The Known and Unknown boundaries, before and in corporate

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I’ve been contemplating around writing this piece for a few months. However, I’ve finally decided to put pen to paper and share a few thoughts. As one ventures through different paths of life, one learns and grows through different experiences and it is these experiences that I hope to speak to. And thus, the focus of this article – which is around the known and unknown boundaries faced before and during corporate, and as a point of reference how to possibly navigate the path to overcome the boundaries.

Let’s begin as far back as high school, there are many choices one makes or has to make. For instance in this phase one is faced with one of the hardest lifelong decisions which is what to study and where. With this, already comes certain perceptions and choices – such as the best fit both personally and in terms of location. It is here (and probably before) that the known boundaries related to corporate begin to arise. A perception often made of such boundaries is that around the stereotype of engineers, which is that the make-up of this profession is dominated by a majority of males, almost around a 80/20 ratio. This than leads to a historic factor, where one than goes through a gender divide which prevails from a previous time passed – where statistically more men have graduated than females – especially in the previously male dominated fields. Taking a step forward into the working world, if a female finds herself in an oil and gas industry or the likes such as in a data science field she (and other females) are competing against 80% (male dominated) of her workforce. As equality is on the rise and the benefit of diversity recognized – the divide will not be as prevalent in the future. However, these boundaries open up a space to grow, develop and stretch one to the next level.

As I took the leap into data science, I decided to do a masters where I could develop the skills needed to take on this career path more realistically. I arrived at my masters class with more boundaries (known and unknown) than ever faced before. My first encounter of one of the most unknown boundaries arose, that of language. Coming from South Africa English was the only medium required, however across the rest of the globe I have seen the necessity and importance of speaking many languages. Prior to my shift to Europe it was never a boundary yet, it has become one of the largest ones. I have come to see, learn and appreciate the importance and power of languages – for they can open many doors and unlock some boundaries faced.

Thus, moving forward how to navigate through this unknown boundary. The need required here is to adapt and integrate – it is of utmost importance. After all, it is survival of the fittest. Further to the language boundary I sat in a class that had the brightest minds I had ever come across – the calibre of people I sat with were unlike ever before. They were the brightest, most creative and extremely determined bunch of people that I had ever had in one room together. The boundaries faced in this group of people was that we all came from all over the world, with our own thoughts, own culture and own desire to win (in each ones own way) – however when these boundaries crashed it often gave rise to the best diverse produce. It is these results that boundaries can create if they are overcome and used beneficially.

The unknown boundaries dig deeper, as you cross paths with people from different walks of life you will understand that we are all not made of the same cloth. Some will be younger but more advanced, or naturally have stronger aspects and some will carry wisdom that will be to the benefit those entering corporate or taking their next leap. These are the unknown boundaries that are beyond one’s control and it the power to utilize all of these aspects to create a dynamic team, and to build on ones own attributes.

Therefore, leading me towards the end – how to advance and use these boundaries to the benefit of the whole. Firstly, boundaries are bound to exist. The means to navigate through them requires tenacity and resilience, it requires the need to constantly adapt and advance. I leave you with this, to truly become a master of the boundaries that will arise, one needs to accept that the cure for all is in the desire to constantly overcome the known and unknown boundaries, and to challenge the boundaries in ways that allow you to grow and develop into the best version of yourself. For when you walk away from the once known or unknown boundaries may it be to your benefit that you transformed into the best version of yourself!

So how will you navigate your way through the known and unknown boundaries, to your next level of stratified learning in your career?

In closing I’d like to say be grateful for the teachers whom have crossed your path, for they have transformed you from a state of being into a level beyond your own conception.

Until I write again….

 

Hackathons – the unexpected surprise!!

Friends and followers – It’s been a while! University has been extremely busy, which is both positive and negative. I know now that learning is a continuous journey where we develop either consciously or unconsciously. It is through these changes, advances and periods of growth that we experience that we fully enjoy and transform through the journey of life. For some, it is a desire and a necessity whilst for others they prefer to reflect on what they know not eager to learn anything that is different or foreign from what they already know. This is the beauty of life experiences to understand that we are all different (and we think differently, look at things through different lenses) – which makes the combination of these different thoughts into an innovative outcome.

In life, one of the hardest decisions and journeys taken are when one steps out of their comfort zone and into the unknown. Often, the new phase comes with many challenges and often leaves one thinking why they had transitioned into this unknown state. However, the harder the path or journey experienced in learning, the better one’s ability becomes to understand situations, problems and create new solutions.

Myself and millions others’ spread globally are currently pursuing a masters, where we decided to transition out of our comfort zone, and take ourselves from where we were to where we want to be. With the vast array of knowledge thrown at us and hardly being able to absorb all of it, we often think we are not making progress. However, in the midst of feeling completely lost in this learning journey it is at this time, in these unexpected moments that we realize how much we have learnt and the progress made.

For me this moment came to life when I registered for the McKinsey Hackathon and doing a case for BCG. Let me first begin with the experience of the McKinsey Hackathon, it was an early Saturday morning when I got to university to start this journey. The data and requirements was released at midnight, I read the requirements at midnight and thought I would be able to tackle it without a hassle. However, upon my arrival at university a classmate informed me that the question they posted was incorrect. Which meant that my planning process was now completely discarded. I looked at the updated question and then began to tackle the data problem. If anyone has done a hackathon they would know it requires hours of dedication to clean and prepare the data, and then to build a good (predictive) model. We received two datasets a test dataset and a train dataset, after hours of working on the train dataset cleaning the data and preparing it for the model I decided to start to work on the modelling side. However, I got to a point where I gave up. As I worked for hours on the hackathon and felt as if I was getting nowhere. Eventually, at a point of diminishing return I decided to close my laptop and return home. Two hours after I was home I decided to return too university and do other work I had to prepare for the following week. Upon my return I met a classmate of mine Andrea who was finishing up the hackathon, I thought for shits and giggles I might as well submit my model to the hackathon. Without any expectation and just to view what my effort concluded to. However, to my surprise and Andrea’s I had done better than expected. I ranked 150 out of 2000 participants globally and came second from all classmates who participated. Thus, it is when we least experience that the previous learning experience comes to life.

In a similar light, the same thing happened for the BCG case I did. I hardly had time to fully focus on it as I was given 72 hours and had five projects to complete with university. However, under pressure and with the combination of continuous learning in the masters it assisted in providing the BCG team with an output that they were pleased with.

In general, we learnt to ride a bicycle unexpectedly, we learnt to swim by failing a few times and we progressed when we were not in our comfort zone. Thus, in life we will continue to learn either consciously or unconsciously and ultimate success and development will be realized outside of one’s comfort zone – when limits are pushed and your ability exponentially realized.

Enjoy this learning and developing journey – my grandmother at close to 80 watches YouTube videos on how to make different cooking dishes. You are never too old to move out of your comfort zone and take the risk – it’s worth it!

 

Why I Would Hire Young:

Not to say that experienced people are not brilliant – this is a view from a different lens!

Often graduates leave university and struggle to find work thereafter, as organizations often look to hire employees with experience in the field. However, since joining this masters I have experienced something completely different in these young people. This is coming from someone who was often the youngest person at work, in my classes, and so forth. The tables have now turned, and I am one of the older people in my class and environment. This change of lens has allowed me to view young people from the observer’s point of view now.

I view these bright minds with such adoration and great hope for the future. My belief in this stems from how they are able to comprehend at such a young age the tasks they are able to complete, and that they do these processes in such an outstanding manner. It takes dedication, persistence, and hard work to compete and achieve success at this level and through their outputs they are able to.

The reason why we need young people:

  • They are disruptive: often this leads to issues with senior management, but it is needed to enable change and transformation in companies – thus, disruption is key. This “disruption” often stems from younger people.
  • They are innovative: with access to wide sources of knowledge and the desire to change the status quo they are innovative in how they think and create solutions.
  • They have fresh/new ideas: they don’t see a problem with the same eyes but new eyes. If you keep doing the same thing you get the same result type of situation. Thus, we require new people to solve problems in companies as they create new solutions that often optimize the way that business is done.
  • They grasp new concepts fast: in a matter of no time they become an expert in the field. This enable companies to perform better through access of advanced skills in their employees, this to will stimulate continuous learning.
  • They move from company to company: this is a positive feature although not always viewed this way. The combination of understanding many different industries or companies, whilst at the same time ensuring the development of skills and competencies is powerful. This is what consulting firms do and therefore they have become, to a certain extent the trusted advisor. Thus, the path they follow although short and with many changes should be viewed beneficial and use this as a competitive advantage.

Hiring young is very important but just as important is including diversity amongst these young people. There is a vast amount of power in combining the thoughts, ideas, and creative mechanisms of people from all different walks of life.

The way forward: it would require experienced professionals to open their doors, minds and share their wisdom with the next generation – through the process both generations will learn from one another. There is immense value creation, but the fear of change and transformation keeps companies stagnant and eventually that leads them into an obsolete stage. To stay relevant, we need company wisdom and the way to transform the company with the rapidly changing environment which we find ourselves in.

 

Third World versus First World: Exploitation in South Africa

If you are following my blog, you would know that I gave up sunny South Africa for a year in beautiful Madrid!

The move took months of preparation – I had sleepless nights worrying about almost everything! Constant doubt if I was doing the right thing, or not! However, I have come to realise that the greatest risks come with the greatest rewards!

Thus, for a move like this to a foreign country, a strong determinant is financial capability – would it be manageable or not? However, I was fortunate enough to be able to cover a large percentage of my living expenses through the job that I had back home, and above that it took two fundraising events, as well as the help of Prodigy finance.

I arrived in this city two months ago with a strict budget, from my perception of what it would cost to live in Madrid. I had gone from living in Johannesburg, South Africa to Madrid, Spain – with the expectation that I would just manage in the year. However, upon my arrival my views of living expenses within the country soon changed.

A week after arriving in Madrid I went to a grocery store to do shopping and to my surprise and to my family, I was able to purchase cleaning supplies and groceries (groceries were for a week) for €20.00. I can guarantee that in South Africa I am not able to do the same, every week since that first week my shopping bill is at most €25.00. This had been a positive shift in my perception of living in Europe.

Furthermore, our water bill at the end of the first month for cold water was €15.00 for four people – at home in South Africa in that same month my family family received a water bill that had spiked to R10 000.00. The comparison between the two countries often leaves me in disbelief.

The most expensive contribution one makes while living in Europe is accommodation, but for what one receives it is still cheaper than what I would pay in South Africa. In my view, going out in Europe is where one can spend excessively but that is dependent on a person to person basis.

With this comparison, the saddest part of my experience is that I come from a country where the average salary of the majority of South Africans is between R3500.00 and R7000.00. How can it be expected that a large percentage of the population will ever experience a good quality of life, when expenses in a third world country outweigh that of a first world country. Bearing in mind that Spain is the exception in Europe – it is a cheaper European country to reside in but there is definitely a level of injustice and exploitation in South Africa, when one compares the world of differences experienced in the two countries.

My hope for our beautiful country is: that at some point the political situation will take a turn for the better (which it seems to be doing), that our farmers will begin to produce at a larger scale as done previously – this will be to to drop the price of food. It will be a dream come true if our country is able to maintain the cities more effectively to ensure that aspects such as water and electricity are affordable for all. I hope that I see the day where the standard of living for South Africans at large gets better and that the cost of living becomes manageable for all, not just for the privileged few. We have a long walk to walk but it starts with understanding that we have gaps that we would need bridge, it will take strong, determined people to make a change for all. And as I always said the solution to this journey will start with educating all in a proficient manner to build our economy from strength to strength.

All of this begins with job creation, which comes from foreign investment, which translates in investor confidence in a healthy fiscus.
Regardless of the political situation in South Africa, it is one the most beautiful countries in the world with a nation that has limitless potential. I am very patriotic to my country ad I see the potential that lies ahead.

Until I write again…until I return home…

Coding and Climbing a Mountain

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I am writing to you from chilly, but beautifully breathtaking Madrid about a journey that took place recently.

It was Thursday morning the 9th of November, when a few classmates and I got up to head off to Cercedilla – where our journey began. Our class is very diverse, with all of us coming from different parts of the world, thus there were those of us who were more prepared for the hike than most.

It was an hour’s train ride to this small beautiful town just outside of Madrid. As we got to Cercedilla none of us had anticipated what we were about to face. As we got off the train it was bitterly cold, with most of us not appropriately dressed. As I felt that chill run through my body – it took me back seven years ago when I worked in Washington DC, America, and at an ice hotel. It had been several years since I felt that cold, and looking back – the best thing was not preparing for the journey and not knowing what we were about to get ourselves into but taking each step as it came. Take a similar stance in coding!

We walked for about 30 minutes from the train station to the start of the trail. The sun was shinning, the mountain looked beautiful, overall the scenery was something like I’ve never seen before. However, this seems to occur often in Spain.

Walking up the mountain initially was great! We had an abundance of energy, and by this time our bodies had warmed up – somewhat. Similarly to hiking, a journey in coding takes place. The best advice I would give from a beginners perspective is to just start, don’t look ahead, and don’t focus on what’s coming. The beginning in coding is like the hike, it is simple but as you are climbing the mountain it gets harder. As we progressed up this mountain we began to see snow and the temperature began to drop once again. In this moment the journey began to get tougher, but more beautiful. Similarly, when learning to code as one progresses through the different stages it get’s tougher and there will be snow, or maybe even a blizzard but keep at it for it may only miss a full-stop or a comma.

As we walked up this mountain we enjoyed beautiful moments where we had gorgeous scenery, and I suppose the same occurs in coding . There are beautiful moments that are enjoyed, like when you run that code and it finally works, or that creation of a new application, or even when you learn a new coding language you feel a similar type of joy! The moment you begin to progress in coding, at each stage it will require a different version of your competencies – enjoy the growth. For we learn through our mistakes – coding will come after many errors, and finally those moments of success are filled with ecstasy!

As we got to the top of the mountain I felt more colder than I have ever felt before, and all I wanted to do was to go back down. However, I’m glad that I had a team who made us sit up on that mountain and enjoy lunch – we listened to some good reggae music, which seemed to ease the pain our bodies felt. Similarly once again, when you are coding you get to a point where you will feel the same, where you want to give up – but don’t carry on! Have a team supporting you and offering you guidance, or alternatively YouTube will become your best friend. The top of the mountain is the hardest part but you get the most joy out – persevere through this coding journey.

As we made our way towards the latter part of the hike, we had a limited amount of time walking down the mountain – we were warned that the sun would set fast. As we rushed down the path needing to reach the base before sunset. I felt anxious and just wanted to make sure we would make it on time. In coding the same happens, you don’t always have time to learn everything – you have to make do with the basics and apply it largely, learning as you go along. Towards the end you find yourself learning many languages at once – for they all have similarities. Thus, you end up knowing more than you thought ironically, however, you don’t and won’t need to know everything – remember that!

As we reached the base of the mountain we felt a certain type of joy to have ventured through this journey and experienced in beauties of life. Nothing will be easy, but to take full advantage of the opportunities that lay ahead, never give up of the present possibilities – even when it gets tough!

I leave you with this – 30% of my class are females, the Technology & Oil & Gas industry have 30% of females – it’s an opportune time for females to join this thriving industry! As you may see I am passionate about equality in every way, and within every industry. I guess we just need to take that first step towards promoting equality and then continue on this path!

Until I write to you again……

 

 

Life in Spain: Technology, Travels and Transformation

My lecturer mentioned that if you are able to write and create content – do it! So, here I am hoping that my blog is of some interest – enjoy reading!

Let’s begin with how this journey to Europe began and what it took to get to Spain to pursue a Masters degree in Business Analytics and Big Data. A year ago I entered a global data analytics competition held by the university that I am now attending – ie University. Even though the industry is male dominated and with the odds that I wouldn’t win the competition, I considered it great exposure. Thus, after much deliberation of what I should do – I decided to enter, what did I have to loose?

I submitted my paper which focused on how data analytics can benefit upstream oil & gas, and what the future would look like through effective utilisation of data analytics. Three days after submitting the paper, and to my surprise the paper was selected as a finalist. This entailed that I had a day or two to prepare an elevator pitch on the paper and present that to a room full of people. As the industry norm suggested the male to female representation at this stage was 80/20. All finalist presented their papers – all were really good! They announced a winner, and once again, to my absolute surprise I had won! This had not happened to me in many years! A year from that day I got on a plane and began my new adventure in Spain.

I believe living with no expectation is probably the best way to view the world. Landing in Madrid I had no expectation of what was to come. The one thing that stands out very clearly from my first moments of landing in this magical city was the elderly in Madrid – they are still so alive with life. We had just gotten off a long flight, and these women in their 70s had made sure that they looked beautiful regardless of the fact that they were exhausted – that has not changed everyday the elderly surprise me with how alive they are. Due to this exposure, my ultimate wish to never give up on enjoying life – even when I am older. They inspire to always live life beyond measure.

Returning to landing in Madrid – I was fortunate enough to bump into a classmate of mine whilst exiting the airport – thank the pope, or in this case Natasha! As the taxi driver spoke no English, and my Spanish was very poor at the time. Everyone had mentioned that the language barrier would be an issue, however, that moment made it real and it was unexpected, that not many people speak English in Spain! So, landing in this city, I had no idea that this place would captivate my heart as it has.

My learnings have just begun and it already excites me! I look forward to sharing the interesting insights and more with you!

I will write again soon :).

Michellé