What do employers look for when hiring for IA teams?

What do employers look for when hiring for IA teams?

Intelligent Automation (IA), specifically Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is a trending topic, and we are only at the beginning of the conversation. In previous posts, we talked about how to build a career in Intelligent Automation and also how to transition to Intelligent Automation from your current job. The next question we want to answer is what employers look for when hiring.

We had a virtual sit-down with Waseer Haffajee, Chief Product Officer at Cogent, to pick his brain about what he looks for when selecting talent for his team.

Waseer leads the delivery team that makes various IA projects possible. He is also responsible for the team that creates new products to augment the automation ecosystem.

Intelligent Automation skills are relatively new. Where do employers go to find talent in South Africa?

That is a tricky question because the market has a shortage of this type of skill. You are most likely to find talent at other IA companies. However, at Cogent, we prefer to build our own skills to ensure that the calibre is consistent with our standard. We recently launched a unique Full Stack Intelligent Automation Engineer course delivered by our sister company, Talentank. This course is provided by our team members and will be the entry point for fresh talent into our team.

As a hiring manager within an IA business, what would you say is the top three critical aspects you look for when scouting talent?

Having worked with talent from various backgrounds within the IA space, I have realised that it comes down to the following:

Attitude first: You must be willing to learn and go the extra mile.
Culture fit: You must be able to fit into the company culture to work with the team. IA is all about team effort.
Logical thinking: You should have a clear, analytical mindset to solve complex problems.

When you screen candidates, what are the technical skills you are hoping to see on a CV?

I generally look for candidates that illustrate the application of problem-solving techniques in their CV. It is always good to see experience working with coding languages such as Java and C#. Lastly, I look for any process mapping experience.

Why would you encourage people to choose a career in IA?

The world is succumbing to the digital era every day. More than 50% of the world’s largest companies are adopting this technology. Many white-collar jobs will become obsolete, thereby creating higher-value work for humans such as IA engineers. There is no time to wait. Getting into a career in automation is possible for more people than you think.

What unique qualities do you believe women bring to the technology teams?

There are definitely qualities that stand out when working with women in our technology teams:

Composure: Women can navigate through the maze of complex jargon and process steps to understand the critical workings.
Empathy: Women seem to understand the problem from a human perspective, enabling them to gather sensitive information from employees that would not be mentioned in a standard operating procedure document. This is incredibly important to the process of automation.

What critical professional skills do you believe give candidates an edge in entering the IA career space?

Communication: You need to be able to articulate your message correctly to a range of audiences.
Teamwork: You need to work within a team to achieve a common goal.
Time management: Always meet the deadline, never keep the client waiting.
Critical thinking: IA requires the developer/engineer to think and program the worker, i.e., create the brain. The worker should know what to do if the selected process step is not achieved.

Any advice for people interested in IA careers?

The pandemic has brought about a shift in the labour market; there is a newfound emphasis on the digitisation of work. Unemployment will increase in white-collar work. People should embrace the change and start focusing their attention on data and analytics, automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

There are also many practical things people can do to get going. There is no shortage of avenues to learn on the internet.

• Take free courses to get a feel for the work. Check our Blue Prisms. You can try out the foundation course to get your automation journey started.
• Read up on the use cases currently taking place around the world.
• Start adapting your skills to take advantage of this new industry.
• Educate yourself.
• Chat to Talentank about their Training Academy.

Now that you have some good insight into what employers are looking for, now is a good time to do your research into Intelligent Automation career paths and get going.

If you are interested in chatting to us for more information, pop us an email: hello@talentank.co.za.

Transitioning to a Career in Intelligent Automation

Transitioning to a Career in Intelligent Automation

Catherine Jowitt is an RPA Lead with Cogent. As a trail blazer in the field – we just had to chat to her so that we can share her story with you and hope to inspire your next step in a career in RPA.


Tell us about your background in the tech space and how you got into RPA.?

My career has predominantly been in the IT Distribution and Financial Services space. I entered the RPA space when I decided to take the Blue Prism training. With my experience in project management and financial services, RPA spoke to the way my mind functions and resulted in me entering this space on a full time basis.

You are currently based as an RPA Lead in the COE for one of South Africa’s leading and award-winning banks. What does your role entail here?

I manage the delivery of the robotics process automation development team in the automation of new and existing business processes incorporating various technologies. I oversee production support, contribute to the design of technical solutions as well as integrate the robotics process automation development and analyst functions. I conduct resource planning for the team to enable effective technical execution. I am also responsible for identifying and mitigating risks.

What is the greatest value you believe RPA has brought to the world?

In a world that has become so fast paced there is a need to streamline operations and optimise costs. RPA is an enabler of digital transformation and allows greater focus on key areas of business.
“RPA is an incredible opportunity to keep relevant…”

What are some of the misconceptions you have come across that people hold about what RPA is.

RPA will replace the human workforce; all process can be automated with RPA and that RPA is only about reducing costs.

Do you believe there are too few women in the technology careers? If yes, what would you attribute this to?

Yes. RPA is predominantly male dominated, and I believe that diversity drives change, performance and differing sets of skills required for profitability and value creation.
“The mindset that technology is a male dominated space can be particularly challenging for woman…”

Have you experienced any specific challenges being a woman in the technology space?

The mindset that technology is a male dominated space can be particularly challenging for woman in the technology space.

Would you encourage people to get into a career in RPA? If yes, why?

Yes. With the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and digitally transformation, RPA is an incredible opportunity to keep relevant, embrace challenge and be involved in digital transformation.

What skills do you believe are critical in order to pursue a career in RPA?

Good knowledge of basic workflow design and analytical skills are crucial.

What advice would you give women wanting to get into RPA?

Do not allow perceptions and mindsets to limit your ambitions for a career in RPA.

Building a Career in Intelligent Automation

Building a Career in Intelligent Automation

Off the back of a recent webinar we did with WIRPA on Careers in Automation – we thought it would be apt to chat to some who has had first-hand experience building a career in this direction.

Candis Jacobs, a Senior RPA Consultant at Cogent PTY (LTD), shares some of her personal experience and insights into why there simply aren’t enough women in the STEM careers, specifically Robotic Process Automation (RPA).


How would you describe RPA in your own words?

RPA is digital process engineering. It takes long, drawn-out, mundane tasks and applies a software robot to quickly and efficiently get the task done. you get to give the tasks you hate doing to your speedy Robot friend who completes them with incredible ease. This saves you time and gives you the opportunity to do meaningful work.

What attracted you to a career in Robotic Process Automation?

I studied Mechatronic Engineering, so I had a bit of a background in software to begin with. What drew me to PRA specifically was the simplicity thereof. It follows all the rules of software development but without the convoluted coding languages. You can really sharpen your skills and process development while building interesting bots.

 In your opinion, why do you think there are not more women in the STEM careers?

I believe in a way it is the result of the persistent notion that women don’t belong in the tech space. Not many women signed up in the past because of this and even though we are trying to break down the notion, it still has an impact on how women are viewed and how they view these career paths.

Do you  think enough is being done to raise awareness that drives inclusivity for women in the STEM careers?

Honestly, I don’t think so. I think most of the time campaigns are run in very general with a weak “women are welcome” slogan. The same opportunities may be presented to women but they might overlook them for fear  that they will any way be overlooked.
“I didn’t allow stigma to deter me”

Do you think that there are selection criteria that deter/disadvantage women from entering RPA careers?

At this point, I don’t know how fair it is to expect women in the tech space to have the same amount of experience as men do. Men have had a head-start and have been in the game a lot longer than women have. In this case I believe men are being chosen over women applicants because of their experience.

Do you think that the work environment in SA is not enough for women in the tech careers?

In my experience, office environments are mainly set up to favour men. For example, air cons are set way too cold for women. The types of social activities also suggest that men were considered over activities that could include all. For example, offices often are geared with Table Tennis, Pool Tables and Billiard Boards. After hours socials happen on the Golf course or at Rugby/Soccer games. Women might get the impression that we can’t be “girly-girls” and be part of the tech space.
“Initiatives such as WIRPA that open up the conversation, break down barriers and stigmas and create opportunity.”

Are there misconceptions that women have about what RPA is all about that stifles their interest?

Generally, there are misconceptions of RPA being “software development” or “not real development”.
I think either way, women who think it’s software development might be intimidated by the more experienced men. Women who think they won’t be real developers if they went into RPA might not want to be placed in that category in comparison to men.

What advice do you have for women out there?

I was going to do engineering, architecture or software development regardless of the challenges. I didn’t allow stigma to deter me. At varsity, out of a class of 50 groups, maybe 20 of the groups had 1 female in them and those groups were quietly viewed as weaker. You need to get to a point where you realize you absolutely can choose a career in RPA or other Tech areas and do amazing at it. I am excited about initiatives such as WIRPA that opens up the conversation, breaks down barriers and stigmas and create opportunity for more women to find career paths here.