Networking in EdTech with a mindset of Immersion and Compassion
The first part of our two-part blog of our interview with Leana de Beer of Feenix and WaFunda was a heartfelt and compassionate introduction to the life of Leana and how she approaches her daily existence.
In this second part, we discover her approach to her professional life and her perceptions of EdTech both globally and in South Africa, as well as her views on how Women are able to impact and enhance the EdTech environment.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on how you’re able to impact the world around you within Education, Leana has some pearls of wisdom that will resonate with both men and women in our far-reaching and inclusive field.
Let’s jump into the world of Leana de Beer!
Q: What are your thoughts on this year’s theme for women’s month, ‘ Choose to Challenge’?
My opinion on whether we should have a women’s month at all changes constantly. We don’t stop being women the moment the month ends. The challenges women face are omnipresent. We still have loads of work to do. Creating time and space to celebrate is important and we have loads to celebrate. Does having a theme contribute in any way? I don’t know.
I do get nervous when we start lumping all people in one group and start speaking on behalf of each other. Intersectionality is at play. Yes, I am a woman but I am also a cisgender abled body white woman and hold a lot of priviliges and my idea of challenge is very different from other women’s challenges.
We need to focus on giving each other safe spaces and opportunities. And then we need to get back to work because we have loads to do.
Q: What advice would you give to people trying to get into the EdTech industry and Education industry post-pandemic?
It is a very exciting space to be in because of all the opportunities. Having more passionate and talented people in the industry will drive innovation and we desperately need more solutions. Looking at the bigger African context, there is so much happening in this industry and we will continue to see great successes. The continent is ripe for change and growth. We also need to be realistic about the many challenges we face; future-of- work misalignments, lack of data aggregation, brain and capital flight and many more. Each country has specific nuances and complexities.
That being said, I’d recommend that you do not go at it alone. There are already many people doing fantastic work so working in isolation does not serve your mission or potential impact. Build up your network and be open to collaboration.
“There are already many people doing fantastic work so working in isolation does not serve your mission or potential impact.”
If we are not sharing and collaborating we are minimising our impact. I’d also recommend to young innovators and entrepreneurs to do your research and ensure you understand what it takes. It is an exciting space but funding is a huge problem, especially gap funding, or diversified income. I know of many exciting startups that had to close down or change direction over the last 6 years, due to a lack of paying users. If you want to tackle issues in the public education sector, you will face many obstacles. Don’t let that deter you from pursuing it, as we desperately need alternative options at scale. Just do adequate research and take time considering your business model.
If you are thinking of joining an organisation in the education space (or any industry for that matter), my advice would be to understand the culture of the business. You are choosing the organisation as much as the organisation is choosing you. We know it is really difficult to find work at the moment but seek businesses with good values. We need to hold companies accountable for their values especially in the social impact space. Now is the time to be focused on change and impact.
Q: Where do you see education as a whole going in the future and do you think it will have any implications on tertiary education?
Countries and regions are all so different. Innovations emerging in places like Canada, Australia and Singapore model differently in places like Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria and vice versa. The future of EdTech will definitely include more virtual learning, remote learning and AR but this creates big issues for data poor countries. Many people in South Africa and Africa don’t have consistent access to data and safe spaces to learn. Creating fancy technology is awesome but not very impactful if you can only reach a small group. Access to solutions will become as important as the solution itself.
The South African education landscape is also at a critical juncture. Big funding gaps continue to exist, drop-out rates are too high, scholars and students are not being skilled for the future of work and we lack general financial literacy and mentorship. In South Africa you still see a massive correlation between tertiary education and employability.
Q: What is your mantra for the year/ something you live by?
In December, I started with “Prioritise my health and my body” but it has since changed. Work can be consuming and I often bend my boundaries to fit the workload and pressures. So during the second quarter of this year, I changed my mantra to “play”. I realised how little space I have in my life for play. Playing less and less also limits my creativity and joy. Now I am trying to create opportunities for childlike play. No stress, no competition, no goal, just play. Playing is also allowing me to step into my body more and giving my mind some much needed breathing room.
“No stress, no competition, no goal, just play”.
Q: Are there any females who have done outstanding work in the EdTech industry in the past year or most recently that you’d just like to point out and acknowledge?
I want to thank all women because whether you are in the EdTech space, in government, or in corporate, you are the backbone of society and we know how much you are carrying and holding together.
We live in such a dangerous, complex, and challenging country and still women keep this ship afloat. It is unbelievable to see. I am so inspired by your strength, gentleness, resilience, determination, creativity and love.
“It is important that we use our voices to create space for other voices because I truly believe if we come together, we can do very big and very meaningful things.”
For those who hold privilege, like myself, I want to challenge you to not only celebrate women but create and provide opportunities for other women. Use your platform. Lead with compassion and integrity. It is important that we use our voices to create space for other voices because I truly believe if we come together, we can do very big and very meaningful things.
I’d like to say thank you to Leana for the opportunity to have this discussion with her, and all the valuable insight and inspiration she provides to those she comes into contact with. Her awareness and aspirations to impact change in the lives of those around her is a characteristic I think we may all stand to benefit from.
Read more about our EdTech SuperHero’s series, a series that was inspired by this year’s Women’s Month theme, “Choose to Challenge”, a theme and point that I’m exploring in our greater series to draw attention to the role that we all play in creating a better and safer world of our students to learn and grow in.
If you would like to have a chat with me about the state of Education in your region or globally, or would simply like to share some tools and tips with other educators, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I’d love to have a conversation with you.
Team Mobile Guardian