When you count Maths and Science as two of your best friends growing up, it stands to reason that you’ll find yourself doing something technical for a living one day. That’s exactly what Refiloe Diale, Business Analyst at Altron Bytes Managed Solutions, did – she packed up her beloved subjects post matric and took them with her to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Johannesburg.
Born and bred in Carletonville on the West Rand, Refiloe went on to graduate from UJ and then interned at an information and communications technology company. This kick-started a transition from engineering into information technology, “which helped lay the groundwork for me becoming a business analyst,” she says.
A self-described ‘solutions finder,’ Refiloe recently joined the all-women innovation forum, FemmeTechZA, currently in place at Altron BMS, which offers women in I.T. the opportunity to showcase their ideas and lend their skills to developing and implementing innovative technology solutions, primarily into the current retail environment in South Africa.
For Refiloe, the inclusiveness of the forum is what appeals most: “It’s open to all ladies, irrespective of the department or role they find themselves in – from call centre right through to senior management. It’s a wonderful opportunity, all-round, for growth; working closely with people that inspire you, being on the same team, all learning from each other.”
She also attributes this feeling of inclusion to the overall culture she’s experienced since joining Altron last year. “It’s definitely a collectively engaging space to work in. I feel like I can achieve here, becoming more senior as I go. There is no lack of mentorship, which I really appreciate.”
For me, being a business analyst involves being a change-maker, as well as a solutions-finder. It requires me to sit down with a customer and develop a relationship with them, so I can understand their business needs and how we can meet them with innovative solutions and/or bring changes to solutions and processes that help make them better. I love this role, because for a long time during my engineering chapter, it was just me and my computer, whereas this has launched me out of that comfort zone, into interacting with people, helping me to grow in confidence. Also, getting to know different types of people and characters – those who are forthcoming and easy to deal with and those that are a bit trickier to form a rapport with. I would say that around sixty per cent of my time is spent out of the office, engaging with customers, and the rest putting their needs down on paper and facilitating next steps.
Women lead more from the heart and are more understanding and implementing of the ‘three Ps’ of business success: People, Processes and Product. A company needs all three to thrive and I believe that is where the feminine edge plays a role, as the more satisfied people are at work, the easier it is for them to perform, to follow processes and create great products – which, in return, serves to build revenue.
I started running in 2018, so when I’m not at work or at my home in Midrand, I’m entering races and running socially on weekends. I do it for fun. I’m not the kind of person that has to place and get a prize; I just enjoy it. I have colleagues that I run with and we seek out races for good causes and support them. My ultimate goal is to run the Comrades Marathon, hopefully next year. I also enjoy reading and watching series with complex characters, such as Dexter, the popular forensic scientist by day / vigilante by night. My extended family still lives in Carletonville, so I like to go home and spend time with them when I can. We are close.
My mother. She is strong and resilient. I am one of three girls and she always encourages us to do our best. She is so supportive; I can tell her anything and she’s just always there for me. I’m also reminded of the movie G.I. Jane, starring Demi Moore. It impacted me greatly when I first saw it; the character she plays is the epitome of a woman trying to break into a very male-dominated space. Everyone expects her to fail and there’s one scene in particular where reference is made to a poem by D.H. Lawrence, about self-pity, that stayed with me: ‘I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.’ What I took from that is you should never think or feel that you’re too small to go out there, to believe in yourself and do what it is you want to do. Never give up. I think highly of any woman that’s ever broken through the glass ceiling, so to speak. It inspires me to keep pushing myself.
It all comes down to self-confidence and a strong belief in yourself; knowing who you want to be and doing the work to become that person. Also, find yourself a mentor. Start as a junior if you have to, understanding that there are levels, and then work hard to attain them. Just keep telling yourself, ‘I can do this.’ I’ve amazed myself at times, especially in the past three years. I always used to think of myself as the shy person who sits at the back of the room, but I’m actually a go-getter. I like to push boundaries. I like to go out there and find out stuff. Don’t be put off by a closed door – find a way to open it.