How do young women break into a fiercely competitive, high-skill industry and build a fulfilling and globally competitive career?
For one young professional, a supportive culture and the opportunity to make a real impact has proved to be the perfect mix as she makes inroads in what remains a male-dominated industry.
“As a young, unexperienced woman starting out in a new career, I thought hard about the kind of place where I’d like to work, a place that would allow me to practice my theoretical knowledge as well as become the best version of who I can be,” says Ruth Mukole, Global Customer Success Advocate at cybersecurity firm Mimecast. “When I joined Mimecast, I wasn’t just looking for a job, I was looking for a place where I could receive mentorship and make a real impact.”
The University of Johannesburg graduate joined Mimecast as part of the company’s one-year graduate program in 2020, where she quickly discovered her passion for cybersecurity.
“My time in the graduate program was hugely fulfilling, as I was exposed to real work and could learn directly from my more experienced colleagues, as well as apply that knowledge in my own work. And as I developed my own skills, I could also help mentor and guide the newer recruits joining our team.”
Addressing a global skills shortage
Industry figures suggest that fewer than one in four global cybersecurity professionals are female and, despite a widely-reported and ongoing skills shortage, the sector remains largely male-dominated.
Mukole believes healthy company cultures and access to skills development and mentorship opportunities could encourage more female talent to join the industry and help alleviate the skills shortage.
“Part of our company culture is to invest in each other and provide genuine support to our teammates. That alone is one of the most powerful tools for ensuring we do great work and truly help realise our vision of stopping bad things from happening to good organisations.”
Taking place over a twelve-month period, the Mimecast Graduate Program aims to provide young and talented graduates with an opportunity to receive the best start in their careers in one of the most progressive cloud technology companies in the country. What started off as a locally run program on a relatively small scale, has now grown into a global program with these South African graduates reporting into managers across different departments and in different regions. The program focuses on enriching scarce and critical skills in the technology space and provides individuals from previously disadvantaged communities an opportunity to gain relevant and international skills and become permanently absorbed into the workforce.
Unlocking SA’s untapped talent pool
Mukole believes these types of opportunities can help unlock South Africa’s huge talent pool and address the shortage of key technical skills facing the country.
“Young people, especially African youth, are blessed with immense talent but that talent is largely untapped due to circumstances that include social and economic challenges, educational barriers, access to networks, funding and more,” says Mukole.
Mimecast was founded in 2003 by South African entrepreneurs Peter Bauer and Neil Murray, and the company continues to have deep roots in South Africa, despite a hugely successful international expansion.
According to Paul Stafford, VP for Africa at Mimecast, developing employees’ potential and empowering them to become leaders is critical to a high-growth company’s success. “The leaders we develop today will shape the future of our company, our industry and our country. As a business, we want to be at the forefront of inspiring, supporting and growing the next generation of tech and business leaders in South Africa. By investing in the development of people such as Ruth and drawing on our country’s vast talent pool, we have positioned South Africa as a hub for servicing and supporting Mimecast’s growing global customer base.