Journey to Silicon Valley – Mwenda de Jenga

15027394_10154408791431886_1274735076112130464_nMwenda de Jenga is the Head of FI underwriting at SHA. She’s spent most of her free time over the past 2 years, working on her MBA. As part of the MBA programme at Wits, students have to attend a compulsory global study tour.

“There were various options that students could choose from: China, Mauritius, USA (San Francisco) and in partnership with an entity called Emzingo (partners with schools around the world to promote responsible leadership) there was an option to go to New York/ Boston,” says de Jenga. “The USA was just an obvious choice for me being the largest economy in the free world and San Francisco because we would be visiting Silicon Valley, the home of the most prominent technology companies in the world. And with the way technology is evolving, why not go straight to the source?”

“Our group consisted of 25 students and 2 Wits lecturers. The group itself was quite diverse, although all studying towards the same qualification in Johannesburg– mostly South African, some Zimbabweans and a gentleman from China.”

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“The itinerary was jam-packed with visits to the world’s most recognisable tech brands, but what really stood out for me were:

– Werner Vorster at Launchpad Digital Health (a business incubator) who founded Vitls Inc. he took a personal challenge, a child who suffered from febrile seizures brought on by his temperature rising too fast or too high and developed a solution (the world first continuous infant monitor). He wasn’t afraid to give up everything he had in SA in his effort to try and make this dream a reality.  So passionate about what does and isn’t afraid to start small and take risks in trying to achieve the end goals. Money isn’t the sole thing that must drive you, your passion must

– The Visit to Kiva. They are a social enterprise that operate as a micro-lender, with a catch – interest free loans!! They generally offer these to people who would not ordinarily have access to financial markets and the lenders are individual like you and me who want to make a difference to somebody else. I would then loan say R250 to a shop owner in rural Uganda. She gets a cash injection she desperately needs and pays back the money after an agreed upon date. The impact that this organisation has on the alleviation of poverty and empowering those that most need it is just mind-blowing. You actually get see what your donation does, who it goes to etc.”

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When asked about the biggest lesson learnt on the trip, “South Africa may have its challenges, but this is actually a great place to work and we as South African’s are extremely inventive and there are actually many innovative thoughts that can be adapted in the rest of the world. Our financial services market is particularly noteworthy. The US had only recently introduced chipped cards to their banking system – something that we have had for so long. Some of the local insurers are also world pioneers in the field of telematics where the USA is only now experimenting with this idea.”

“We have our challenges, but no different from the rest of the world. We just need to keep improving.”

We wish Mwenda all the very best as she awaits the outcome of her studies.

 

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