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#STEMStories: Hlulani, Digital Analyst, South Africa

Name:  Hlulani Baloyi

Role/Occupation: Digital Analyst

Country: South Africa 

Hlulani Baloyi works as a digital analyst in a consulting firm, fulfilling the role of a full stack developer mostly working on client’s projects. Thus far, she has worked in banking, insurance and the telecom space, in an effort to bring about digital transformation for clients. 

There are several factors that excite her about her field, but the three key factors that she feels are most important are inspiration, the love of what I do, and the urge to leave a legacy behind. “The tech space is filled with experts that are dedicated to impact the world to be a better space through digital abilities and being in this space and the realization that you are part of something bigger continuously revives the love of what I do every single day,” she explains. 

Baloyi's journey started when she graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology, majoring in Technical applications. She then joined Geekulcha and became aware of the gender disparity between males and females in the ICT sector. After some research, she came across Girl Rising, a global initiative that helps teach women how to code and tackles the gender gap. Baloyi would later become the South African ambassador for Girl Rising. But she did not stop there, under the same umbrella she co-founded a women in tech organization called Raeketsetsa (we are doing it ourselves). Raeketsetsa focuses on sustaining young women who are already part of the tech-space. Baloyi also later became an Intel ambassador for their #SheWillConnect initiative; an initiative designed to help women all over become computer literate. 

Some of Baloyi’s other career highlights have included being awarded a Google Africa Challenge Scholarship, being headhunted to work for IBM, bring awarded a certificate after attending a Girl Code hackathon for women empowerment at BoxFussion as well as being featured in a number of prestige publications and IQ Videos with Intel. 

When addressing her experience as a woman in STEM, she considers herself to have been fairly fortunate “to work in spaces that embrace diversity, however, due to the fact that the space still lacks  a lot of women, it continues to be a space filled with intimidation.” She emphasizes the need for relatable role models in the tech space for women and recalls that “this has been one hardest things to find as a young woman in tech.” 

Some of the key lessons that she would like to share with young women aspiring to enter the STEM field is to nurture relationships and networks; to ask for help when you required, as there are people who are ready to help; to pay it forward and to be weary of Imposter Syndrome. It “will constantly knock with hope to remind [women] that they are incapable, I urge them to by all means to confront this syndrome by constantly reminding themselves that they are enough, and more than anything, they are more deserving.” She also iterates that the STEM field is about solving real everyday problems and this will mean that women will constantly face challenges due to the nature of this field, “may they tackle challenges with pride knowing that they are part of a bigger picture,” she elaborates.

In a recent African continental tour that involved five African countries and with the aim of understanding how other parts of the world approach their daily life, Baloyi visited co-working spaces that incubated tech entrepreneurs. She describes this experience as been mind-blowing, “beyond me sharing my experiences this became a learning journey where I was afforded an opportunity to learn from others. I, in the process also got to observe the landscape of Women in Tech space in all the spaces I visited, while there’s still a long way to go, there is hope.”

She feels that there is a need to encourage a united front as Africans as this will provide an opportunity to learn from each other, “as a continent we are still in a growing phase and this means that women have a greater part to play in making sure we have the Africa we are dreaming of and love.”  

Read more about our Geeky Girl, Hlulani Baloyi, a digital analyst who will force you to analyze your position and make a difference, through her hard work, determination and visionary spirit, in an interview below. 

1. Describe what your work entails. 

I currently work as a Digital Analyst for a consulting firm, my role is that of a full stack developer spending most of my time client-based working on client’s projects.

I have since worked in banking, insurance and the telecom space, along with other developers bringing about digital transformation for clients

2. Describe your STEM journey. 

I graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology in 2014 with a Diploma in Information and Communication Technology (majoring on Technical applications), I joined Geekulcha and soon realized that there is a gap between males and females in the ICT sector. I then started doing research and came across Girl Rising. I am now the ambassador for this global initiative and helps teach women how to code and helps tackle the gender gap. 

Under the same umbrella I then co-founded an women in tech organization called Raeketsetsa (we are doing it ourselves) which focuses on sustaining young women who are already in the tech-space. In 2014 I became an Intel ambassador for their #SheWillConnect initiative which is designed to help women all over becoming computer literate. 

3. What excites you about your job? What motivates you to get out of bed every morning? 

Several factors excite me in my field and the three key factors that I’d point out are inspiration, the love of what I do, and the urge to leave a legacy behind

The tech space is filled with experts that are dedicated to impact the world to be a better space through digital abilities and being in this space and the realization that you are part of something bigger continuously revives the love of what I do every single day and I am encouraged to even continue making sure that the generation that comes after me doesn’t get to struggle in the space because we would have paved a way for them. I am encouraged every single day to pay it forward. 

4. How would you describe your experience as a woman in the STEM space? 

I have personally been fortunate enough to work in spaces that embrace diversity, however, due to the fact that the space still lacks  a lot of women, it continues to be a space filled with intimidation. 

I’m a strong believer that everyone needs a role models that are relatable to them in the spaces they find themselves in, this has been one hardest thing to find as a young women in tech. 

5. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the STEM field? 

Some of the key lessons I have learnt and would use as advice is:

  • pay it forward
  • Nature relationships and networks
  • Ask for help when you need help, because there are people who are ready to extend their hand to help
  • And that I am enough, and I need to love me more since this is important for my contribution to a better surrounding
  • Imposter syndrome will constantly knock with hope to remind them that they are incapable, I urge them to by all means to confront this syndrome by constantly reminding themselves that they are enough, and more than anything, they are more deserving.
  • Lastly, STEM fields are about solving real day to day problems, this on its own means that you will constantly face challenges, may they tackle challenges with pride knowing that they are part of a bigger picture. 

6. As a STEM woman in Africa, how do you foresee the growth and progress of STEM on the continent? Is Africa a “land of opportunity”? 

I have recently done an African continental tour that consisted of five African countries and the aim for this was for me to understand how other parts of the world approach their day to day life, in the process I also got to visit the co-working spaces that incubates tech entrepreneurs and the experience was mind-blowing because beyond me sharing my experiences this became a learning journey where I was afforded an opportunity to learn from others.

I, in the process also got to observe the landscape of Women in Tech space in all the spaces I visited, while there’s still a long way to go, there is hope.

Through this experience I have learned and realized the need for us encourage a united front as Africans which I would encourage every young African to consider, because this on it’s own will provide an opportunity to learn from each other which is really important.

As a continent we are still in a growing phase and this means that women have a greater part to play in making sure we have the Africa we are dreaming of and love. 

7. Have there been any milestone moments or eureka moments in your career?

 Some of the highlight for me has been

8. How do you maintain a work-life balance? 

I have overtime concluded that work life balance as defined in the books is a myth, I therefore have decided to make sure that I remain sane while doing what I do by traveling whenever I get a chance. 

9. Who is your role model? Who inspires you? 

I have quite a number of people I look up to as my role models, they directly and indirectly have played a huge role in who I am, and these are my role models: Mixo Ngoveni, Anne Shongwe, Thuli Sibeko, Nomso Kana, Ethel Cofie & Chimamanda Ngozi 

10. Where can more information or insight into your work be found? 

Please visit my website: www.hlulani.africa

 Twitter Handle: @hlullyr

INTRODUCTION:

Hlulani Baloyi interviewed by Dhruti Dheda

Dhruti Dheda is a Chemical Engineer with a strong interest in media and communication. She is the editor of the Engineers without Borders South Africa Newsletter and the Community Manager – South Africa and Regional Outreach for Geeky Girl Reality. If you wish to collaborate or network, contact her at dhruti@geekyreality.com or find her on twitter @dhrutidd