Synapse Issue 9 - AI Expo Africa Show Issue - 3rd Quarter 2020

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1 MILLION WOMEN in RPA by 2025

For Tholang Mathopa, the founder of RPA Nuggets — a Johannesburg-based Intelligent Automation, AI and analytical consultancy — AI systems are only as good as the data that is fed into them.

“THEREFORE THE inclusion of women, and disenfranchised / under-represented groups, particularly in AI and Data Science fields can help mitigate this risk,” she says. To that end, Mathopa has embarked on an ambitious mission to include more women in AI, and particularly in the field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Her goal is to up-skill and train at least one million women in Africa in Intelligent Automation and RPA in the next five years. Synapse caught up with the visionary entrepreneur for a Q&A that covered her career, the challenges of running an RPA startup as a woman in South Africa, and the details of how she intends to go about reaching the goal of the 1 million women in RPA initiative. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell us about your company in a nutshell

3RD QUARTER 2020

RPA Nuggets is an Intelligent Automation, AI and analytics consultancy. We help businesses automate operations processes through custom intelligent automation solutions powered by AI and analytics to drive business value. RPA Nuggets was launched in March 2019 and is run by two full-time employees, myself and another female director. The rest of our development team consists of 15 freelance consultants. Our main clients are corporate organisations like banks, auditing firms, insurance companies and any structured organisation with set traditional business processes.

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Can you walk us through your professional background and what inspired you to start this business?

I started my career in 2013 as a data analyst for a telecommunications company, just after completing my BSC Computer Systems at Heriot Watt University. This was my first job, I was excited and amped up to learn and grow professionally. Off work, I consumed myself in Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) YouTube videos and soon certified with an MS BI accreditation. Opportunities flooded in, and I was up for the challenge, which motivated my move to a small insurance firm as a BI developer and later junior enterprise architect. My career advanced to an associate role at a Big Four consultancy where I was called into their analytics team, and was soon asked to become a part of the pioneering RPA team. While I was an RPA developer during the day, I became an online freelance RPA trainer at night, training tech aspirants across the globe for two hours on this new and emerging technology. My role as an RPA trainer was where I exercised my creativity, as at the time, there weren’t a lot of RPA learning or reading material. I did everything from training and curriculum development, to corporate advisory and strategic RPA consulting. I loved it, and loved RPA more! This catapulted my career to joining a New York RPA startup I was freelancing with as an RPA consultant. This saw me travel across the US, UK and Asia, corporate training and consulting. I owe my broad understanding of Enterprise RPA to this experience. RPA Nuggets came into fruition when I realised that South Africa had a staggering 10,4 million unemployed people, mainly youth. I wanted to use my skills to help alleviate unemployment and contribute towards South Africa’s’ preparedness for the Future of Work. I therefore developed a skills development programme that used RPA to help increase trainee’s competitiveness in a market demanding cuttingedge tech skills. It was here that RPA Nuggets, the consultancy, emerged.

How did you initially fund the firm?

Through personal finance and other voluntary services.