The tremendous contribution of women to the financial technology and payments industry (FinTech) is commendable, and women continue to challenge the norms and venture into what were previously considered male-dominated industries. Thirty-three-year-old Sulungeka Faltein is the software engineer team lead at Wonga Online and she shares her some of her experiences of working in the FinTech space.
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in FinTech?
I am from the town of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. After high school, I majored in Communication and Information Systems at the University of the Western Cape. Following this, I completed a post graduate in software development. My internship as a programmer in software development at a retail group was my first introduction to the working world.
Q. Why did you decide to move into FinTech?
During the time that I was job hunting, I did a lot of research on different industries. FinTech really excited me as at the time, many different innovative technological solutions were being launched, particularly in the banking and financial sector. This saw industry players migrating from the old to the new, and offered me an opportunity to have access to the latest and greatest technology.
Q. What’s your current role in tech? Can you tell us a bit about what you do?
My role is to lead the software engineering team at Wonga Online. This requires me to be hands on with engineering, coding and design. I also focus on the people management side by supporting my team of three software engineers and developers. One of the most exciting parts of my job is the design of new features to enhance our customers’ experience. We are also responsible for maintaining the systems to ensure that they are always available to customers and are working smoothly.
Q. What hurdles have you overcome to get where you are today? Who helped you along the way?
As a young woman, I had big dreams about what I wanted to achieve in my life. When I first started working in FinTech, I had to break into the ‘boys’ club’ as the industry was dominated by men. I went about this by proving that I was capable and knowledgeable, and I grabbed every opportunity to showcase my abilities.
My experience at Wonga sometimes feels surreal, as everyone is willing to offer support and provide training and skills development. From the onset, I was pulled into discussions around planning and was always asked for my opinion. I was thrilled when the Head of Engineering assigned me to the team leader role. He encouraged me and had faith in my abilities.
Q. What’s the most exciting thing about working in the sector; what are you excited about for the future?
So much! Information Technology used to be the support role of the business, however it is now considered to be one of the pillars of business success. In South Africa, the possibilities of growth as an individual in FinTech are endless. Companies are increasingly leaning towards innovation, and are creating new and exciting roles for developers. Businesses are moving more towards the digital space, and this has been brought more into focus during the ongoing pandemic. There is far more representation in the tech industry by women than when I first started working in this space, and it is encouraging that women are being assigned to leadership and principal roles.
Q. What recommendations would you make to other women in FinTech to help them grow their career?
Do not get discouraged by the nay-sayers. Be confident in your abilities and your role, and believe in your capabilities.
Q. What single motto do you apply to your professional career?
There is no glass ceiling!
Q. What technology could you not live without?
My cellular phone and my PC!
Q. What’s the one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Make the right choices.