their phones and show me the app installed and would complement the user experience. Even though this was purely an entertainment app, it was very rewarding for me to know that my work is being appreciated by actual users rather than line managers who just wanted to tick a KPI box. Also my children are so proud of me, they are only 7 and 9 but they are aware of what I do and if they see me in magazine or online article (they love googling me), they get very excited about it and show all their friends and teachers and say "This is my mommy, she works very hard and creates apps". It is lovely for me to know that they can see hard work and passion to do what you love is something to aspire to (well I hope that is what they are thinking!) :)

What do you think would help to get more young girls interested and involved in tech-related activities?

Young girls need to see that there are women in the tech field fulfilling their passions. I think it gets quite clouded and hazy when all you see are men in suits and it gives a false perception that being a women in tech is almost impossible. I strongly believe that girls need positive female role models to aspire to and these role models need to represent all sectors and ages and cultures. Quite often the media may only highlight a twenty something overworked singleton and to be honest is this right messaging? As mentioned before as one progress in life there are many changes and adaptation is key. Also young girls need to see that passion and hard work throughout your career is key in achieving success. I was recently part of the international girls in ICT event hosted by Normanini and I chatted about my journey in tech to a group of high school students from Khayelitsha and they found it fascinating to hear that I attended a normal government school in Pietermaritzburg, moved to Johannesburg, then to the UK , gained experience in mobile development and produced the top performing apps in SA and now running my own business. It may sound like a cliché but more of these stories sometimes need to be told so that girls are aware that anything is possible if you set your mind and work towards it.


What sparked your interest in technology?

At an early age, I always had an interest in Maths and Science Subjects. My interest started back in the day when I was in primary school and watched Logo on TV (A computer generated turtle that you could train to draw shapes using code). I took computer studies as one of my major subjects at school and found it quite easy and it complimented my passion for Maths and continued with a BSc Computer Science degree at university. My hard work and accomplishments throughout my studies was recognised when Standard Bank selected me as one of their top 20 group of students to complete a national internship programme where I represented the IT sector. My career in technology has been ongoing since then.

Describe your role at Useful & Beautiful, what it entails and why you started the company.

I am the owner and M.D of Useful & Beautiful (U&B) and I am responsible for the day to day operations and business growth. To summarise what I do, I run a mobile specialist company that works very closely with clients/businesses to help them understand how mobile can fit into their current processes. I spend a lot of time understanding my client’s needs, challenges and objectives so that I can empower them with a mobile strategy that not only fits their target market’s needs but also adds value to their business. I also make sure that their mobile strategy fits in with their overall business strategy making sure that mobile is not treated as a silo. Once the strategy is defined, I work with creative and technology teams using my UX/product experience to execute the best in class mobile solutions.

I started the company a year ago, shortly after I was informed that the company I worked at, Prezence Digital was in the process of being shut down by Primedia. At Prezence I was head hunted by the founder Tim Bishop to grow his Apps Department and undertook the roles of Head of Product Strategy and later the Apps Business Director. Prior to Prezence I worked at Naspers to grow their mobile divisions at MIH Internet Africa, a position I was approached to do while I was emigrating back from the UK, this was back in 2010. The mobile sector, especially apps, was at its infancy then and it was an awesome learning experience for me to be at the heart of innovation and cutting edge technology. I always had a fondness for gadgets so this was a dream role to be offered by Naspers and then later on I got to cement my area of expertise in the mobile space at Prezence Digital where I was involved in producing the country’s leading mobile solutions at the time. When Prezence closed, I was given the opportunity to go back to Naspers (WeChat actually approached me) or to start up mobile divisions at other companies but I decided against both options and opted to go on the entrepreneurial journey instead, which I felt would be the next challenging role for me in my career, the timing just felt right.

What did you have to study or learn to prepare you for this role?

I did not study anything formal for my role. As mentioned I have an academic background in technology. My work experience throughout the years certainly has prepared me for the role. I've worked solidly in mobile over the last 6 years and prior to that I was an analyst/programmer in the UK where I worked in a variety of financial and retail sectors so I got to understand how the software process works from pure inception through to actual hands on execution. At times I also undertook project management responsibilities so I got to also understand the roles of the different stakeholders in a project, both at corporate/enterprise multi-tier level and also for smaller scaled projects. I believe that the experience acquired over the last 15 years has empowered me to understand what goes into running a technology company and allows me to manage and lead tech teams. With the advent of apps, there is now the element of creative design and user experience in the blend and the last 5 years of working within agency environments has certainly complimented

my technology skills in that I am able to manage creative teams too and getting them to collaborate with the best technology experts to create world class mobile solutions.

What is your advice to young women interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry?

Work hard and never stop learning. Tech is a wonderful field to be in if you are willing to embrace it. Once you have that mind-set, the world is your oyster. 

Hlulani Baloyi


What sparked your interest in technology and how did you get started on this career path?

What encouraged me so much to follow my career path has to be my state and surrounding back then, I grew up in an environment where there was hardly anyone who was computer savvy. I personally grew up as a person who just felt or new I could solve anything I put my mind to, so this was one of the things I had to solve and the only way to attack this kind of an issue, in my case I had to be closer enough to understand the industry, just so my generation can be a different generation.

Describe your roles at GeekulchaRaeketsetsa and IBM and that they each entail on a daily basis.

Well I’m not so hands on with projects at Geekulcha since at this point there is still so much of learning for me, as far as IBM is concerned, but I remain an ambassador for Geekulcha since I believe I have #GK embedded in my system.With Raeketsetsa I’m more on planning together with my colleagues, where we discuss and find suitable and relevant training to run on our meetups. As for IBM, I work as a strategy consultant, what I love the most is that I remain a developer, so I still develop mobile applications and responsive webapps

What did you have to study or learn to prepare you for this job?

I had to do Information Technology.

As a Girl Rising ambassador, what is your opinion about the future of girls in the technology industry?

According to me, we are in a growing phase where a lot still needs to be done and this might take while, but there’s progress. I’m glad that many corporates are holding hands in making sure that a girl child is empowered and supplied with the right skills to see them through to the next level, The future of girls in the industry looks good.

What do you think would help to get more young girls interested and involved in tech- related activities?

Consistency as far as the tech events are concerned.

What had been the most rewarding experience in your career so far?

My most rewarding experience has to be when I got exposed Geekulcha which acted as a door to many other great opportunities which includes being featured in Intel IQ videos, which opened even many other great door, where a lot of people started showing interest to working with me, which means growth for me.Another rewarding and fulfilling experience is having GirlsInventTomorrow trusting me to share knowledge with the High school girls through the coding sessions. And when Raeketsetsa was born. 

Nerushka Deosaran

What did you have to study or learn to prepare you for this job?

I studied an LLB. All of my technology sector experience and technology law knowledge is a result of excellent on-the-job training from my boss, Rohan Isaacs, a passion to become more involved in the industry and a personal determination to stay on top of the latest tech trends. 

As a female associate at Norton Rose, what is your opinion about the roles of women in the technology industry? 

 Interestingly, Norton Rose Fulbright’s Technology & IP team is majority female! However, I know that globally there is a shortage of women in the tech industry
generally. This problem
is not only specific to the tech sector, but I’m encouraged by organisations like Girls Invent Tomorrow who provide mentorship and a platform to equip girls with knowledge about career options in the industry.

What has been the most rewarding experience in your career so far?

Having the opportunity to travel, live in two different cities as well as speak at international conferences. These experiences have been instrumental to my personal and professional
growth. For me, that is the true benefit of working for a global business. It is incredibly rewarding to meet counterparts from other parts of the world visiting Johannesburg. For example, today I met my colleagues from Uganda and Zimbabwe who are in Johannesburg to attend our international professional development training academy.

What do you think would help to get more young girls interested and involved in tech-related activities?

Understanding tech and being informed about the benefits and opportunities at a young age would be beneficial. Something that “sparks” an interest in a young mind. For example, talks at schools and universities by women in the industry, media profiling of women in the industry, access and exposure to tech skills such as coding, tech related competitions and events such as hackathons.


Why did you choose to focus on law in the technology industry? How prevalent is this occupation in SA?

Technology is always changing and it is exciting to be part of an industry that throws new challenges at you on a daily basis. There are only a few lawyers with experience in the technology sector in the country and so there is definitely opportunity for adept and adaptable young people to focus their careers in this area as technology continues to impact every other industry out there.

Describe your role at Norton Rose Fulbright, what does it entail?

My job is unique because I have two roles – 50% Senior Associate and 50% Business Development Manager.

I am a senior associate in the Technology & IP team with a focus on data privacy. I also advise clients on various technology related matters, including outsourcing, media regulatory matters, social media and software development. In 2014 I spent four months in our London and Melbourne offices gaining global data privacy experience. Whilst there I had amazing adventures but also

received practical experience in preparation for the implementation of our local Protection of Personal Information Act.

My other role is as Business Development Manager for the Technology & Innovation sector for the practice in Africa. I am focused on providing our clients with industry specific technology know-how, and given my interest in the sector and eagerness to become more involved in our (inter)national practice, it made sense for me to take on these additional responsibilities. I drive the development of our client base in the sector and implement thought-leadership campaigns on relevant and interesting technology topics. For example, earlier this year our team ran a global campaign on big data and the internet of things and currently we are running a campaign on cryptocurrencies.


The legal industry is in a state of disruption and the legal practices willing to take the leap in utilising technology and improving efficiencies will excel going forward. It is exhilarating to be part of the changing environment within a global business, assisting in developing innovative products and solutions for our clients and assisting in defining new roles for lawyers within the global legal practice.

I have also created and head Norton Rose Fulbright’s Global Technology Associates Group (or GTAG) which consists of over 100 associates in more than 54 jurisdictions. This bunch of energetic, enthusiastic lawyers seek new and exciting ways to engage clients in the technology sphere across the world.

What is your advice to young women interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry?

Be confident in your ability and instil that confidence in others. Remember that the first coders were women! 

Zimkhita Buwa

What did you study or learn to prepare yourself for these multiple roles?

My parents couldn’t afford our fees as my siblings and we were all at tertiary institutions round about the same time. They encouraged us to find loans/bursaries. I applied for what I thought would be a bursary but turned out to be a scholarship at a university in Malaysia. I studied towards an Information Systems degree at Universiti Teknologi Petronas. From day one we were taught how to work hard, how to focus on the task at hand and as a result I graduated Cum Laude. That work ethic has been one of the driving forces in my career. The programme had a practical approach where we were expected to present solutions and assignments to our lecturers and external evaluators from first year. This taught us the importance of articulating our thoughts and explain technical solutions in simple language that everyone could understand as some of the assessors did not come from technical backgrounds. Failure was not an option as the only way of going home was to ensure that you passed well! I have always thus been motivated and knew that hard work really pays off.

I have also been blessed to meet some incredible mentors, coaches and truly supportive cheerleaders in my career. People who believed in me and saw potential where I sometimes doubted my ability. You need to keep in contact and nurture these relationships!

My parents were both teachers and they always believed in giving back to the community. They instilled in me the notion that “You will be lifted when you lift others” so the inclination to contribute to the community really comes from them.

What are the challenges have you faced in your activities in the tech industry and how have you overcome them?

Being a mother – as a mom I am constantly in battle with trying to “balance” family and work. However, I have come to realise that this is a struggle that I face every day and I am not sure if you ever truly reach a point where you feel “truly balanced”. I spend as much time as I possibly can with family and there are times where I need to put my foot down and put family first. Now that my son is older I am able to take him to events, which is helping him understand my line of work. I completely depend on the strong family support structure.

Being the only woman in the room – There is no denying that the Tech industry is still very much male dominated and there are times where women in leadership find themselves being the only or one of the very few women in the room. This used to intimidate me in the past but I believe this has motivated to always ensure that I speak up and have a positive contribution in whatever meeting that I attend. There are times where you also feel that you need to prove yourself constantly. That means that as a woman you always need tobe prepared and find your voice, and be confident in your abilities.

Shying away from negotiation – I have in the past been shy about asking for what I want, whether it be negotiating my salary package or negotiating with a difficult customer. The truth is you are the one who pays the price in the end. There are smart ways of negotiating. You need to go into the negotiating table knowing what you want and what you are willing to compromise on!

Asking for help – Early on in my career I viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness – this is far from the truth. Asking for help, means that you are part of a team and that you value other people’s input. People are willing to help, you just need to ask. It shows that you’re engaged and that you are willing to learn!

With your experience in training and mentoring, what is your opinion about the advancement of young women in the technology industry and what would help to get them interested in tech- related activities?

More can definitely be done but there is progress in this space. With programmes such as
Technovation Challenge, Girls Invent, Code4CT and Taungana. All these programmes are aimed at providing girls with the necessary tools required to succeed in the tech industry. Some of these programmes are teaching young girls how to create their own websites and mobile applications. Others are simply exposing them to different careers in STEM. What is evident is that young women need role models they can relate to. They need to know that you can be interested in Tech yet still want to do the girly stuff of getting your hair done and shopping, it’s not one or the other! So we need to make sure that the girls understand that this is truly an exciting and dynamic industry that offers diverse opportunities. There are so many careers in technology, from project management, developer roles, business analysts, user-interface designers – you can be a creative and still be in tech. The critical point is that we need to support each other. This is not a Women- Only movement, there have been so many men that have supported me throughout my career. So when we talk about the advancement of young women in tech we also need to include men!

What has been the most rewarding experience in your career so far?

There are so’s hard to choose! I was awarded a scholarship to study in Malaysia, selected as part of the Techwomen Programme, having the support of my family including the birth of my son (this motivated me beyond words) and joining a dynamic company such as Britehouse where innovation and diversity are celebrated. Moreover, being part of Siliconcape and Innovate SA, incredible group of amazing people passionately giving back!

What inspired you to be involved in the technology industry?

My brother is two years older than me. We grew up competing against each other. When he was in university he would come back for the holidays raving about the programs that he was developing and this cool qualification that he was studying towards called

Information Technology. I was completely annoyed that he seemed to be smarter with all this new found knowledge. I decided that if he can study towards something that seemed interesting, so should I. With my father being a businessman, I also wanted to study towards a qualification related to business. So I decided to enrol in a course that would give me the technical knowledge that my brother had but yet teach me how to be business savvy like my father, so I enrolled for an Information Systems degree.

Describe your role at Britehouse, Silicon Cape, your role as a SAP mentor and TechWomen. What do they each entail?

I currently work for Britehouse. We’re one of the leading technology solutions provider in the country. We provide digital solutions that help organisations understand the complex world of technology and help them run their businesses better. We specialise in SAP, Microsoft and custom solutions. My role is that of an Account Manager, making sure that our existing customers are satisfied with the services that we provide. I also look for new business, identifying potential opportunities that would lead to new business. My work allows me to interact with customers from diverse industries, whether it’s manufacturing, oil and gas, public sector, etc.

At Britehouse Community development is treated as an important part of what we do. We are currently supporting a school in Diepsloot where we have developed a Digital Hub with the help of a partner Got-Game. The digital hub is a container consisting of tablets that the school uses to teach the pupils about opportunities available in the digital space. It also serves the community where they can make use of the lab after school. The objective of the hub is to truly bridge the digital divide.


I am part of the Siliconcape Executive Committee. I look after the Women Portfolio, ensuring that women’s voices are heard and taken seriously. We support women entrepreneurs and women in tech. It’s truly rewarding to be part of a movement that is driving change and promoting diversity in a space that in the past used to be predominantly male-dominated.

SAP (Systems Applications and Products) mentors speak at conferences, writes blog posts and answers technical questions in forums and assists others in their SAP careers. The initiative is also community driven and it’s truly amazing how the mentors take the time to contribute to the SAP ecosystems. I have spoken at few conferences such as SAPHILA (SAP conference held in South Africa), Mastering Business Intelligence (held in South Africa and I was selected as the best speaker and was given an opportunity to travel to Australia for the same conference). I have also been involved in the African SAP User Group where we have organised events for local customers making use of SAP solutions.

In 2013, I was one of five South African women selected to take part in a prestigious Techwomen Programme. This programme is an initiative of the U.S. State Department. The programme selected 78 Emerging Leaders out of 1800 applicants from Africa and the Middle- East. We spent six weeks in Silicon Valley being mentored by women from Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. The Emerging Leaders were placed at prominent Tech companies such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Autodesk, etc. I am now part of the Techwomen Alumni. The programme assists women to grow professionally while giving back to the community and encouraging young girls to consider technical careers in STEM fields.

What is your advice to young women or girls who are interested in pursuing a career in the technology industry?

Be inquisitive – ask questions, find programmes in your community that you can get involved in. Don’t wait until you’re out of school, do it now! Start a business (even if it’s selling chocolates), you’re not guaranteed to find work after studying. Start a coding club at school, start a speakers club...start something! What you do now will set the tone for how people will view you when you’re looking for work or you’re looking for investors to invest in your business.

Change your mindset – Tech is not only for males, there are so many women doing amazing work in this space

Get a mentor – ask for someone to be a mentor. It doesn’t have to be structured, perhaps someone you can reach out to in your community or even on social media. I have connected with so many people I didn’t know but who have now become allies because of social media.


Believe – Be a believer in yourself and your capabilities. If you’re in doubt surround yourself with cheerleaders, people who will remind you of how awesome you are!