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Adapt IT Hackathon: Pioneering the Future of Technology

An interview with Ndamu Gumane – Strategic Key Account Manager at Adapt IT Telecoms

By Katucia Moussongo

An Adapt IT Hackathon is more than just an event that brings young talented minds together. In fact, since 2019, the Tech leader has been pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Telecommunications, by launching an empowering codefest. Adapt IT Hackathon brings together visionaries, Tech enthusiasts, and industry experts to not only tackle the pressing issues of our digital age, but also to pioneer ground-breaking solutions that promise to shape the future. Learn more in this conversation with Ndamu Gumane, Strategic Key Account Manager at Adapt IT Telecoms.

An interview with Ndamu Gumane – Strategic Key Account Manager at Adapt IT Telecoms

By Katucia Moussongo

“Our Hackathon is unique, driven by a mission for social good. Our main aim is to leverage Technology to enhance people’s lives.”

Tell us about your professional journey from Wits to Adapt IT

I went to pilot school after high school. Flying the Cessna 172 aircrafts for my private pilot license at Grand Central Airport. But my parents saw it more as an adventure quest than an actual career. So, they encouraged me to go to university like my brothers. As a result, I enrolled at Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) to study Applied Mathematics. And with time, I realised that piloting was more a hobby than an actual career option. I wanted to go above the clouds and enjoy the experience of flying, but nothing much more than that. On the other hand, university exposed me to various projects, and a wide range of career options. I am now enjoying the clouds in a Technological way.

During my time at Wits, I got a job working in the Maths Science computer labs as a student technician, and this is where I met my mentor, Dr Pravesh Ranchod with whom I later conducted the Hackathon many years later. 

During my time in the labs, I was responsible for fixing computer hardware issues, installing applications, and managing a team of student technicians. A year later, I got promoted to look after lecturers’ databases in their closed network, where I was entrusted with sensitive data. I got exposed to several Linux networks, data recovery tools and their support.

In my role as a student employee at Wits, I had the opportunity to consult with the government’s Technology division, CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). That’s where my professional career took shape, and I got recruited shortly afterwards and embarked on a professional Tech journey that led me to Adapt IT.

During my first two months on the job, I was deployed to work in the country Chad for two weeks, to install our software stack and give training. From there, I was stationed at Vodacom SA, looking after the “Please Call Me”, Sim Swap, Ad Injection and other core network services we developed in-house. 

Today, I am part of the Adapt IT Telecoms Division and manage our technical sales strategy for our accounts in several African countries. 

Adapt IT is indeed an exciting place to work. I am seeing tremendous opportunities for growth in all of our products and solutions. 

Where does your passion for Technology come from?

Well, it’s like people who like chocolate. They tasted chocolate once, liked it and it just became something they really enjoyed. I don’t know if I can adequately compare my work with anything else, but Tech is a good fit for my personality and skill set.

You are the visionary creator of the Adapt IT Hackathon, tell us the story behind it?

Some time back, Adapt IT was invited to join a hackathon, which is when I started thinking it might be of greater benefit if the Adapt IT team did their own event. With the enthusiastic support of our Head of Marketing, Agnieszka Perrin, saying “Okay, let’s do it, just let me know what you need,” we launched our first hackathon at Wits in 2019. It was a major success, attracting top-quality graduates and revealing remarkable talent like Freddy Maepa and Mxolisi Shongwe, who are now among our top young developers.

Our hackathon is unique, driven by a mission for social good. Our main aim is to leverage Technology to enhance people’s lives. This sets us apart from the usual profit-focused projects in business. We want to inspire developers to ask, “How can Technology truly benefit someone’s life?” That’s the essence of our hackathon.

Another crucial objective is identifying individuals with a deep passion for our work. I firmly believe that passion leads to success, and we’re on the lookout for those who are curious, enthusiastic and love what we do.

How do you feel witnessing this vision come true?

It’s very satisfying. I also want to be able to help someone else’s vision come to life in the same way that our Head of Marketing did for mine. I want to be “that person” for someone else, because if we don’t take chances on some of the ideas that people have, we may not know how far we can go. The hackathon, in my opinion, is an excellent example of what happens when top management, senior management, or just management invests in an idea from one of the staff members. The benefits that could arise from it would be significant.

We gain a lot of marketing benefits from the hackathon, but we also find graduates who come in and have a profound impact on our business. For example, one of our grads runs the entire suite development on his own. He has two years of experience now and we are proud to say that he is a product of Adapt IT. He is now a crucial asset not just for Adapt IT, but also for the customer. He has the passion that Telecoms is looking for. Besides, it is not just him; all graduates are doing a tremendous job in the different squads, especially the female developers. By the way, we need more female developers, and the hackathon can undoubtedly help us find them.

How is this event empowering Adapt IT and the students who participate?

The hackathon is a great way to find good talent, and it feels like a long interview process because we spent so much time with these guys before actually giving them a project. I even believe that we can completely replace our hiring procedure with this event.

We get to see how they work in a team and how they perform under pressure, which are all traits we require at Adapt IT.

In fact, we are able to have a much closer view or insight of all the developers we want to hire. During the hackathon, we can see their personalities and some of their passions, and after they come over, we can mould them into the types of developers Adapt IT needs.

 In 2020, I started the Graduate Program. I created the curriculum for it, outlining the type of training the graduates would need to become effective and contributing members of our squads. 

On the other hand, the graduates are empowered in terms of opportunity. We guarantee them the opportunity to enter the workforce, get hands on experience, and more. They receive a lot of support, and they get to learn from some of our top developers.  That’s how we’re able to keep that culture going at Adapt IT, where we share our best practices with the next generation, because we know they will take Adapt IT to the next level.
In reality, the developers we find during the hackathon are exceptional not only in their roles but also in their personalities. It is important to mention that we at Adapt IT, are fortunate to have them choose us.

What is your view on People Behind Technology, and how do you relate to or identify with it?

People Behind Technology are everyone responsible for the success of a Tech solution or business. And giving a spotlight to the people that developed these projects, or these products is brilliant. You don’t often see developers, project managers, support engineers, finance professionals and the like getting the praise they deserve.  

So, I love the initiative of exposing the work that they do and praising some of the achievements that they have. How do I relate? I am one of them. From a technical standpoint, I can say that it’s positive when management or somebody else says, “Hey, we see what you’ve done there; well done,” or “Tell us how you got that, how you were able to do it,” or anything similar. It is giving credit to the people working behind the scenes – People behind Technology.

What advice can you give to the next generation interested in entering the Technology sector?

I would say, don’t worry about titles, don’t worry about accolades, just work. You may not get the praise you deserve at first so just keep working and do your best in whatever area you are in. And over time you will get your praise. I believe that sometimes people are too quick to relocate because they were not promoted or given the desired title, and they forget that the most important thing is to do good work. If you perform well, it will ultimately be recognised.

Technology advances within the sector quite quickly. New Technology is continuously being developed, and if you aren’t keeping up with it and learning how to constantly better yourself, educate yourself, and pick up new skills – you will fall behind. It’s unlike other industries, where what you learned ten years ago is still the most up-to-date information you need to know to complete your work effectively.
Furthermore, collaborate and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail quickly, get back on your feet, and try again. I’ve failed a number of times. I’ve had so many ideas that I’ve tried to push and some of them have been unsuccessful or there was no budget to fund them. The fact that I just keep trying, though, is why I continue to have a lot of success. If you keep trying, something will ultimately work.

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