Chief Operating Officer for Comcorp South Africa, a leading software innovator and authentication technology specialists.
Shanaaz Trethewey is an inspiration, not only for her leadership and organisational capabilities but also her role as a woman in the tech space.
She is passionate about the role businesses play to service society through technology especially as the reliance on technology is embedded in our thinking, behaviours, and society. She shares her thoughts on women in the tech space.
How did you get into the tech space?
I got into the tech space incidentally and also married a software engineer. I had a realisation that everything we do is in some way or form digitally enabled which made her believe the distinction between commercial and technical is not a useful one. We have these differentiated skills within our organisations, but tech is part of our everyday DNA – meaning that to make an impact going forward, it was to immerse myself in understanding this.
Why do you love your work and the tech sector?
I love my work and tech sector because it isn’t about coding – it’s about how something as dynamic as human challenges are solved. Something that is colourful, and dynamic is converted to a solution and into binary. And that binary could become complex – but it’s empowering to introduce the nugget of value to the world.
To think we have the power to translate what we need into products – by combining what appears to be two ends of the scale is incredibly fascinating.
I love solving problems and taking complexity and making things look simple or at least feel simple. It’s a triumph of our collective intellect.
What is you take on the gender gap in the tech sector
I have never let this define my own progress. I can see from the stats that there is a divide and a gap…one that is slowly being reduced. The growth and pervasive nature of tech will help reduce this. If we think it’s about sitting in a corner and spitting out zeros and ones, then I think it’s going to be a niche skill set and extract very specific people – gender aside.
However, the social, and interactive dynamic that tech represents today, offers everyone an opportunity- across gender, across skillsets and across socio-economic categories to play a role in defining what it looks like in the future.
How can women positively impact the gender gap or in general in the tech sector?
Collaboration and sharing is important and being accessible to each other. Being brave to show that perhaps a different perspective is not wrong, but rather creates a stronger solution. The journey of any progress starts with defining what it is for you, and then working from there. My definition of tech and platforms could be vastly different from the other. But as long as we can show how they work together, and how it makes for a better product, we can create the jobs of the future and carve out the roles that come with the uniqueness of who you identify as.
What are your views and own way of doing the groundwork that future generations of women will benefit from?
Being authentic and unapologetically me. By modelling this and remaining resilient I can deliver what I can in the best way possible. There is a great deal of emphasis on what others say and what people do; a sense of social pressures that make us believe that we should look or act a certain way. And although I fundamentally believe we should conform to certain etiquettes to enable us to work together – being anything other than yourself could mean we are enabling future generations to be a “canned” society. Creativity and problem solving comes from being authentic and learning how to make the differences between us count positively. And that includes gender.
How should young females view the tech sector as?
An opportunity to express problem solving, innovation towards solving some real human challenges. It’s exciting to know that something that has come from a mere idea can make an impact at scale – it’s incredible. It’s about being a part of something bigger, and understanding that the limit is oneself as opposed to physical strength or what you look like. In a knowledge world, there are no limits. And for this reason, it’s a place with the most opportunity to flourish.
What is your best advice to other women – and also may be Tips on how to get into the sector? Or tips on how to grow and find their own niche.
Conformity gets you only so far, whilst authenticity takes you all the way. Listen more and be clear on how what you have to say translates to another person. In respecting others, you are respecting yourself. If faced with criticism or difficulty, I remind myself that what we do today will make tomorrow easier. And what I learn today will strengthen my tolerance and perspective tomorrow.