“Despite challenges, my determination and passion for technology drove me to overcome them. I sought out resources, mentors, and community support to make my NetAcad journey a reality.”
Despite his achievements with Cisco Networking Academy, Johannes has never lost sight of where he started, and remains committed to helping others in his community succeed.
Limited access to tech
Johannes comes from a peri-urban area in South Africa with limited access to technology or education and job opportunities, but he still calls it home. “I’m still there. It’s a nice place, it’s a chill place,” he says.
But those limited opportunities saw him develop tech skills by necessity early in life.
“My mother bought us a laptop. It was the first time in my life that I had a laptop,” he says. “I was sharing it with my brother and it broke. So we took it back to the shop, because it still had a guarantee. It took three to four months and they brought it back and the same thing happened!”
Frustrated, the brothers took it to a local repair person, and another, and still nobody could make it work.
“I said, you know what, why don’t I try to go on YouTube and try and sort this thing out,” says Johannes. Successfully reloading the operating system gave him a notion of what his future may hold.
Fixing-up a side-hustle
“I started at high school,” he says. “Small things like fixing a computer, fixing a laptop, that’s where I got used to basic tech. I started fixing computers when I was in year 10.”
Johannes decided tech was his future and enrolled in a three-year IT diploma course at college.
“I did get a bursary, but just to pay the course fee,” he says. “For me to go to school, where do I get the money? I had this side-hustle fixing computers for people, and then I’d use that to pay for train tickets. I’d buy a monthly ticket, then I knew I was safe. I could go to school without eating and eat when I got home.”
“At certain times it used to come to my mind: you know what, I’ll get a job. I’ll come back and study. But then at the same time I was, no, I have to study. I’m going to finish this thing… and then I’m going to succeed, whether I struggle. I can even go to college without eating. As long as I have that ticket that takes me to school and back, and then I know that I’ve gained knowledge, and that knowledge, I’m going to apply it one day.”
The value of resilience and determination
“Coming from a disadvantaged background meant I had to work harder and be resourceful, but it taught me the value of resilience and determination,” he says.
A local center run by a non-government organization (NGO) was also offering IT courses, and Johannes decided to see what was on offer. “They had a Cisco Networking Academy,” he says. “I just wanted to know the difference between the one I was doing at college and this one. They showed me that this one would place me into work directly.”
After a discussion at the center Johannes was a little dispirited—there was a course fee that he couldn’t afford, and they expected some formal experience in IT as well. Fortunately, a Cisco Networking Academy instructor overheard the conversation and invited him back, just “to see how the course is.”
“The course content was so perfect,” he says, “and it included networking. I was very happy.”
Hooked on Cisco Networking Academy
The IT Essentials course introduced Johannes to Cisco Networking Academy, and from there he was hooked. “The course is up-to-date and very easy to understand. The combination of theory and hands-on learning makes the courses even more interesting,” he says.
When that NGO closed down, Johannes was keen to continue with Cisco Networking Academy, and that’s how he discovered a social enterprise called Siyafunda. His original IT Essentials instructor had moved there and was running CCNA courses. Johannes followed him to Siyafunda and finished IT Essentials there, and then went on to CCNA.
Opening doors for others
Being the only student to complete the CCNA course in his class attracted the attention of Siyafunda’s founder, Ahmed ‘Smiley’ Ismael, who took him on as a volunteer, and subsequently permanent employee. “It started to grow from there,” says Johannes.
“I then underwent training to become a certified instructor which allowed me to give back to my community. I have been training Cisco Networking Academy programs for the past five years.”
“My ambition to give back to my community has been a driving force in my life, and I'm proud of the progress I've made so far. Through my role as a 4IR technical manager and instructor, I've been able to mentor and train individuals from my community in networking and IT skills, providing them with valuable career opportunities they might not have had otherwise,” says Johannes.
“Seeing the positive impact on their lives and witnessing their growth and success in the tech industry is incredibly inspiring. It motivates me to continue my efforts and find new ways to contribute to my community's development. While there's still much work to be done, the results I've seen so far fuel my determination to give back even more in the future.”
Supporting women in tech
“Siyafunda Community Technology Centre NPC is proud to be at the forefront of promoting female participation in our NetAcad programs as well as in our other digital skills programs. We are committed to fostering gender diversity and inclusion, as we believe it is crucial for the growth and innovation of the tech industry. We have specific programs focusing on women and girls and currently in partnership with Department of Communication and Digital Technology with the Youth Programme to Support 365 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children and NSP on GBV – Gender Based Violence. Through active outreach, mentorship, tailored support programs, and strong partnerships, we have achieved a remarkable 89 percent female participation rate in 2023. We are dedicated in providing an inclusive environment where individuals of all genders feel encouraged to pursue technology-related studies and careers. Together, we're working towards a more diverse and vibrant tech community.”
—Ms Faiza Xaba, Executive Director Marketing and Projects
Johannes attributes Siyafunda’s sky-high female participation rate in the Cisco Networking Academy Program—89 percent in 2023—to a number of factors.
“Firstly, we have actively promoted gender diversity and inclusion in our outreach and recruitment efforts. This has created a welcoming and supportive environment where all individuals, regardless of gender, feel encouraged to pursue technology-related studies and careers,” he says.
“Secondly, we have implemented mentorship and support programs specifically tailored to address the unique challenges and opportunities that females may encounter in the tech industry. These programs have played a significant role in nurturing female talent and fostering their success.”
“Moreover, our emphasis on real-world applications and the practical relevance of our programs has resonated with many female participants. They see the tangible impact of their studies in addressing real-world problems, which can be a motivating factor.”
“Lastly, our partnerships with organizations and initiatives that promote women in tech have further enhanced female participation. These partnerships provide additional resources, networking opportunities, and role models for aspiring female technologists.”
As someone brought-up by a single mother in a community with few opportunities, Johannes has come a long way. He has done so without ever losing sight of where he started and with a determination to help others follow in his footsteps.
Explore more inspiring success stories at netacad.com/careers/success-stories.
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