GirlCode Profile: Tshwanelo Modise

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a 31-year-old woman in tech, born in Tlhabane, North West Province. I’ve spent the last 8 years of my career designing campaigns and building digital products for some of South Africa’s most loved brands. I’ve got a knack for creativity and problem-solving, I am passionate about crafting work that simplifies people’s lives and leaves a long-lasting positive impact.

Outside of work, I enjoy hosting the Digital Doro Podcast midweek, and on any given weekend you can find me on a scenic hiking trail.

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

I studied film & TV production, and had visual effects and animation as my chosen disciplines – I’ve always enjoyed anything the fused art and technology. My career kicked off as a designer at a women’s magazine at a time when the print industry was slowing down, I had to think of a next step. I then moved on to advertising, where I worked for a few years as a digital designer. During my time in advertising, there was a bit of buzz around UX/UI design and how the world was eventually going to move in that direction. So, I attended a UX Masterclass that was hosted by Google Sub-Saharan Africa as an effort to future-proof my career. After the masterclass, my idea of design changed forever and led me to amazing opportunities in tech, from big corporates to startups. I now work as a Design Lead, while completing my Masters in Inclusive Innovation.

What is your typical day like at work?

My life as a Design Lead majorly consists of planning, ideation, and research.

Planning — how new work enters the system and articulating the desired outcome. That requires good communication and relationship management with various teams.

Ideation — Sketching and mapping out user journeys for every possible scenario. I map everything out, even the “weird” concepts, anything can spark a good idea. The next portion of my day goes into presenting ideas to other teams and incorporating their feedback, we do this until the idea is refined and ready to go live.

Research — Doing work to understand and solve business requirements without compromising customer needs. This can be anything from quick phone calls to organising user testing sessions and reading any available literature relating to the problem I’m trying to solve. This is the part of my job that never stops!

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

Most people I come across don’t expect women to be highly technical in terms of skill set, especially as a designer, I get instances where people think I’m just there to make things pretty. This perception loosely adds to the many reasons why women are overlooked and underpaid.

There’s no magic solution for that, but what works for me is to use every project as an opportunity to educate stakeholders about good design. So, for example, I don’t just send off creative work in an email, I always insist on a presentation where I can back my ideas with research. I also make it
a point to be present in business and operations meetings so that I have a better understanding of how I can use my skills to support the company better. These are the small things that have shown people that there’s a higher value in what I do.

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

Everybody is figuring it out as they go. I had put myself under so much pressure to have a solid career path and plans on how to reach an idea of success that wasn’t even clear to me. Now that I’m older, I see the importance of being nimble – it gives me enough flexibility to follow the flow of where my passion and intuition want to lead me.

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

People often criticize women for being “emotional” – but that’s our superpower. There’s room in this world for empathetic leaders and innovators, especially in a male-dominated industry like tech, it makes all the difference. We’re tasked with innovating solutions, and the best technological solutions are humanist – you can only get that right if you build from the heart.

What is your motto in life?

All things work together for good.

It reminds me that even when I stumble,
I stumble forward – everything (good and bad) is constantly working together to my advantage.

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

With all the ideas that I aspire to build, I want to leave behind innovations that meet social needs, especially in black underserved communities. If the results of my innovations lead to improved morale and people having a better outlook on life, then I would have left a good legacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *