Cracking the code to train Africa’s young tech talent
Nyari Samushonga is the CEO of WeThinkCode
WeThinkCode is an independent South African software training academy that looks for the sharpest young minds in underserved populations, connects them with global thought leaders and cutting-edge technologies and moulds them into excellent software developers and programmers. Our mission is to train Africa’s next generation of software engineers and, in so doing, drive the digitisation of African business.
We partner with organisations looking to recruit top tech talent through the sponsorship of our students, thereby providing access to the skills pool of WeThinkCode interns and graduates.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I love the idea of seeing young people with potential develop and secure their rightful place in the workplace and in society. I also find particular fulfilment in delivering a much-needed disruption to the tertiary education space — we are showing that high-quality, tuition-free education is possible in one of the most dynamic sectors.
Many young people have been let down by the system. There is no greater reward than building a platform that enables them to overcome the barriers of disadvantage and lead productive and fulfilling lives. As a black woman in technology, it has been a lonely road of often being the only one in the room.
You trained as a chartered accountant (CA). How does that help you do the work you do as CEO?
As a nonprofit organisation that is intent on disrupting education, we are taking on an audacious mission with a very constrained wallet. The obvious value of my training as a CA has been my ability to build an efficient financial and operational machine.
The less visible benefit of my training is how I have brought a lot of the patterns of how a trainee accountant earns their stripes through the articles experience. A big part of the success the accounting profession realises in building a reliable talent pipeline comes from the articles of clerkship.
To become a CA, a trainee accountant must complete a prescribed number of hours of training under a qualified CA. This model was the core inspiration for shifting WeThinkCode from a proprietary training curriculum to one designed and supported by globally renowned industry experts.
How did lockdown affect the way you work and your company?
The extended lockdown disrupted the academic calendar and meant we had to extend the final year by eight weeks. Our most vulnerable students would have been left without a stipend as this was an unplanned expenditure. Many students voluntarily forfeited part or all of their stipends to assist those whose need was greater, and this enabled us to pay stipends to those in need.
They did this without any pressure from us. Their sacrifice and selflessness marked a career highlight for me personally.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Funnily enough, I wanted to be an accountant.
Numbers have always been my friends. Aside from that, I wanted to be a high school maths teacher.
The more time I spent helping other people with homework, the more I felt there were ways to explain the concepts that could make the subject a lot more accessible to a lot more people.