Dec. 18, 2020

#12: Tanaka Mutakwa - VP of Engineering at Names & Faces and Founder of NoDaysOff Lifestyle Brand

My guest for this episode is Tanaka Mutakwa. Tanaka co-founded and runs a meetup group called Tech Leadership Meetup Cape Town: a community consisting of longtime, new, and aspiring technology leaders. He is also VP of Engineering at Names & Faces, in which he leads his team from Cape Town South Africa.

In this episode, he shares how he got into engineering and created his side hustle, known as the NoDaysOff lifestyle brand, as well as how people can upgrade their leadership skills.

Show Notes

Introduction [0:00]

His Background and How He Discovered Computer Science and Technology [01:49] 

 What Sparked His interest for Computer Science [02:45]

Rise in the Popularity of Tech Industry in Africa [06:03]

His Experience as an Intern and then Full-Time Software Engineer at Allan Gray [09:40] 

What is Tech Leadership and What Inspired the Idea [13:55]

How They Run Their Zoom Sessions [19:25]

How He Got the Role of VP of Engineering at Names & Faces [21:10]

A Day in His Life as the VP of Engineering [26:08]

His Advice for Aspiring Tech Leaders [29:53]

What is NoDaysOff and What Inspired the Idea [35:50]

Would He Want To Start a Tech Startup in the Future [40:35]

Key Takeaways

  • People now don't get questions from their parents or teachers now, when they decide to try and do computer science.
  • The tech ecosystem is growing much more than it was perhaps 10, or 20 years ago.
  • It is about continuous learning and continuous growth. The continual process of developing yourself and then building yourself is what keeps me going.
  • There are different problems and different contexts. So, some things are not just plug and play, they have to be structured differently, when they do come to Africa.
  • A lot of grassroots solutions, like the solutions from people who are actually living here have a better chance of succeeding.
  • The reason why I moved to Prodigy Finance, a Startup was because they were solving a problem that I thought was very impactful.
  • The idea behind Tech Leadership community is to build a community for new tech leaders, established tech leaders and people who want to be leaders in the future, where they can come together, gather and share ideas, and learn and grow from each other.
  • If we can improve the quality of leadership in each of those tech leaders, then they will go back to their companies and improve the environments in each of those companies.
  • “The coding skills and the leadership skills are not the same thing…”
  • With the online sessions, we record the meetup, so anyone could re-watch it. We also allow people to ask questions through the chat.
  • “It's really based on still being in touch with a previous manager, who knows me quite well and knows what would be interesting for me…”
  • When I look at my role, there are four areas that I focus on: people, technology, process, and the product itself.
  • “Those four areas, I think, are the key areas, any technical leader at any company should focus on, if they want to thrive there…”
  • Start consuming content around technical leadership as early as you can. There is a strong correlation between people who consume a lot of learning material about tech leadership, and people who are good leaders.
  • Try to put yourself in positions where you actually start learning leadership skills, but without the title, like mentoring new internees, and stepping up to take on a project everyone else is passing on.
  • Get mentorship from leaders in your community or company that you are inspired by or look up to.
  • It is important to understand what a leadership role entails before pursuing it.
  • If you want to get good at something, you have to practice it every day or be consistent.
  • People often wear something that sends out a message of what they believe in.
  • NoDaysOff is really about inspiring people to get to those places and achieve their goals.

Where to Find Tanaka Mutakwa

Twitter: @GeneralMutakwa:


Blog:   Tanaka Mutakwa:

Resources and Links Mentioned

Tech Leadership:

Names & Faces:



Note: Black Enterprise Network transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcription. They may contain errors, although we do our best to avoid them. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting a transcript in print. Questions? Errors found in a transcript? Email us! 

Kimmiko James  0:00  
It's not uncommon to fall in love with the title or compensation that comes with a specific role.

It feels good to have a bit of power or clout, I guess, until you realize that this role just isn't a fit for you. And you might be doing it for the wrong reasons. When it comes to leadership, you should have specific reasons as to why you want to get into it rather than being obsessed with the titles of CEO, senior Dev, whatever, especially since the title doesn't automatically transform you into a leader anyways, Tanaka especially puts an emphasis on the importance of leadership in the tech space and runs a meetup group called tech leadership meetup Cape Town, a community consisting of longtime new and inspiring technology leaders. He is also VP of Engineering at names and faces in which he leads his team from Cape Town, South Africa. In this episode, he shares how he got into engineering and created his side hustle, known as the no days off lifestyle brand, as well as how people can upgrade their leadership skills. Let's get into it. small percentage of black people are currently represented in the tech industry and entrepreneurial spaces. This includes engineers, startup founders, investors, especially those that hold leadership roles. I want to share their stories. Yeah. So just by looking at your profile on LinkedIn, I don't believe that you're currently based in the US. Is that a right assumption? Yes.

Tanaka Mutakwa  1:27  
I'm currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Kimmiko James  1:30  
Gotcha. Yeah. And it looks as though you've done a lot of your education in Africa as well. So I guess, could you just talk a little bit about your background and where you're from, and just how you discovered the world of computer science and technology?

Tanaka Mutakwa  1:44  
Cool. Yeah. I'm originally from Zimbabwe, which is bordering country to South Africa. I did my primary school education, a nice good education, they moved across to South Africa after that to study at the University of Cape Town to study computer science. So that's how I ended up moving across into Cape Town. I've been living in Cape Town for about 12 years now since then. So I then graduated after three years from the University of Cape Town and got a job as a software engineer at a company and never left Cape Town since then. So I've worked for this is the third company I'm working for now. And I've always been based in Cape Town. And yeah, and then then Zimbabwe studied kind of the Cambridge system. So a levels or advanced levels, which are based on the British British education system. And those were sort of the results that allowed me to then apply the University of Cape Town and, and get a place for, for to study computer science.

Kimmiko James  2:45  
I guess what sparked your your interest for it? Because I fell into computer science as well as a lot of other black engineers for the most part. So I guess what's really sparked your interest? And I guess kept you going with it?

Tanaka Mutakwa  2:59  
Yeah, so that's a good question. Because at the time, I actually came to study at the University of Capetown, not a lot of my peers, or people would have chosen a computer science degree, a lot of people had chosen accounting or actuarial science or like the other traditional engineering degrees, like civil engineering and electronic engineering and everything. Computer Science was coming up and growing, but it was still seen as a bit of a sort of different degree to do people sort of thought people who did computer science maybe end up going to fix printers and, and things like that if they finish. So actually, remember it being a good discussion. As far as applying with people were suggesting perhaps I should go to one of the other traditional degrees and then move into computing, when I've made that you know, and you can do that as a sort of hobby or something. But, but to go back to the backstory, the reason I'd actually chosen computer sciences because I started I got involved into computing very early in my life. The school I was at a primary school when I was about my fourth year there. So that's great for for us. And they got they got about six computers, and they created the small computer lab and because we are not offering the lessons to everyone in the school, they asked parents around the school if any of them wanted their children to attend these lessons then they would pay for for those lessons. And there'll be the afternoon after school. And my parents registered me for these classes. I don't know if I asked for them. It's two way back now or they, they just decided I needed to do something in the afternoon to keep me occupied. And so I started taking up these classes and we didn't do anything complicated. We did like things like typing tutor, like gray or trying to learn like how to type faster and just get to practice the keys. But it started it was the seed of allowing me to learn like how to you know, switch like a bita get into the program, ran a program, do something and try out different programs there but it wasn't anything Like coding or anything like what computer science actually is now? Yeah. But as a result of that, I wasn't because I was involved. So early in computing, by the time school started introducing computers as an actual mandatory class to everyone in the in the school, I already I hate, like the things people were doing, I'd really done before. So I was always good in the computing classes across throughout my primary school and even High School. And I also enjoyed it. So it was, it was almost like an obvious choice when I finished high school that this is something I'm good at, this is something I enjoy. And also towards the end of high school, we actually then did computer programming, because you didn't start doing a bit more complicated thing. So we did computer programming, and I got exposed a little bit to our computer science would be like actually building something and you see it actually work as users sort of use it. Yeah, that's how I sort of got in early. And then it was like an obvious choice to apply for that for university.

Kimmiko James  5:53  
So like a question I have a lot of curiosity is like, would you say in recent years that computer science and you know, the tech industry is gaining popularity and Cape Town and in other countries within Africa?

Tanaka Mutakwa  6:08  
Yeah, definitely. I can start with the university, like I mentioned earlier, that people didn't even really see it as the right degree. But more and more people are seeing that, because now they've been exposed to more applications, they can see the world's become more technical. Most people have a smartphone now. And they figured out that these things, the programs and everything are built by software engineers, and they also seeing the model of like sort of money or how much demand software engineers are in the world. So I think people now don't get less questions from like their parents or, or teachers and everything when they decided to try and do computer science. But also your question around like, we're in Cape Town, and in Africa, for Cape Town, for example, in the last 10 years or so, since I started working, there's been a lot more startups that have come up. And the tech community itself has just grown. And more and more engineers are required out of the universities. So it's definitely been growing. And across Africa, Kenya has had quite a number of interesting technical projects there. And in Nigeria, also, Nigeria, there's quite a number of companies, some companies actually contract into companies in the States, there's a company called andela, that provides developers to companies in the States. And a recent company, which I've forgotten its name in Nigeria, actually recently got bought by stripe, which does payments in Africa. So when you start seeing stories like that, you can see that the the ecosystem is growing much more than it was perhaps, like 10 years ago, or 20 years ago. Yeah.

Kimmiko James  7:47  
Yeah, yeah, I actually had a little bit of this conversation with someone I previously interviewed. And guy, his name's Charles R. De, by the way, and yeah, we were just talking about his startup that he runs from the United States, but it's in Africa. And he just talks about like, Africa is it's catching up with the technology and stuff. And you can't really just apply, I guess, American tech industry stuff to Africa, it just doesn't work that way. Since, like he said, the ecosystem is growing and expanding with time. So it's pretty interesting to learn about it.

Tanaka Mutakwa  8:20  
Yeah, there's definitely like, there's different problems and different contexts. So some things are not just plug and play. They have to be sort of structured differently, when they do come to to Africa. But I think like, that's why a lot of grassroots solutions, like solutions from people who are actually living the site have a better chance of succeeding, maybe not to scale as much as companies that are started in the states that scale across the rest of the world, but at least to solve a problem within, within within Africa itself, or a particular region in Africa, because even across the regions, it gets a bit different. So a solution that can work in southern Africa might not work in like West Africa, because things are just different. So yeah,

Kimmiko James  9:04  
yeah, very, very unique way about thinking about it, because I'm sure like, you know, over here, it's just like, we have to think of a problem that almost the majority of people experience. And well, obviously now like he's you, you start with simple customer segments, obviously. And then it grows to like everybody quotation marks. But yeah, the way it's broken down for Africa is really interesting. Like it might not work for this region compared to this region. So yeah, thanks for sharing that perspective. I guess we just like interested because things again, tech industry over here is very different from tech industry in Africa. So could you like briefly just describe your experiences as a software engineer as an intern, and a full timer at I believe, prodigy finance and Alan gray?

Tanaka Mutakwa  9:47  
Yeah, definitely. So right after or let me actually start while still at university. In my final year, I applied for an internship program at Alan gray, which is an investment management company. So it's it's almost like you'd be called a traditional corporate, like about 1000 people by the time I left. But yeah, it's an investment management company. But obviously backed by technology, people can check their investments and add more money or withdraw and everything or online and everything. But that's why they needed software engineers. But it was actually good that I did that internship because it was the first time I was exposed to what does this thing that I'm studying actually do in the world? Like, how does it relate in the real world? And also, I also then realized that I could actually work at a company that's not a you know that you're just not a tech company. And I'll still be able to learn about computer science and software engineering practices that that are correct. Yeah, so I did an internship for six weeks, it went really well. And afterwards, they offered me a job for a full time job. So as soon as I finished my degree, I went there and started as a graduate software engineer, did a year then became a junior software engineer. And eventually, I spent four years there and grew in my career ended up as a Wozzeck intermediate, or mid level software engineer by the time I left, and yeah, I learned so much there, the company was big and very client focused. So systems always needed to be up and like really, like good quality solutions. And like how we produce the code and the processes we used, was all like, up to standard and everything. And I learned a lot from that first job and from good people that they hired into the engineering teams, I eventually left and moved on to a startup because I was always interested in like entrepreneurship and like how do small companies become as big as as, as an angry, which I had already started at. So you know, if you started a big company, already, a lot of things are in place, and you just arrived and you never understand the initial journey. And like the scrappiness that got them to where they are. So I was always keen on that just to see that. And that's the reason I moved to a startup and that was prodigy finance. They were also solving a problem i thought was very impactful, which was international students struggling to get funding to go study overseas, so across the world, so they were helping in the education space. And when I started there, about 20 people, they and I gained over a four year journey, or four and a half years, the startup grew from like when I left to over 200 people. I was like the fourth or fifth software engineer in the team and about 80 people on the software engineering team at the time I left. And they so they I learned exactly what I was hoping for, which was like, how does a team grow out as a startup grow? What people issues to happen as the team grows? How does a company scale. And also, it was the first, as the company grew, leadership opportunities opened up, they needed more engineering managers. And because I've been there for quite a while and that good context, and I had helped with actually creating an internship program for them and running it. Because I was always interested in tech leadership, I applied and got into that role. So that was also my first exposure to technical leadership while at that startup, so there were lots of like good learnings in that in that place. And and also a cape town based startup, but then almost operating with a Silicon Valley dial and idea of like our company should should operate. What's also great to have that this is like similar to conversation we had earlier about like how companies set up here. Yeah. And so that's that was my journey at those two companies. I I eventually moved across two names of Hazel I am now.

Kimmiko James  13:45  
Yeah, let's get into tech leadership. So that's a community organization. It seems like you founded Could you just like, briefly talk about what tech leadership is? And guess what inspired the idea?

Tanaka Mutakwa  13:57  
Yeah, about a year and four months ago, towards the end of my time at prodigy finance. Actually, I started the tech leadership community in Cape Town.

The idea behind it is for is to build a community for new new tech leaders, established tech leaders and people who want to be leaders in the future

where they can come together, gather and share ideas and learn and grow from each other. We normally have like a meetup once every once every month, the first Tuesday of each month, and we used to have them in person at at any company in Cape town's office would meet up there and would have organized the speaker and then they would speak and people then obviously ask questions and everything but also interact together afterwards. We've also had different formats where perhaps people bring different questions and break out into groups and just discuss those questions or lightning talks and everything. But the whole idea behind the community is to help uplift the Tech leaders in Cape Town and help make them better. And the hypothesis is that if we can improve all the leaders in the companies across Cape Town or South Africa, everyone would love to expand outside of Cape Town. But if we can improve the quality of leadership in each of those people, then they'll go back to their companies and improve the environments in each of those companies. And the tech, the tech community across South Africa grows as a result of that, and people are happier to work at companies in South Africa. And then they can do more impactful things and, and produce better software. So that's sort of the underlying reason for starting it. And it's been going well, we've had now that with the pandemic, we've obviously moved the meetups to online meetups. But that's also been interesting, because it's opened up the opportunity for people who are not in Cape Town, to come and share the leadership lessons with us. So we've had speakers from Berlin, London, and also people who are not from Cape Town to be able to attend the meetup. So we've had people who traditionally would not be able to just come to Cape Town if you're not even in South Africa, but they've been able to attend our our tech leadership meetup. So I think post the pandemic or when things open up a bit more, it's, we realized that perhaps we'll probably do a hybrid. So sometimes we have online ones. And sometimes we have in person ones, just to because I think there's pros and cons to each one around that meet up with two other guys that I worked with Benny and Roberto, when I was starting it, I just reached out to them and say, Are you interested in helping to be organizers for this? So the three of us run that community?

Kimmiko James  16:42  
Yeah, that's pretty cool, I believe. So I was gonna say, I, in my head when I was looking at your profile, I was like, Oh, I think this is the meetup link that I signed up for, with tech leadership. So that's really cool, because I feel like leadership is something that I don't know, undervalued or taken for granted one of the two in terms of the tech industry, especially if you're like a beginner or junior developer, like when you come into the tech industry, you just think you have to be this machine that finishes all these tasks, these tickets, these projects, and that's it. But I feel like as you gain leadership skills, it really does make the company better, I guess. Well, not even just a company better makes you better. Yeah. So that's awesome, just like creating a community for people to talk about, not just code and engineering. So

Tanaka Mutakwa  17:34  
yeah, I think what I've also found is a lot of people get put into leadership positions without ever, like getting trained for it or anything. Yeah, just like, you're like so good at programming. And they tend to be the one who everyone in the team goes to, to ask for help. So then, at some point, that decision needs to be it was leading the team or was the manager then they just make that person that manager, but what they missed out on is the coding skills and the leadership skills are not the same thing. It's like, it's like a whole new career, almost like we have today is a lot of different. Yes, you can do both. And you can be great at both. But you need to understand that the leadership side also comes with people side of things and communication, and in conflict and a whole lot of responsibilities that come with that, that fab someone might not have. And even though they a great programmer, maybe they're just not a great people person, or they don't want to interact with people that much. And then that's where the mismatches so part of the community's goal is to actually prepare people. That's why it's also important for us to say if you're if you want to be a leader, at some point, even if it's like a year or two away, start coming to the meetup, because then you start hearing that topics that tech leaders often talk about. And most of the time, it's not really about which database should we use? Or which programming language should you use? It's about like, What team processes? How do you keep team motivation? I what's a high performing team? Important things that are on the that that people then discuss? So

Kimmiko James  19:08  
yeah, pretty important stuff. Like if you guys aren't already doing this, do you offer, like many webinars about these leadership trainings or these specific things? Or is it just like, I don't know how zoom discussions work with 50 more people? But is it just putting people in the breakouts or how do the sessions usually usually run?

Tanaka Mutakwa  19:29  
So with the online ones, we like to say we have a zoom call and we recorded so that if anyone wants to rewatch it or misses it, they they've got access to that? We we allow them to ask questions throughout the meetup. They'll just drop questions in the chat. And either during the speaker or the speaker sees a question and wants to address it immediately. They can address it. But most of the time what happens is the questions build up then at the end of the talk. We then start going through the questions and the speaker can address those questions. At the end, so yeah, so it's just generally like that sort of structure. We haven't tried like, the whole Breakout Room thing we did that actually in an in person one way people got together. And we wrote down, like, what are the biggest challenges you're facing at your current company as a leader. And then people voted for the ones they wanted to discuss. And people split into like groups and discuss the different questions. And then the groups are rotational, which is a cool, which is a very cool way to sort of tackle that. But yeah, at the moment with the online ones, we record the meetup, so if anyone wants to rewatch it, and we also allow people to ask questions, there's always time for questions. If they want to ask the speaker question. Yeah.

Kimmiko James  20:39  
So yeah, I just want to get into names and faces because I was Yeah, again, I'm just curious about like, how, how it works, because like, I know how remote work, I guess in the US, it kind of works if you're like in the same time zone, or maybe if you're like, a three hour time difference. I'm just curious about how it works when you're like two very different countries across the world. So firstly, how did you get into this role in terms of like VP of engineering? Because then they're not very, I, at least in my eyes as a new, I don't think they're very easy roles to get into. So how did you come across this? Yeah, so

Tanaka Mutakwa  21:17  
it was actually a network connection. If I would say, my manager early on in my career, at the Alan gray has since obviously done a lot of different things since he left Alan gray, and he's actually running his own company now, which does software consulting, and also helps companies recruit technology leaders, and very good software engineers. So I'm still in contact with them. And sometime last year, he was recruiting for names or faces or looking for VP of Engineering and he thought out outfit the role they needed someone who would come in and help shape the technology teams culture and and manage the the engineers on the team. And yeah, he reached out to me and we had a chat over coffee. He told me he spoke to me a little bit about the company's history and that they had gone through Y Combinator, which is something I'd always followed from from the side even. And I'd known about and yeah, I thought it was interesting enough for an intro. And yeah, he put me through to their CEO and CTO. And after a couple of chats and a couple of interviews and meeting the team, I eventually got offered the role and accepted it. So I've been working there for about a year and four months now. So yeah, so it's really based on still being in touch with a previous manager who knows me quite well and sort of knows what would be interesting for me, but he's also dealing with a lot of companies in around Cape Town and helping them source good talent.

Kimmiko James  22:54  
That so you're basically kind of doing remote work before this whole COVID situation then.

Tanaka Mutakwa  23:00  
Yeah, so names and faces we? Well, at that point, you'd say remote, first, remote first company, because we we were we always allowed anyone to work from anywhere if you wanted, but we had offices. So we had an office in Cape Town where the office in the States, but once the pandemic obviously started, we've sort of paused on the officers and have gone full remote. But because we're remote first, that transition wasn't as bad because everything we did was always based on assuming we're working remotely.

Kimmiko James  23:39  
Hey guys, Pardon the Interruption, but I just wanted to take a minute to talk about the book I'm releasing in the coming months. If you're a student looking for an internship or new grad job offer, you're definitely going to want to read this book, I walk you through how to create a perfect resume, how to build side projects, both technical and non technical, how to get leadership skills, and just generally speaking, how to stand out amongst 1000s of applicants. The base ebook will be available January 2021, but it will be for paperback or Kindle versions that will be released sometime in Fall 2021. So be sure to check out the link at bi T dot L y slash GTO underscore book. Okay, now back to the episode.

Tanaka Mutakwa  24:26  
What's helped is majority of the technology, at least at this point, actually, all of the technology team is is based in South Africa, because the company was initially started in South Africa. And then when we got investment through Y Combinator, then the CEO and his co founder moved across to the states. So they are based that side along with with the sales team and the customer team. Yeah, so obviously the hours they start their day we're ending our day. Bye We will overlap a bit and any critical communication can happen over calls house, we default to async communications on slack. But as an engineering team, we all try to be even we are open to hiring people that are not in South Africa. But we try as people at this be at three hour gap from Cape Town side, we can all work the same hours as an engineering team. And we're not like too far apart. So that's how it sort of instruction. That's how it's allowed to, to work for from the engineering side of things.

Kimmiko James  25:33  
Yeah, yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking. I was like, it's gonna be difficult to run a team of engineers all the way from like South Africa, like you said, and like I said it previously, it's like, you have to be within a certain time zone and lease within three hours, because you have to be really communicative. And an engineering team, you can't just like be, I don't know, nine to 10 hour difference, and the correspondents just won't work. So that's what I was curious about. I'm glad it's not like, like, all your engineering teams are like with you. So that makes sense.

Unknown Speaker  26:06  

Kimmiko James  26:08  
Cool, cool. So like, what does your your day to day look like? Generally speaking, of like, being a VP of engineering?

Tanaka Mutakwa  26:16  
Alright, yeah. So my, my main responsibility is to ensure the engineering team is functioning well. So if we're delivering good quality software, for the company, at a good at a good speed, and ensuring the environment for all the engineers is allows them to thrive, and they're happy within within the company. So I have seven engineers reporting into me at the moment. And they all we all work alongside with Product Manager and a lead designer, as the product team. And yeah, I would say when I look at my role, there's four areas that that I focus on. One is people. So I always start with people, just making sure all the people were putting into me, I'm powered, they're happy. They're growing in their careers, I fully understand where they're trying to go with their careers, and I can help them get there. And I'm constantly checking up on them. If there's any issues, if there's any conflicts, or there's any reason why someone's unhappy, what can we do to make sure that is addressed and they are and they can thrive with the company, then outside of the people side, these the technology side. So making sure the team is is making the right calls, I fully empower the team to to make the decisions that allow us to move forward. But also being in context and being our way because I was also a software engineer before, so being aware of what tools and technologies are using, what's our technology stack? Are they any things on the technical side that are putting us at risk in the future, and and everything around that? So that's people technology, then there is process. So what processes are the team, other team using, we want to be agile, and we're not necessarily very prescriptive, to a particular agile methodology to say like we're using Scrum, or he's in combat or anything, but we do have some practices that we've borrowed from the Agile community. And we want to be as agile as we can get as much feedback as we can as quickly as possible and, and improve the team and improve the product and, and our processes. So just making sure the process we use are working for us and facilitating facilitating some of those product processes. Then, the last, the last one is the product itself. So I'm also involved in discussions along with the team, along with the CEO, his co founder and other teams across the company, and the product we're actually building. Why Why are we building? what features are we adding ways of growing any issues around the product and everything. So my role like revolves around that each sort of day is different. But if it had to be summarized at the core, it's ensuring the technology that the technology team is functioning and is functioning well and is a high performing team and the people in that team are thriving, and they're doing well. So those four areas, I think, are the key areas, any technical leader at any company should focus on. If they want to thrive there, they're probably dealing with any of those at any point. And that's people, product processes and technology

Kimmiko James  29:31  
for any new or junior developer, software engineer just coming into their career, right. If I wanted to eventually become a tech leader, whether it's manager or a director of engineering or a VP of engineering, what advice would you give me?

Tanaka Mutakwa  29:51  
I think there's a couple of things. I think the first one is start consuming content around And technical leadership as early as you can. And that can be books that can be going to conferences that by tech leadership meetups, by tech leadership, or even video courses, about tech leadership. So that's that's the first thing I'd say. There's something I read that, that I actually agree with, which said, there's a strong correlation between people consume a lot of learning material about tech leadership, and people who are good leaders, I think you can never be you can never reach this peak where you're like, Okay, I now know everything around tech leadership. Yeah. So you always say never ending learning journey. And the earlier you get into the better, especially before you are in the actual role in the actual position, because you can start observing, like, if you read something, and you can see is our company doing it, how's the leader? Well, I'm reporting into doing it all, or I was our CTO doing it, also co doing it. And you can start observing and learning before actually being pushed into that. And also, you can maybe, perhaps start practicing if some of those things can be practiced before getting into the role, which is actually what my second sort of learning would be for them is, try put yourself in positions where you actually already start learning leadership skills, but without the title. So could you could you organize the internship at your company and facilitate and run it, you also almost have this responsibility. If someone new joins your company, could you mentor them in the first few months of the company, so that we learn how to mentor a new engineer and help them settle and help them be in an environment where they thrive? Could you take up a project that and step up and lead the project that no one else on your team sort of stepping up on? And you almost getting that? It's like free free leadership lessons, but with a low risk of not having the actual title yet? And then you build your muscle up for that. And if your company does do any leadership, training, could you sign up for that and sort of get on some of those programs and learn about communication and everything? And then the other one is, they are leaders that either in the community, at your company or in the community that you are in? The advice would be get a mental from one of them and tell them very directly that you want to be in a leadership position one day, so could you meet with them once a month and just chat about like, what's their day to day? Like? What are they dealing with? Rather? Are they are they addressing? And how can they help you try start moving towards those, those positions? So yeah, I think I think a lot in summary, it's a lot about preparation. By the time you get put into the position, of course, then you really practice it properly when you're now in the position. But how much have you sort of got yourself ready for before so that it's not a surprise on the day. And then it's like tomorrow, I'm now a leader. And I need to learn all these things very quickly. But I'm already in the position. And people can see that like, I'm well beyond my depth.

Kimmiko James  33:06  
I was actually very well sick. Like you said you should do these things before without thinking about the title. You know, a lot of people I've been I've been like that with like school positions and stuff. I like falling in love with the title of director of whatever, Vice President of whatever. But I'm not really ready for the responsibilities that come with it. So kind of just adding on to what you said, like you said, just getting involved in trying things out and showing leadership and kind of just getting a feel for as well. Like, maybe maybe I don't like this. Yeah. Before you just jump into like falling in love with the roll. You've never been in just for the title. And then I don't know, you kind of fumble mess things up. And then you have to start over to like, whatever you were previously. Hopefully not too much. But you kind of get the point. I'm saying, like, yeah, being being prepared is just so important. So I like what you said.

Tanaka Mutakwa  33:59  
Yeah, exactly. I think you mentioned something there. Like, that just reminded me that you also need to ask yourself why you want to be elite?

Kimmiko James  34:06  

Tanaka Mutakwa  34:08  
It's not because a lot of people make the mistake of thinking, Oh, I want to be a leader because then I can make more money and I can control people. But that's like the wrong approach. It's actually your you want to be you want to be someone who like empowers people and is almost a servant leader. For people. You're keen on great people's careers. You know, you enjoy communicating and solving conflicts, people issues and everything. So it's good to understand what that whole role entails. And the nice thing is a lot of tech companies now actually have parallel career paths. If you want to just remain in the technical part and that's where you're good at and you enjoy. You will get compensated in the same way as someone who's going to sort of leadership or management route. So people don't have to feel to feel pressure to just step into the leadership or management route. For the sake of compensation, because that's where problems usually occur, where it's like I went there for money, but then I actually hate that job. I'm missing the coding side of things. And they really, yeah, yeah.

Kimmiko James  35:12  
Yeah, exactly. I guess that's where a lot of people miss the mark. Especially when they see that software engineers make, like, they make a pretty good lump sum, as I'm sure you know, like 100k starting usually, depending on the company, but that's usually starting, or sometimes even more, again, depending on the company. And like, that's, that's nice or whatever. But I guess if you fall in love with the compensation and the role before you even try it for a long period of time, and like he said, it's just not gonna, it's not gonna be pretty after after a while. So very well said. But yeah, I just wanted to get a little bit into like, your founder experience. Yeah, you started, no days off, I believe. And it's still going. Yeah, what kind of like a similar thing with tech leadership, what is no days off. And, again, just what inspired that entire idea?

Tanaka Mutakwa  36:03  
Cool. So no days off as a lifestyle brand. Our mission is to help people Chase and and, and inspire them to to chase and go for their for their dreams and, and goals, and ambitions and make it as it says, no days off the ideas more about consistency. So I believe that if you want to get good at something, or really good at something, you almost have to practice it every day, oh, be consistent, at least at at moving yourself towards that. So we make clothing merchandise, ideas, people often wear something that that sends out a message of what they believe in, or, or what they what they live by, they live by. And that's how nowadays I've sort of started as a as a widow, it's how we started making merchandise. It actually started as a hashtag on Twitter years ago. Every time I was still studying, I think and a couple of my friends and I every time would be like abajo read or study for an exam or anything, would just say, oh, working preparing for that exam, hashtag no days off. So that's how it sort of started. And eventually, I gifted one of my friends nowadays have T shirt as a as one of his birthday gifts. And he really liked it. And everyone also wasn't that community of like inspiring and pushing each other also wanted the T shirt and started asking me to make t shirts for them. And from there, it sort of just grew into Well, maybe other people across the board have the same feelings and ideas about the ambitions. So that's how it sort of then became a bit more of a of a formal business actually registered and making merchandise. Because Yeah, I think everyone if you speak to anyone in the world, they're probably trying to get some way. they've they've got a an ambition or goal they're trying to achieve. And whether that's becoming like the best dad in the world, or becoming like the next best football player or anything. Everyone's got something they want to achieve, and they want to work at it and work hard at it. So yeah, for me no days off is really about inspiring people to get to those to those places. And it's really at the moment out more say very much hobby hobbyist, if I would say, it's not, it's not like a business in which it which is operating at a scale away, if I had to stop everything I'm doing and only do that, I would like be able to survive and do that. But I still enjoy keeping it in place. If someone wants merchandise, now they can let me know an order and I'll get it to them. But keeping it in place as a reminder for me and anyone who was in my circle or a friend of someone in my circle, to continue to get inspired. And yeah, we've also done in the past, we did a an event like that as a soccer tournament, where people came together, did some fitness and then also get people to connect with each other. And they've also been like other ideas that haven't really started them yet. But even something like a podcast like what we are now where we speak more about like with different people about their their ambitions and how they got the and what they chasing and how to be consistent and everything around the no days of message. So yeah, that's an in summary. It's about inspiring people to get better.

Kimmiko James  39:30  
So it's more of a side hustle. Like it's not like you're trying to like build a big clothing line corporation or anything.

Tanaka Mutakwa  39:38  
Yeah, I mean, with a lot of these things you can never predict right away. Yeah. And I was like, I could say, Oh, no, I'm not trying to do that. Then three years from now you find me there or something.

Kimmiko James  39:49  
It's a good point. That's a good but,

Tanaka Mutakwa  39:52  
but yeah, but I'd say exactly that like my main career path at the moment is in the tech field. So nowadays, obviously a side hustle, I don't have much knowledge about fashion in itself or designing or how a clothing brand gets placement into like big shops and everything. That would be something that if yes, I spent enough time and dedication I could get to, but my avenues are more open in the in the tech field at the moment. So yeah, it's more like, like side hustle, a hobby that I that I'm passionate about. So keep it going.

Kimmiko James  40:29  
So just kind of going based off of your your interest in tech as well as mine. Do you think you'd want to start a tech startup in the future? Because you seem very, you know, entrepreneurial, driven, you know, no days off, both figuratively and literally. Do you think that's something you'd want to start up soon? Yeah, I'd

Tanaka Mutakwa  40:49  
love I'd love to start a tech startup. To be honest, I've, I think I've learned enough about about the world to know that it may not be a tech startup. So my, I'm very entrepreneurial. So I would love to start a business at some point, I'm sure tech will be a part of it. Tech will play a role. If it's a tech startup, it means tech is playing a very big role. And it can end up being that and can likely be that because, again, I've got more experience in the tech field. But I don't want to limit myself to then say I want to start another business because it's not in the tech field. So yeah, I'm always on the lookout for opportunities, opportunities that can be big. And that doesn't. I don't limit that to just the tech field. Yeah, I think I'm very, I get excited when I am involved in building something and putting it out in the world, whether it's a tech product or something else. And I see people excited to, to get that thing, whether it's a service or buy that product or everything. And I think that's where, like, why I have an entrepreneurial passion, just that journey of like something conceived as an idea in my head. And then it becomes a product in the world. And then other people will never see it comes through and they excited and they're willing to pay to get whatever that is. So yeah, but But yeah, tech startup would be great tech as like the power to make a massive impact in the world. So yeah, that and also scales just like easier when it comes to technology than a lot of things. Like we're talking about a clothing brand now, by the trying to scale a clothing brand, like across the world, like how that would Yeah, it's not

Kimmiko James  42:37  
easy. It's not easy. Yeah. Whereas tech,

Tanaka Mutakwa  42:40  
I could be sitting in Cape Town. Yeah, with my laptop, and we push out something and people across the world are using it. So yeah, they say some exciting stuff that can come out of or starting a tech startup. But yeah,

Kimmiko James  42:55  
yeah, that's a that's a very nice viewpoint. Because I feel like sometimes I and sometimes others get caught up in this mindset of, if you want to start a business, it just has to be tech based or nothing. But I really do like how you can just start a clothing brand or jewelry or whatever you're trying to sell. And it's a nice little side hustle doesn't have to be anything super tech based or something you have to put your life into, or at least most of your life into, like you would a tech startup. So I like that perspective. So So yeah, that's that's that's all my interview questions. Where can people find you your journey or your different organizations in terms of like socials or websites?

Tanaka Mutakwa  43:37  
Cool. So when I've started LinkedIn, you can find me on LinkedIn under my name. So Tanaka, taqwa, you can just search for that, and you'll find me happy to connect with people and chat. I'm also on Twitter, as general moussaka. So general then my surname for tech leadership. If you go to, and such tech leadership, Cape Town, you can join our community from there. And you will be notified whenever the next meetup site if you want to join, and then names and faces, names of faces calm, you will find out all about all products if you just go to that website, and then no days off that co dot zero, which is a South African domain, if you are no checkout no data. So that's how you can find everything about me.

Kimmiko James  44:26  
Well, thanks for being on Tanaka. Really appreciate all your insights and sharing your story. And yeah, thanks for coming on.

Tanaka Mutakwa  44:33  
Oh, thank you so much for having me. This was really good.

Kimmiko James  44:38  
Join me in the next episode, in which I'll be joined by Heather Hiles, founder and CEO of eminent equity, as well as board member at Udemy to talk about the importance of being your most authentic self in order to reach the success you desire, what it's like to found a for profit versus nonprofit business and so much more. Thank you for listening and I'll see you then. Thank you again for listening to the black enterprise network podcast and it would be greatly appreciated if you could leave a review on Apple podcasts or any other platform that has reviews