From construction to coding: A journey of perseverance
By Simbongile Dyi
I live in Forest Village, Eersteriver. I previously stayed in Langa, where I attended Siyabulela Primary School. Then I went to Leap Science and Maths School, and that’s where I did my Matric and passed in 2018.
A year after I applied to attend university, but because I didn’t meet the minimum requirements, I wasn’t accepted. I then applied to the Cape College in Athlone and was accepted. I decided to do a construction course because I wanted to be involved in the building industry. I started the course in 2019 and passed the first and second trimesters but failed the third trimester. I then had to pay for my own tuition because the bursary no longer funded me.
A turning point
This was the turning point in my life.
Due to the pressure at home, I had to find a job so that I could take care of myself and contribute financially. I struggled to find opportunities and applied for different jobs, including at retail stores, but nothing came from that. I tried to sell insurance policies by recruiting people but that didn’t work either because people couldn’t afford it. I also tried to sell health supplement products for a few months but that also failed. In the environment I was in, people were not suing such products and it was not well supported.
It got a bit rough from there. I was stuck at home with nothing to do. I had a mentor who was helping me through my journey, and I decided to rewrite my matric so that I could go to university or get a job so that I could go back to school and pay the fees.
I started working in construction and I was the only young man amongst the elders in the family. Due to the pressure I was experiencing at home and from myself, I had to focus and work hard so that I could raise money for myself and my family. The experience was not pleasant, but now I am grateful that I went through it all. It taught me a lot about the journey of life; that things will not always go the way you want; however, you have to keep pushing.
Acceptance into the redAcademy Programme
My mentor, Tumelo, working in IT. He told me about the redAcademy programme. He explained that the minimum requirements were that I needed matric and that I needed to be a hard worker, a self-driven person, and focused. He said this would be a good opportunity for me.
He then helped me to complete the application form, do the video submission, and prepare for the interviews. I had never been interviewed in my life before. I went to the redAcademy and was interviewed the same day. I wrote the test, and I got a call to say that I had been accepted!
At first, I was nervous because I had no background in the field so my knowledge was zero about coding or the IT industry, but the teachings of facilitators like Emmanuel Madzunye made it possible for me to see that I could do it.
As time went by, I improved and realised the support I was getting was not only about coding but also about life lessons and soft skills. That made things easier for me. I began to develop a love and passion for coding. The first six months were an introduction to coding (theory and practical work), learning about the work environment, and I was doing small projects at that time. Passing them was motivational for me.
I then go involved in client projects. Things are a bit different because I’m doing projects that will be used by a big company and by a lot of people. When doing the programming on such projects I have to be aware that someone is committing and investing in me, and a project that is expected to work and is a solution for the business.
Mentors from redPanda Software make all the difference
I have realised that the pressure is on, and I cannot make mistakes. At first, it was very challenging. But with the help of technical mentors from redPanda Software, I have been helped and shown the correct processes and how to code the right way. I have been shown how to debug the system I was working on and find out where the problems are, then fix it, run it again, and debug until the system is running the way it should.
I have learned a lot in a short time, and I can now develop front-end pages and back-end APIs. All of this has been made possible by the support of the redAcademy team.
Comparing this one year with redAcademy versus a three-year programming degree at university, the biggest difference I found is that I get to work on live projects, something that university and college don’t offer.
Being part of redAcademy has also given me a chance to grow personally. I had always wanted to help youngsters with my online videos and now I have a YouTube channel call Your Next Level Productions. And I have been able to do this with the support of the HR director at redAcademy; another example of the type of support that redAcademy offers.
I have been given the opportunity to explore and share my creativity online, by sharing my journey, and experience, and motivating young people who can relate to me. Being here has opened a lot of doors for me and my mind. I am so grateful for such an opportunity.
I would recommend that more youngsters apply for the redAcademy programme, especially those from black communities because I believe this can make a big difference in their lives, as it has done for me. It can expand their life choices and impact their environment and future positively.