In 2000, DigiOutsource was called ForwardSlash, and Theresa, employee number 120, entered the wild world of online gaming. Theresa buckled up for a 20-year long journey that she describes as nothing short of, ‘crazy, incredible, fascinating, and exciting’.
How did it all start?
‘I studied Computer Programming at the then, Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology), where I split my third year of study into 2 years of part-time study to accommodate a job that would finance my degree. I worked as a waitress, as well as at night clubs serving drinks at the bar. I did not enjoy waitressing at all, and was very keen to find alternative work.’
What led you to the doors of DigiOutsource, or rather ForwardSlash, back in the day?
‘I happened to meet a woman, a friend of a friend, who worked in HR at ForwardSlash. I told her how much I disliked waitressing but that it was helping to pay for my studies, and she said that ForwardSlash was looking for call centre agents’. Theresa giggles, ‘Well, let’s just say that my interview was nothing short of horrible! It involved the role playing of a call with the worst possible client - it was so intimidating and terrifying. Needless to say, a week later I was contacted by HR who politely told me that I was not the right fit for the call centre, but that they did see potential in me for a day job handling the admin event forms. Back then, when we would pay out a bonus to a customer, for example, a piece of paper had to be filled out for each and every one of these pay outs. There were stacks and stacks of these forms, and I would be responsible for them. “I can do that”, I thought. When I started the job it literally was STACKS of paper! I spent my days sorting them out and filing each of these forms. Thankfully this lasted only two months, as processes changed very quickly. I then fell into the Call Centre Admin team filling various administrative roles.’
‘While this was all going on, I realised that I didn’t actually enjoy my studies; writing an application was not for me. I found myself in a scary situation where I did not know what I was going to do. My saving grace happened during the second half of my third year when my course included a 3-month module on SQL and Databases. I knew immediately that I had found what I enjoy! It made sense to me, it was interesting, it was logical and structured – it was me.’
‘Fortunately, a job became available in the Analysis department, which today, would be the BI (Business Intelligence) department, to add a fourth Analyst to their three-person team. Back then, in 2002, we didn’t have the processes we have now; there were all sorts of people on the floor running different SQL queries, and these queries would change regularly - there was so much happening all over the show! I interviewed for the Analyst role, which was quite hectic in terms of the analytical thinking required during the 4-hour interview, but I managed to have a successful interview and got the job. ‘
‘About 3 or 4 months into my role, the head of the Analysis department resigned, and a new head of department was appointed, Anthony, who has the most incredible mind. I learnt so much from him. After Anthony joined, as a team we introduced structure around how our company data was accessed, improved our security, ran various workshops to create awareness around how the business worked, increased the knowledge of tracking, and conceptualised our business funnel – all with the aim to establish a better understanding of how the business worked. It was incredibly fascinating. As part of these awareness initiatives, the team developed the Forward Wizard
, a glossary of terms, usually complicated acronyms, that were used in the business on a daily basis. We did so much ground-breaking stuff, it really was an exciting team to work in.’
Where did your career path at DigiOutsource take you next?
‘I was in the Analysis department for around 3 years when a role opened up for a Database Administrator (DBA), and that was exactly where I wanted to go. I applied and thankfully got the job, and I’ve been in the DBA department ever since’.
‘My boss at the time was a mentor of note; everything I know, the way I think and the way I work is thanks to his influence and guidance. After he resigned, it was just myself and my colleague, Natalie, who is now my Manager. The company went through enormous change over the next few years – it was a crazy ride to be honest. The way the business kept its head above water was incredible.’
‘It was just myself and Natalie for ages, and we moved between departments for quite a while as it wasn’t quite clear in which team the DBAs ultimately belonged. We didn’t really fit into IT at that stage because we don’t work with infrastructure. When we sat with the BI (Business Intelligence) department it quickly became clear that we don’t only do work for BI, we support departments across the business. There was a lot of shuffling around until we found a ‘home’ with our Chief Information Officer, Craig Hovey, who is amazingly knowledgeable in terms of what our team does.’
Can you tell us about any challenges you have faced during your career?
‘It has not all been picture perfect. Natalie and I have been through stages over the years where we were the only two people in the team, which created an enormous amount of work. It was nuts. However, it is not that I was unhappy. Yes, I felt very stressed but who doesn’t go through such phases at work? I still loved what I did in spite of the pressure. The journey has been absolutely crazy but I honestly love it. If I were in a mundane job in an ordinary company I would literally not survive. I’m always amused when people who join the team think that our pace is unbelievably fast, when to me it’s completely normal.’ Theresa chuckles and shakes her head, ‘it has made me realise how conditioned I am to the speed at which we need to deliver; it has to be done tomorrow, we don’t have a year to deliver something.’
Two decades with a company is quite the milestone. What has contributed to your staying with DigiOutsource for 20 years?
‘The level of technology that we use at this company is incredible. The exposure that I have received is more than most people I know, and they have been hopping between companies for most of their career. This is because of the nature of the technology we use and the understanding of the importance of technology. That importance is recognised not just by the CIO but by the CEO himself, which makes a massive difference to a company and to me.’
‘People often ask me, “20 years, really?! How can you be in the same place for 20 years?!” And I say, “first of all, you have never worked at Digi, because if you did you would know that it does not stay the same company year after year, it’s as though I work for a different company every year - things change so quickly!” The pace at which we move and revolutionise is insane, and I love it! I would die if I had to have 6 months to create a cube,’ Theresa laughs. ‘The other thing that is super important is the people I work with. Over the years, I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have had issues with colleagues. I mean, it’s 20 years later and I really enjoy coming to work. I have no reason to leave, I honestly don’t, why would I when I love it so much? Perhaps if Digi did not “run” at the pace that it does and did not give me access to the best technology, I wouldn’t be as keen to stay. DigiOutsource ticks all the career boxes on my list and has done so for 20 years, and I feel like the luckiest person in the world.’
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