For some, our career path is clear. We seek it out and reshape ourselves to fit its purpose. For others, the universe conspires and our path finds us. Such is the case with Keri du Raan; the bookkeeper turned product owner who’s driving excellence within the iKhokha product team.
The Path from Pastel to Python
A punctilious forward thinker, it may come as no surprise that Keri started her career crunching numbers at The Kempston Group in East London. In Kempston she found a complex business with many different divisions and facets. While she enjoyed grappling with the numbers for a time, as is often the case with curious minds, she became restless when the challenges started to fade from her day-to-day.
“I always enjoyed the challenge of a new job and getting things up and running smoothly, and then I get bored when it’s too predictable,” says Keri.
Reluctant to lose Keri to another opportunity and realising her need for a new challenge, The Kempston Group offered her a role in IT. While she may not have had the qualifications, her work ethic, willingness to learn and passion for innovation gave her the foundation she needed to pivot her career into the tech space.
“I’ve always had a natural inclination with technical things,” says Keri. “When the first Sega games came out, I couldn’t sleep! I’ve always been technically inclined and never been scared to experiment with tech.”
This willingness to learn, down-to-earth nature and ability to find common ground when working with development teams helped her forge relationships that made her an invaluable communicator between developers and broader business at The Kempston Group.
After a brief hiatus away from The Kempston Group, Keri was lured back to take up the position of ICT Manager. While she may have had little experience in tech at the time, she had the necessary leadership characteristics in abundance; an excellent communicator, voracious learner, empathetic leader and a hard worker who leads by example.
“I’ve always believed that hard work pays off. Intrinsically, people can tell when you’re committed”.
Aside from managing everything from infrastructure to the in-house Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), in-house dev front end systems to property portfolios, insurance brokers, motor dealerships and more, Keri had a natural affinity for managing systems and people.
The Transition From Trucking to Tech
Over 5 years with The Kempston Group, Keri continued to refine her approach until the time came for another challenge. The next step in her journey took her from East London further up the East Coast to Durban.
“I felt like I was missing out on a life experience of working amongst diverse cultures. I wanted more social responsibility. I wanted to be more intentful about what I was doing with my career and what the organisation that I was working for represented,” says Keri.
After a brief stint with First Technology, Keri landed a role as Product Owner at Derivco, which she held for 3 years before the iKhokha Talent Team approached her.
“I’m very analytically minded and I’m all about execution. In a work environment, for me, it’s all about output.”
Her fascination with code and those who create it has fuelled her passion and career growth throughout her journey. For Keri, tech is an enabler that drives both business value and meaningful experiences for the end-user.
“I feel like it’s a bit of black magic. It’s fascinating. I love that developers are very analytically minded, but they’re intrinsically very creative,” says Keri. “So it’s this beautiful, different way of creative expression. I love working alongside people like that.”
Taking the Startup Leap
Making the move to iKhokha was a risk, both professionally and personally. Amid Covid-19, some might say that a move to a startup from one of South Africa’s most well-known tech companies may be an unnecessary risk. For Keri, however, the endless possibilities of a rapidly growing company in the fintech space was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“What I loved about coming to iKhokha is that you could see straight away that there’s a family vibe, a smaller environment where you’re in touch with people and get to know each other,” says Keri.
“I also feel like the customer is right here. We are able to make changes and improvements that will directly impact people and see whether it works in real-time.”
To do this, Keri is ready to lend her analytical, detail-orientated mind to finding new ways to improve our products and offer our merchants and their customers more enriching experiences.
“I love getting into the detail,” says Keri. “That gets me fired up! Understanding a level of detail, so I can start to see where I can make a difference. And it doesn’t have to be code. Ideas can come from anywhere. That’s what I love about it here.”
Pushing the Limits of Possibility
When she’s not working with her team through complex problems, Keri seeks other challenges outside of the office. An accomplished Comrades runner, she enjoys pushing herself to her limits.
“I mountain bike on the weekends in Ballito. I’m a bit of a hazard, but I don’t care. I also train at a boxing gym in Umhlali. It’s torture, but I love it. It’s my obsession,” says Keri.
As with all of us at iKhokha, Keri has taken up the challenge to build our economy, a challenge that is central to our company’s ethos. A firm believer that entrepreneurship is the key to South Africa’s economic rejuvenation, she’s a purpose-driven individual who wants to dedicate her time and energy to accelerating entrepreneurship in South Africa through technology and innovation.
“I want quality of life for my team. You are not a resource. You are a person. And we as a team work together to get projects across the line.”
When asked what she’s excited about for the future, Keri’s response epitomises her drive for enriching the lives of those around her.
“Partnering with SMMEs and finding ways to help them grow their business,” says Keri. “We have a great family here, from the OGs to the new starters. Everybody treats the business as their own, and everyone is so excited for the future. People hustling hard together and, at the end of the day, delighting the customer. Being able to contribute to that would be a privilege.”