Career women – success stories….

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Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) recently chatted to Nicoline van der Merwe, Scrum Master at Genasys Technologies about her journey and career in the financial services industry, how she balances personal and work life and what advice she would give to women in the industry.


Q. Tell us about your career in the insurance industry… how did you join the industry? Tell us about your journey.

A.   I started as a Receptionist at Genasys Technologies in 2012, and although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t challenging enough for me. One day I asked our project department if there was anything that I could possibly assist with, and from there I did more and more tasks wherever I could, until I was promoted to join the QA Team as a Trainee Test Analyst in 2014. I never considered myself a detail-orientated person until I discovered the world of Quality Assurance. Then the words ‘Agile’ and ‘Scrum’ became popular, and Genasys wanted to introduce a Scrum Master role to the teams. I saw an opportunity to learn something new and I just recently completed my Professional Scrum Master course. It’s definitely been an adventure so far! My motto was always - If I don’t know how to do it, I will find out how. That attitude has allowed me to learn a little bit of everything, and that enables me to assist the teams wherever necessary.


Q.   As a woman in the industry, what challenges and opportunities have you faced throughout your career?

A.    A challenge for me was to figure out where I was going - I never really knew what I wanted to do. I thought that I would just have a job, not necessarily a career. Fortunately Genasys gave me opportunities to learn and grow in an exciting industry, and now I am building on a career that I am passionate about and climbing the corporate ladder.


Q.   What is rewarding about your career?

A.    The feeling of making a difference with good quality testing in the software that we provide our clients with. I am also mentoring some of the QA Team members, and to see them flourish is a great feeling.


Q.   How do you maintain work and personal life balance? It must be challenging at times, especially for a woman who has such a demanding career.

A.    I’ve got an 18 month old toddler so I’m still learning how to do the balancing act between work and my personal life – on a normal day it is quite challenging, but add lockdown to the mix and suddenly it almost feels impossible. Having a good support structure is essential, and a lesson I had to learn was to not be so hard on myself - it’s okay to not have it all together.


Q.   What advice would you give young females starting out a career in the industry?

A.    Believe in yourself! Opportunities may come your way, but without that inner drive and motivation, opportunities will just stay an open door, you have to make the decision to walk through it and take that chance.


Q.   What advice do you have for working mothers who are career driven?

A.    Have a good support structure in place, whether it be a husband, mother, best friend or colleague - anybody that can talk you off the ledge and give you a good pep talk, are worth gold. It’s so difficult for working mothers because if we are too focused on our careers, we feel like we are neglecting our personal lives, and when we are focused on our personal lives, it feels like we are neglecting our careers. Before I went on maternity leave I had a discussion with Leoni Symes, our Executive HR at that point, and she reminded me that there is no reason why I can’t be a good mother and be career driven, and at a time when I was scared that motherhood meant I can no longer be career driven, that advice meant a lot to me. I always remind myself of that when it feels like I am losing that battle. 


Q.   Working remotely for the past two months has been very different to what you are used to. How has Genasys made the transition of working remotely?

A.    As an extrovert, I am struggling with it to be honest. I need that outside interaction! But in times like these, you need to adapt and that is exactly what we at Genasys did. A few days before we knew lockdown would officially begin, we started doing our morning catch-ups virtually to ensure that by the time we are in lockdown, we would have all the kinks ironed out, and now I think our daily stand-ups are running smoothly. Working remotely also forces you to make a conscious effort in catching up with your colleagues. I think we took that for granted when we were all in the office.


Q.   Any final words, or words of wisdom you wish to share with your GWII members?

A.    Over-thinking and stressing about a situation won’t change the fact that it happened. Let those moments make you stronger, smarter and kinder.