GirlCode Profile: Massi Mapani

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey all, I am Massi Nachombe Mapani. I am a recent graduate from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. I moved to the United Kingdom early 2020 and have been working for American Express as a Graduate Technology Engineering from late February. I am a fintech enthusiast and really enjoy solving problems and helping people where I can. 

Walk us through your career journey and how you got into I.T? 

To be honest only now when asked how I got into I.T do I reflect on how I got here. 

I began studying in 2014 and initially found Software Development really hard to learn formally. When I undertook industrial placements that had software focussed work which I took on for the exposure in hope of gaining experience, I was able to get over my initial fears.

I struggled both academically and professionally to find spaces or opportunities where I could belong or fit in. I still struggle with this to date. 

I participated in a GirlCode Hackathon in either 2017 or 2018, it has been some years so I can not really remember which year exactly it was. I truly felt welcome and was in awe at the skills other young ladies much like me had. I remember leaving the Hackathon with an energised motivation to continue my studies and maybe one day be as good as the ladies I met and saw at the Hackathon. I liked working at startup companies because the level of responsibility was high and expectant for tasks I took on. This pushed me in a way to push myself to learn as much as I could and put into practice. I would try to find easy ways and shortcuts to do things in some of my placements. This would be when the objective was to just get things working but to be honest, some of these methods were not helpful to my learning in the long run.

I continued attending Girlcode events when time allowed from that Hackathon onwards and honestly; I wish I had participated more. I think my fears of not being good enough still creep up on me in ways that cause me to retreat or be scared that I can’t contribute. I participated in the 2019 Girlcode Hackathon where they partnered with American Express UK. I was really fortunate to be in a space with really talented people in I.T.. Attending that Hackathon boosted my motivation to finish my studies that year. During that Hackathon, I was fortunate to have been in the same team as Aisha Justin; she really is well versed in her field and I admire her for her spirit and eagerness to try and see things through. 

We both attended interviews that followed that Hackathon which GirlCode facilitated.  I am really grateful for this opportunity and I really could not be more grateful as it led me to even have a chance to work in an Internationally acclaimed company like American Express. I continue to learn and find it hard some days as to whether I know what I am doing or not.

What is your typical day like at work?

I am currently working from home. At the moment, my routine focusses on settling on daily objectives that benefit the team I am in. I start my day with a white board marker and a board where I list down 2-4 items I need to achieve for that day. I have had to start my day quite late to accomodate different time zones. I take time to eat after I settle and complete 1 of the activities on the board. I then find I have meeting time or try to collaborate with my colleagues or other people in my team who are also in the same program. My work time comes to an end when the activities are done or I find I have spent too much time at my desk. I then shut down my laptop and either stretch, work out or make dinner in no particular order.

Have you experienced any challenges as a female in this industry and how did you overcome them?

I have, but in a micro-aggressive way. The last start-up I worked at was an all-boys club that did not have much structure around appropriate remarks in the workspace. I struggled to feel comfortable in that space and felt that my skills were second guessed quite a bit. That really impacted my confidence and looking back I really should have stood up more for myself in a way that would have communicated my discomfort instead of retreating and avoiding the space altogether.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were younger?

There is always an opportunity to learn from anyone you meet. Learn to listen more than you talk. Challenges and setbacks are part of life so listening and paying attention to people when they speak will save you from making the same mistakes that others have made before you. 

What’s your advice for other girls considering getting into the tech space?

Don’t be scared. Listen and learn as much as possible. I wish someone told me that being scared of failing or hoping to be perfect is unrealistic. Sometimes just starting or showing up or being present opens you up to a different mindset. 

What is your motto in life?

Situations can either build you or teach you.

Lastly, what do you hope to leave behind as your legacy?

This is the toughest question for me to answer mainly because I am still at a point where I am searching for my purpose in life. I really hope to get better at treating people well, helping where I can and finding opportunities and spaces to lift people up. I find joy in helping people and I hope I can live a life that incorporates that into what I hope my legacy ends up being.

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