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WeThinkCode Cracks The Hidden Code To Increasing Local Tech Skills

Dedicated tech and business experts come together to start radical tech training programme to increase local tech skills, benefitting business and the youth.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Yossi Hasson, Justinus Adriaanse, Arlene Mulder, Camille Agon
  • Company: WeThinkCode
  • Established: 2015
  • Contact: +27 (0)73 50 1935
  • Visit: www.wethinkcode.co.za

No classes, no teachers and no tuition. That’s what WeThinkCode, a peer-to-peer tech academy launched last year, offers courses to anyone between the ages of 17 and 35. In partnership with Ecole 42 in France, WeThinkCode opened its first campus in Johannesburg in 2016.

The ground-breaking initiative is the product of a collaboration between founder of Synaq, Yossi Hasson, former Private Property CEO Justinus Adriaanse, Arlene Mulder, previously of RMB Investment Banking, and Camille Agon, who set up the global Breteau Foundation that brings digital education to poor children.

Students don’t need previous education, not even matric. WeThinkCode identifies and trains people for free to become world-class programmers in two years, creating their path to employment.

The first intake of students totalled 120. That will be scaled to 1 000 in the next few years. The aim is to source and develop 100 000 coders in ten years. Given South Africa’s ongoing IT skills crisis, and that 50% of South Africa’s youth is unemployed, the programme has the potential to make a real and significant impact.

Related: Yossi Hasson on Mastering the Art of Productivity

Growing a corporate sponsor base

“WeThinkCode is built on a disruptive model that has broken completely with the 19th century factory-model classroom,” says Agon.

French entrepreneur Xavier Niel created and funded Ecole 42 in France. In the absence of a local patron, the founders in South Africa have developed a business model based on corporate sponsorship.

WeThinkCode partners with business to train developers for their companies, Hasson explains. “We raised R12 million from founding sponsors First National Bank, BBD, and Derivco, who immediately bought into the idea. Costs will be kept to a minimum, around R50 000 per student per year. Corporate partners are requested to sponsor for two years, with the students completing an internship with the sponsor company.”

Significant benefits for all

WeThinkCode-coding-advice

There are several benefits to this model. Sponsor companies derive value from the internships, while the students gain work experience. Both parties can assess whether they have a culture fit before the relationship becomes one of permanent employment.

From a BEE perspective, that is great news. Sponsors, which are quickly signing up, have the opportunity to upskill and empower disadvantaged young people who are highly motivated to achieve, and they can employ them at a fraction of what it costs to hire and train programmers.

The founders have also put together a life skills component for the programme to help participants acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to thrive in the workplace, and in life.

Hasson and Adriaanse, among the tech industry’s most influential entrepreneurs, are passionate about growing local skills.

Related: Entelect CEO Shashi Hansjee’s 4 Life Hacks and 1 Little Quirk That Deliver the Dough

“We wanted to do something positive to develop programmers and technology businesses of the future. When we came across the 42 model, we were sold. What we love about it is that students learn the latest, most relevant skills. So often, people graduate from university without knowing how to programme, whereas this course is entirely practical. Also, students work with each other to solve current tech and business problems.”

Students are sourced and selected after completing an online test to see if they have the potential for programming. To make the test widely accessible, WeThinkCode partnered with social development NGO Afrika Tikkun to make computers available in Soweto, Diepsloot, and Braamfontein.

Those who pass go on a four-week boot camp to determine whether they have what it takes to learn and be self-motivated.

“Aptitude is distributed everywhere,” says Mulder. “Opportunity, however, is not. We aim to help close the gap, enabling anyone who proves that they can solve problems to become a top-class software engineer.”

Remember this

Modern technology is disrupting the workplace. Isn’t it time that the classroom model followed suit? By rethinking the way we teach people, we can empower those who previously would
not have had an opportunity to better themselves.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Lessons Learnt

(Podcast) ‘Bizarre Foods’ Andrew Zimmern: ‘I’m Addicted To The Hustle’

How this week’s ‘How Success Happens’ guest overcame personal struggles and built an empire.

Dan Bova

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I didn’t know what to expect when we scheduled an interview over breakfast with today’s guest Andrew Zimmern. As you may know, the chef, writer, restaurateur and TV personality made a name for himself traveling the world and eating some, well, bizarre foods on his hit travel/food show, Bizarre Foods.

Turns out our breakfast was pretty normal – we didn’t dig into a fresh plate of scrambled brains or anything – but the conversation was anything but typical.

Over the past couple of years, Zimmern has built a true empire around his name with books, TV shows, restaurants (including his new Twin Cities joint Lucky Cricket), and a production company, but as he very candidly told me, the road to success has not been easy. He has gone through a lot of personal pain on his journey, and he says it is a daily endeavour to keep himself moving on the right track.

As Zimmern explained, over the course of his life, he’s had problems with substance abuse, depression – even homelessness – and he was very open about sharing the lessons he’s learned along the way about coping and finding redemption. We also spoke about his dear friend, Anthony Bourdain, and about the struggles of feeling overwhelmed that most of us face.

Related: Gareth Cliff Shares His Tips For Starting Your Very Own Podcast

But don’t get me wrong, he’s really funny, too! There’s nothing “normal” about Andrew Zimmern. Hope you’ll enjoy our conversation, thanks for listening.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Lessons Learnt

How BrightRock Is Disrupting The Insurance Industry With These 2 Pivotal Strategies

Developments in technology, and clear communication are positioning BrightRock to disrupt their industry and transform the consumer experience.

Monique Verduyn

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brightrock

Vital Stats

  • Players: Sean Hanlon, Leopold Malan, Schalk Malan, Suzanne Stevens
  • Company: BrightRock
  • Est: 2011
  • Visit: www.brightrock.co.za

BrightRock was started around a dining room table in 2011 by four people with years of industry experience and — importantly — a diverse set of complementary skills.  They wanted to make changes to an industry with an age-old methodology by allowing customers to co-create a solution that precisely meets their individual needs, and adjusts as those needs change. Today, BrightRock is the fastest-growing insurer in the intermediated individual life risk market. It also provides underwriting management services to funeral parlour businesses and, more recently, has entered the group risk insurance market, offering its needs-matched approach to employees.

The founders of BrightRock, established in 2011, knew the life insurance industry all too well, and they found its methodology wanting. “Traditional life insurance lumps all the individual’s needs into one policy,” says CEO Schalk Malan.

“It’s a methodology that has been around for centuries. We started afresh and looked at how we could design life insurance based on individual requirements. Our cover is designed to exactly match each specific financial need. Because there is no waste, it’s more cost efficient and sustainable. And if circumstances change and our customer needs more cover, it’s easy to get it because needs-matched design enables the policy to change in line with changing needs.”

1. Embracing digital technology to provide needs-matched insurance

Suzanne Stevens, marketing executive director at BrightRock, points out that this type of innovation achieves efficiency (cost savings) and effectiveness (higher returns). “By harnessing digital technology, we have made our operations more efficient, and aggressively lowered costs by up to 30% for our customers. Every rand they spend with us works harder for them. That’s the benefit of a solution designed around the customer.”

BrightRock’s founders took a similar approach. ‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Related: How BrightRock Is Rocking The (Industry) Boat In Only 5 Years Since Launch

Unlike clunky legacy systems, BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

2. Effective communication is critical

These disruptors have set themselves above the rest through one surprisingly simple tactic —  effective communication. They agree that it simply doesn’t matter how world-changing your product or service is if you don’t communicate it to the right audience at the right time. New companies that fail to communicate their remarkable new development will quickly be pushed aside by other disruptors. Without a clear communication strategy that reaches the audience in the industry you’re trying to disrupt, you’ll set yourself up for failure. A key question to ask when you are developing your communication strategy is simply whether people understand what you do.

“Because the premise for our product was fundamentally different from anything on the market, communication and clear messaging were critical to convincing our clients to put their trust in us,” says Schalk.

“It was especially important to educate insurance advisors so they would understand what we were doing, why we were doing it, and how it was better than the other options available. That was key to disrupting the individual life market.”

Currently, BrightRock employs 380 staff, has experienced 40% year-on-year growth, and has an annualised premium income of more than R1,3 billion. The company has recently entered the group risk environment with a similar offering that addresses many of the same shortcomings of traditional group risk products. “The inefficiencies of the structuring of group products has meant that, to remain competitive, insurers have cut the benefits offered to employees, undermining their sense of financial security. Change is needed, and we believe our needs-matched philosophy positions us to change the group risk market too.”

‘We ditched legacy thinking in favour of creating a product that is intuitive and easy to navigate. An enormous amount of time and effort went into writing and designing that system, and creating the optimal customer journey.”

Unlike clunky legacy systems, the BrightRock’s platform is modularised, and was built according to the agile principle of rapid delivery cycles. The result is a technology stack with longevity, that is also flexible enough to be tweaked when needed.

Related: BrightRock’s 5 Entrepreneurial Tips For Start-ups

This iterative, modular approach typically begins with defining the strategy and programme plan upfront, delivering a core capability fast so it can provide benefits immediately, and then continuously improving with regular, incremental capability improvements to achieve the objectives of the strategy. It’s an approach that fosters closer collaboration between stakeholders, improved transparency, earlier delivery, greater allowance for change and more focus on the business outcomes.

“The advantage of the technology available today is that you can plug things in and pull them out as required,” says Suzanne. “That’s one of the enablers of a truly disruptive mindset. To step away from accepted norms and find new solutions requires curiosity and creativity, as well as a lot of courage to go up against large incumbents in the market. There is always resistance to new technology, although we are fortunate in this country to have one of the most innovative insurance sectors in the world.”

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Lessons Learnt

The 9 Obsessions You Need To Have To Become A Self-Made Millionaire

Here’s how to stay focused on your millionaire goals.

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elon-musk

The ones who succeed weren’t handed a golden ticket; it wasn’t chance that helped them cultivate their fortune. To reach millionaire status, you must be driven to reach your dreams. You must be obsessed in order to be successful.

These are the nine obsessions that give every self-made millionaire an edge in creating success and wealth.

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