Self-taught female developer with no matric wins MTN app award

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Being a female developer in the tech industry is already a challenge, but being a black female developer with no coding or tertiary qualification, let alone a matric certificate, makes it impossible to even get a foot in the door – but not for Nombeko Mpengesi.

Mpengesi is the winner of the Women in STEM category award at the 2017 MTN Business App of the Year Awards held last Thursday in Sandton.

The category recognises an outstanding app created by a woman-owned business in the country.

Mpengesi created an app called ORU Socialis a multi-purpose social network platform tailored for small businesses, with great professional appeal. It allows users to make new connections, share videos, updates, advertise on the platform, create groups, have on-line conferencing sessions, access to presentations and videos and incorporation of other sites such as YouTube, Soundcloud or any other content. The platform is also available on Google Play and iTunes.

“We’re helping to cut boardroom hiring costs for businesses with limited resources. We have a feature where musicians can upload their songs and let listeners share and comment on the songs,” Mpengesi explains.

ORU Social was launched in July 2016 and currently has 7 000 users across South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, the US, UK, China and Trinidad and Tobago.

While most of the night’s winners are experience and/or qualified developers, Mpengesi did not finish her matric as a result of her father passing shortly before her exams were meant to kick off.

She decided to venture into the world of entrepreneurship seeing as she would not be able to get a decent job without a matric or tertiary qualification.

“For me, not having a matric has never been an issue because I told myself that it is not about that but about my mind, the way I think, my dreams and my destiny,” she says”

Mpengesi took it upon herself to teach herself how to code by watching video tutorials online and reading up on the skill while practicing.

“I was curious. The world is changing, some shops are closing down because they’re not adapting tot technology, what made me want to start ORU Social was that I wanted to teach businesses to use tech so they have an edge over their competitors in the market,” she says.

“I looked at Facebook, LinkedIn etc and asked myself why we don’t have similar local solutions – that’s what drove me.”

Mpengesi believes in paying it forward, which is why she runs a skills development programme on the side to equip young people with some of the same skills she has learned.

On winning the award, Mpengesi says she believed in her solution and was confident in it because of the positive feedback she has so far received from users. She believes the award will go a long way in boosting her business and promoting ORU Social.