A self-defined “child of South Africa”, iKhokha’s Scrum Master, Ayanda Mhlanga has picked up pockets of life experience across the country. It makes sense then that she has flourished into a role that demands both adaptability and empathy.
After sitting down with Ayanda, we find ourselves more certain than ever that she is somebody you want to get to know.
Being a Part of the Story
Ayanda set off to Rhodes University to study and complete her BA in Journalism and Media Studies, English Language and Linguistics. From there? She went straight into hard news. And that proved to be exactly what it sounds like – hard.
But the best lessons always come out of trying times. As she says, experience in news and journalism taught her that so much is possible in this world.
Given the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life, Ayanda gained an even deeper understanding of how and why people are the way they are.
“There’s so much to learn from everybody around you and there are so many valuable stories that everybody holds.”
Suddenly, hard news was changing. The industry needed people to help it transition into the digital world. Ayanda confidently put her hand up for that one.
Drawing on editorial experience gained working at Caxton, she worked to digitise newsrooms across KZN and publishing houses using her skills in digital strategy, marketing, and publishing.
From there, she knew that technology could be used to reach vulnerable communities. This is when she stepped into the Tech for Good environment.
Coming to iKhokha
When we sat with Ayanda and heard about where her journey started and where she’s at now, we assumed the change had been drastic. She says that wasn’t the case. Her move into the product space was a gradual evolution rather than a dramatic change.
For Ayanda, this change was inspired by her inherent need to make sure people are included. Now, she is working towards every day South Africans being included in the creation of small businesses.
iKhokha gave Ayanda the opportunity to be a part of the story of the economy. For her, catering for the lowest common denominator and making sure that they are included is why she does what she does. This notion has guided her throughout her career, and it isn’t stopping anytime soon.
On Knowing People: Yourself and Others
Ayanda knows who she is, and her self-awareness shines through in her day-to-day. When in doubt, she knows how to get to the root of the problem:
“Properly interrogate that doubt. Is it true? Generally, it’s probably not. And if it is, where can you improve?”
An agile Scrum Master must understand people. More importantly, they must want to understand people. Luckily, this happens to be this Scrum Master’s strong suit.
Ayanda sees value in every person who crosses her path and knows there is something to learn from everybody. She says, working with smart people who you can always learn from has been a compelling part of being in the iKhokha environment.
Ayanda shares an admirable view when it comes to learning. She says, “Give yourself time to be a novice. In this world, we’re often scared not to know. So, give yourself space to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask your stupid questions.”
On Work with Meaning
The golden thread that runs through Ayanda's career is being of service to those who need it. She always chooses her next move wisely, asking whether the work she’ll be doing uplifts South African people.
Her Tech for Good career thus far has impacted access to maternal health and the empowerment of girls and young women.
“Women bring a lot of empathy. Especially if you’re delivering a product that needs to work for the client. You need that empathy.”
Driven by a deep love for Africa, the transition into fintech to uplift small SA businesses was natural for Ayanda. She believes that what lights her fire is being able to impact the growth and sustainability of Africa, particularly South Africa.
Empowered People Empower People
Outside of work, she is soaking up the sights and sounds of the Durban promenades and singing in her car for the whole drive there. She’s participating in meaningful conversations with the people close to her and empowering herself with every considered decision she makes.
For a Scrum Master, every day is different. It’s a balancing act between upholding agility practices whilst blocking out what does not serve the team. Ayanda’s job is to ensure the vision is clear and the guidance is there. It’s about making connections between her team. It’s more than checking in on the work. It’s about making sure her team is feeling supported and in control of what’s on their plate.
What makes it all worth it at the end of every long haul? She says, “seeing it all come together. Seeing people feeling empowered to do good work.”
Ayanda has caught the fintech bug. We all agree she has an exciting future in building South Africa’s small business economy.
As a final word, Ayanda shares her thoughts on what young job seekers need to bring to the table when looking to make an impact in the product space.
“Don’t be afraid to not know. But don’t sit in your not-knowing.”
Join the Hustle
If you want to work with people like Ayanda who care deeply about the impact of our product, we’d love to hear from you. See all open positions on our careers page.
Get to know more of the team: Meet the #iKTribe