Ozow is a company built on four values: to be honest, committed, inclusive, and innovative.
Our teams live and breathe these values, but there may be no purer expression of them than in our annual graduate programme. This initiative is designed to foster the innovation South Africa’s technology sector needs by offering real-world experience to a diverse cohort of passionate, talented graduates. It demonstrates our commitment to growing inclusion by giving them honest insights into the working world of tech.
To learn more about the programme, what it means for graduates, and what it means for Ozow, we spoke to Ozow’s Chief People Officer, Oriel Pays, Head of Talent Acquisition, Brett Makepeace, and Siphokazi ‘Pops’ Dude, Talent Acquisition Specialist.
A first in Ozow’s history, the 2023 Graduate Programme sees a hand-picked group of graduates gain direct work experience through our own Product, Quality Assurance, Engineering, Support, and Data teams. Oriel summarises the purpose of the programme thus: “It provides young upcoming tech stars the opportunity to experience the world of payments first-hand, hopefully enticing them to continue a career in fintech.”
Brett agrees, emphasising two-fold the dual goals of the exercise: “We want to give recent graduates the work experience they need, and to create a talent pipeline for the business.”
“The ultimate goal is to bring these super talented individuals on permanently as they kick-start their tech careers,” he says.
Pops points out the benefits for the graduates themselves: “They have an opportunity to learn from some of the greatest minds in the tech industry. They are exposed to various departments and tools in order to upskill themselves. Our graduates are also encouraged to enrol in courses that will help them build their skills and knowledge.”
In essence, the programme offers graduates the chance to define the direction their careers may take, while giving Ozow the ability to grow with versatile, young, agile talent.
Over the first six months of the programme, each graduate will participate in two-week long rotations with a given team, before choosing a speciality that best suits their skillset.
“Instead of making the graduates specialise in one field from the outset,” says Pops, “they have the opportunity to explore the tech space and see where their strength lies before specialising.”
“These graduates will be immersed, receiving access to a knowledgeable team who will coach and mentor these upcoming stars – and the best will be given the opportunity to join the rocketship permanently.”
This means not only time spent in departments themselves, but with mentors drawn from Ozow’s senior ranks. These mentors will help guide them not only within the teams, but through their entire journey, and to help them find the path best suited to them.
And what does Ozow look for in a graduate?
According to Brett, the things that will set graduates apart include “Inquisitiveness, drive and willingness to do things that take them out of their comfort zone. Key deliverables will be communicated before each sprint and those that go above and beyond will see the rewards in the long term.”
Pops agrees, adding: “We encourage them to go over and beyond the expected outcomes. They also need to always ensure that they live out our values of being inclusive, honest, innovative and being committed.”
It’s easy to see the 2023 Ozow Graduate Programme as just one more part of a larger puzzle: our mission to expand payments access to every South African. But – while that’s an important part of it – it’s more than that.
The technology sector in South Africa is under pressure. For it to not only survive, but thrive, it’s necessary to foster those homegrown talents that will form the future of innovation in tech. That’s what makes programme’s like Ozow’s so important.
Our team recognises the gravity of the moment. “I was surprised at the willingness of the management teams and mentors to give up their already limited time,” Brett notes. “It’s important that all parties truly invest in the programme to make it a success – and they’ve shown they’re more than happy to.”
Pops sums up the need, when she talks about the moments she’s loved most during the process: “I love the one-on-one and team engagements I have with the graduates. I’m able to offer them advice and to also be a sounding board for them.”
“This programme has created learning and work opportunities for graduates who could have possibly been without work.”
Truly, graduate programs are an essential part of higher education and the growth of our society, providing students with advanced knowledge and specialized skills.
At Ozow, we’re determined to be a part of this process. We want to guide young minds to become leaders in their fields, to drive progress and innovation in this industry.
In the end, it’s why we’re here.