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Q&A with Jessica Hawkey

Jessica Hawkey, MD of redAcademy programming academy in front of a red wall and the company name

1. Can you please tell us more about your Programming Academy?

redAcademy is a software / programming training organisation; the program is designed to close the experience gap for South African youth entering a skilled career in software development.

The program is designed to equip matriculants with technical and soft skills as well as live client project experience through our fast paced 1 year program, working inside real world software development organisations. redAcademy tackles unemployment head on with the guarantee of a job offer for those who successfully complete our course.

redAcademy is a stand-alone organisation with a clear goal: give carefully chosen, talented South Africans the opportunity to sprint into their IT careers by working closely with industry-leading senior developers and customers, designed to fast-track software and programming careers in the real world.

Our Vision

Our vision is a country and industry where there are an abundance of skills and jobs for our young people. The IT industry is poised to continue growing at lightning speed as technological innovation sweeps through every conceivable industry.

Developing Skilled IT Professionals

Rather than replace existing training academies, redAcademy has been designed to complement efforts to bring more South Africans into the workforce by proactively developing skilled IT professionals who end the programme with a certificate of achievement and a job.

Our Mission

Our mission is to develop a sustainable pipeline of highly employable and astute software and programming developers to fulfil the local and global IT market recruitment needs. redAcademy does this through offering the most relevant software development and real world skills training to a select group of high school graduates who are representative of South Africa’s demographics.

For more information:

2. When, how and why did you start your business?

redAcademy was in the concept phase for some years. Launching in 2021, as it became more and more evident that software and programming was entering every facet of daily life, whilst the skills were not coming into the labour market at any comparable pace.

The business is designed and was launched to tackle the dire need for youth career opportunities (not only training) as unemployment hit an all time high, whilst the demand for software developers was growing exponentially, slowing business progress as a result. These two factors together with the commitment from our first client, lead to the perfect time to initiate both the paradigm shift  in the way of learning for our youth and the way in which the private sector can secure their tech pipeline.

3. What is your role in the business?

As Managing Director and founder, I focus on the business model, including culture, growth plans and finance. Leading the redAcademy team who are all highly talented and passionate about being involved in a business that benefits youth, the private sector and the economy directly.

4. Where did you study and what did you study?

I am a Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA qualified), having previously studied my BCom at the University of Stellenbosch. I completed my CIMA coursework and exams whilst in my first professional role, attending night classes.

5. How did you finance your business?

I have been supported through loan financing by South Africa’s leading retail software organisation, redPanda Software. Our current Sprinters (which is what we call our candidates at redAcademy) are learning inside the redPanda Software office environment, being mentored by their senior developers, creating solutions for South African retailer customers. This is a model we look to replicate in other businesses – using our bespoke recruitment, LMS and lecturers together with real world senior developers who mentor Sprinters through their live project work.

6. Describe your average workday, if such a thing exists.

Whilst there may be recurring events, there is no average work day. As redAcademy grows, it is about understanding which actions are to be taken to ensure the values, vision and mission are being lived and progressed every day; whether it be in the team, with clients or new prospects.

7. How do you balance your home life and your work life?

I see energy balance as more important than defining it to home and work life. Balancing your energy to be present, productive and enjoy both is something extremely important to me, having learnt the importance of this balance over my career. There will be times when your work takes up more of your time and this is perfectly acceptable, as long as it is within your energy balance. Finding a career or venture which you are passionate about definitely goes a long way to a fulfilling and balanced life.

8. What drives you and inspires you?

Using my skill sets, in a business venture, to make a real impact. Seeing the passion and potential in our youth and linking this to private sector growth is an extremely exciting place to be in.

9. Where and when do you have your best ideas?

The best solutions usually come from ‘down time’ moments, mostly exercising. However, the best ideas come from talking to or listening to others. It is amazing how many situations can be related back to your own business, through listening to podcasts, reading books, networking /  business meetings, but mostly surrounding yourself with good people and conversation.

10. Where and how do you market/advertise your business for sales leads?

redAcademy makes use of Instagram for networking with our prospective Sprinters together with online SEO for our website. Media opportunities and LinkedIn have proven the most successful for client engagements, second to referrals and word of mouth.

11. What is next for your business?

We look forward to welcoming our January 2023 Sprinters early in the new year, this intake will be double our initial Sprinter numbers at our office-based campus in Mowbray, as we look to launch further sites with additional business partnerships in 2023.

12. What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs hoping to start their own business?

I was fortunate enough to be given great (practical) advice when starting, which was to secure a client prior to any major life or financial commitments.

Whilst going into new territory, having a client who has recognised the value in your venture shows the belief in both your product / service and you actualising it.

Knowing yourself and your skill sets (having critically analysed these), building on this daily through a network of good people, whether it be to support you on a personal or business front. This builds confidence, leads to idea sharing and new ideas.

Short bio:

Committed to offering the most efficient path from Matric to a software /programming career, Jessica Hawkey has a deep passion for providing talented South Africans with the opportunity to sprint into their software careers by working closely with professional lecturers, industry-leading senior developers and customers, designed to fast-track careers in the real world.

Jessica Hawkey previously held the position of General Manager of Operations at the Carrick group of companies, a multi-award winning offshore Wealth Management organisation. Having joined Carrick from State Street Poland, in which she was responsible for the launch and training of the Asset Manager Services division in the country.

Jessica holds a B Com (Management Accounting) degree from Stellenbosch University and is designated ACMA and GCMA by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). She brings to redAcademy substantial local and international client service management and project experience.

This article was published on Woman on top

To learn more about the redAcademy programming course, click here »

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