Meet Mushfiqoh Samodien, a business director, owner and shareholder at Aspire Solutions who shares more on her background, work, and family.
TT: Tell a little bit about background?
MS: I have been an entrepreneur for 10 years now, so 2022 is seeing lots of milestones for myself and for Aspire. I believe my background is the best foundation to have when leading into tech; I’ve had a bit of everything. I initially started with law, industrial psychology, and finance of which none of them are fully complete across the board, as I journey in trying to understand where my passion lies. In doing so, I found myself doing international accreditations in the tech space. My passion was very much in the ERP space, which is obviously a big factor within large organisations.
The difficulty with that was I could not see myself pushing a square into a circle and that’s where I transitioned into becoming an implementation partner, where my focus is on where the technology was enabled within companies to impact the people and unpacking their levels of productivity. This would be my 19th year in technology.
TT: What challenges have you encountered as an entrepreneur and what advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
MS: The meaning of entrepreneur means ‘scars of war’, so there is no way that you enter into a space of wanting to be an entrepreneur and starting your own business without the failure that leads to success. It becomes the foundation of what makes you focus and how you learn. Leaving corporate was in fact just the change I needed.
The start of me wanting to be an entrepreneur was firstly, being female within the industry and then secondly being able to implement change and bring value within organisations. I started a company called Evolve management consultancy and partnered with a few people, there is a very fine line between being an implementation partner and being a full-time contractor, so I needed to keep those lines extremely clear and that made it very difficult for me based on the fact that the competition in the room was all your big names. Even though I had started Evolve, I needed to utilize the fact that my brand was who I was because I needed to be true to my foundation.
The advice I’d give to any entrepreneur is to keep pushing forward and always write down one thing that was either a lesson or success of the day.
TT: Regarding the tech industry mostly being a male-dominated industry, how are you dealing with the challenges that women in the tech industry face?
MS: I can say that I was in an advantaged position because my business partner Mike Steyn is one of those gentlemen. If there’s one thing, I am sure of, and that is that he is going to stand up for me no matter what. The reality of being a woman in a male-dominated industry puts me in a minority position of being in the boardroom. One of the other challenges is when I’m taking a stand in the boardroom, there’s always that doubt that my input is not taken seriously, as opposed to that of the men in attendance.
As I grow, I believe as long as you are confident in your capability whether male or female, you shouldn’t feel inferior within any space.
TT: How do you balance work and family?
MS: Firstly, you need to have a supportive structure and people that understand how passionate you are about what you do. For me it would be my husband. He understands how passionate I am about Aspire, technology and my career. But in the case that they don’t understand, help them.
TT: Tell us about Aspire Solutions?
MS: Aspire Solutions is based in Cape Town and celebrating the milestone of being 18 years young this year as well as becoming one of the enablers in technology. We do custom software development. What inspired us is the gaps between bottom-up approach processes and operations on the ground which links to strategic outcomes; we build management systems that are bespoke to the company’s needs, which allows them to enable the objectives of what they need to fulfil whether it be within the financial space.
Our key industries are both the private and public sector. I think one of the most challenging is more within the public space of the government institutions. It gets tricky based on the fact that you have to be aware that it is the taxpayers’ money that needs to be focused on when doing work for them, and that there is an impact naturally to legislation and regulation within the public sector and within the private sector. It is more office strategic and global outcome that is pushed down to South Africa, and we need to ensure that it is customised to the environment with the same outputs globally.
So we’ve got a key focus working on a bottom-up approach and showing that business process are facilitated by and means of a system, in showing that there is the value of the system that is required to facilitate this in organisations and more so from a management perspective. In a nutshell, we are in a space where we facilitate all-round software development and developing systems that ensure that these organisations have ultimate value and visibility.
TT: What some of your products and solutions?
MS: Within the FMCG space, we ensure that the global company with limited time to review a system that allowed reconsolidation of an ERP system, a sales system, and an overview from management issues, would occur, the enterprise was reliant on a solution to consolidate this for them.
Our solutions, which sit as products with the clients fulfills a purpose within operations and we ensure our solutions are enabling value within the organization. An example is as simple as a very paper-based manual process to be streamlined across departments with reporting and visibility to the parties who require it. Our solutions/products are focused on end-to-end outcomes on enabling technology.
With our experience and focus within custom development it is seen more as a solution to the enterprise as it offers the bespoke factor.
However to showcase our capability, Aspire Solutions created a sister-company which extends into product incubation. One of the products that have come from that based on experience and outcomes with our clients is called Findology. This is a product which can self-managed once implemented so we assist you with the implementation of it within the organisation or adoption to fulfil their successes that we have implemented between data and systems at other companies.
TT: The company is celebrating a milestone of 18 years. Can you tell me more about the journey of the company and how you experienced COVID-19 as an organisation?
MS: 18 years ago, Aspire Solutions mainly focused on GIS Solutions, so very much within the geographical space. One of our clients was ACSA, with a team of four. I joined Aspire Solutions eight years ago, as an implementation partner, with the people component as my core focus.
We currently have 16 employees. COVID-19 for us was mild, taking into consideration that we are able to work anyway. However the difficulty was supporting our clients because not a lot of our clients were able to work remotely which pushed us into an over-drive within the first year; with the team working over 18 hours a day. Being within the public sector you still have a situation where people sit with desktops that have got their standards next to them and they are able to do what is necessary.
The facilitation of physical visits became challenging and also a rewarding one, and the lessons from that time period was afforded with much experience and context. For every institution, tech transitions were not on the cards for at least the next three to five years, so what the pandemic did was bring that forward. It definitely sped up the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR, and the requirements for people to be in touch, connected, and finding a way to streamline the way we do things.
TT: Any message to young woman who may be interested in technology?
MS: My message to all young women is do not think that you need to understand technology and do not shy away from learning opportunities. Your strength should not be undermined by being a woman in the industry so find your passion. Let your creativity be your compass, and plan. We always wanted to add sparkle to situations technology needs, and the time is right now.
As we head into a future where our daily lives are becoming all consuming, take a look at the elements of social media, and what people are putting forward.
Be something that enables someone else, and technology allows for that, so push ahead and go and find your passion within technology.