Proof that there’s more to uplifting people than skills transfer

This is how Joseph wrote his own lifelong success story


(Pretoria, South Africa – 06 October 2022)  

This is how Joseph wrote his own lifelong success story


“I was trying to figure it out as I went along. My friends and I were building PCs and trying to set up LANs for gaming. Then in high school I developed a love of coding. It fascinated me; I fell in love with it.”


Joseph Mashiloane is a senior developer at AfriGIS. He’s 34, has a wife whom he met in high school and  two kids, a son who is 8 and daughter who is 13. Those details don’t even begin to describe a person’s real life nor the insatiable curiosity that sparks the intellect and drives the choices that describe a journey of discovery, growth, and development. Joseph has nurtured a career that began, not in a call centre, but the day his accountant father began talking to him about PCs, and which later led him to capitalise on the opportunity of a simple, yet effective programme run by geospatial data specialists AfriGIS.


Joseph’s dad was an accountant at the Rosslyn factory of a well-known chip manufacturer, his mother was on the administrative staff of a medical school in Ga-Rankuwa. His dad was introduced to computers at work and told his wife and four kids about how the applications made his work faster, easier, and more efficient.


“I set out to discover the why of it, and to transform my pleasure into knowledge.” – Charles Baudelaire


“Dad loved gadgets. He was always bringing them home; printers, computers, monitors, new software; I remember upgrading from Windows 95 and 98,” says Joseph.


Joseph’s three siblings aren’t into computers the same way he is. He grew up in Soshanguve north of Pretoria. Soshanguve is an acronym for Sotho, Shangaan, Nguni and Venda. Over half a million people of varied ethnicities call it home and it is a melting pot of ideation and creativity.


“We were building our own machines after school and I remember getting into trouble for dismantling the PC at home and rebuilding it,” says Joseph. “There was a moment of discovery when we realised you could swap out the hard drives, RAM, and add a dedicated graphics card. But that was still the early days. Later on, I was coding websites for neighbours, writing HTML in Notepad. Coding is my true love, after my wife and kids of course!”


Joseph was a 24-year-old call centre worker when he and nine other young people, four men and five women, responded to a call for learners in 2012 from a niche expert in the geospatial data science industry. AfriGIS had just instituted its learnership.


“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” – Samuel Johnson


“The programme focuses on quality, not quantity,” says Christa Welthagen, who heads up HR at AfriGIS. “We’ve had a 90% placement success rate for all learners since the programme started.”


AfriGIS realised early that it had to create a talent pipeline for the business’s high-tech environment and its niche in the science related to geospatial data.


“We’re looking for answers that transform society, people’s lives, and the businesses where we work,” says Brian Civin, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at AfriGIS. “That takes more than technical skill. Obviously, you must have the technical skills if you want to be in our business, but it also takes a tenacious curiosity so that you can understand how to connect geoscience to people’s lives in ways that are meaningful.”


Many learnerships take people through a skills transfer programme. Christa acknowledges that’s important but that it is perhaps more important to give people the time and exposure to learn more about how business is conducted, how businesspeople think, what their major concerns are, the real underlying factors that are important to us as people, even if we are employed in large enterprises.


“You can’t just give someone a creativity injection. You have to create an environment for curiosity and a way to encourage people and get the best out of them.” – Ken Robinson


“You can call it upliftment,” says AfriGIS Development Manager, CF Haasbroek. “It has many of the right connotations because these are the stepping stones that help youngsters transition into the working world. Business isn’t always as clean and tidy as the theoretical models. Life is messy. Customers may have specific legacy systems that need to maintain alongside our solutions. They may have other executive and business considerations. The senior consultants, coders, and engineers know how to design solutions that contextualise all of that. But it’s equally important to have the middle and junior layers of technicians who translate that into project delivery and how they fit into the greater scheme of things.”


For two years Joseph dived deep into his Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) as well as “doing everything”. He wrote software release notes, worked with developers as they wrote code, packaged the applications, with quality assurance (QA), business analysts (BA), the project management office (PMO), the sales engineers, AfriGIS executives, and administrative personnel.


“The true attraction is that I’m constantly learning and evolving because of the way we work at AfriGIS,” says Joseph. “We are always looking at emerging technologies and planning for the future. Most recently we’ve brought the cloud development to market. That was a learning curve for me. Working with the team, our daily stand-ups, the mentoring, coaching, and mutual support have helped us to overcome the challenges and share solutions. It’s probably one of the most important reasons that I’ve been with the business for 10 years, working my way up from junior .Net front-end developer to senior backend and full stack developer.”


What’s in Joseph’s future? Probably a spot of gardening before he prepares the evening meal.


“I love to unwind away from the screen,” he says. “It creates a healthy work-life balance, which is important when you have a family.”

About AfriGIS 

AfriGIS is the leading Geospatial Information Science company in Southern Africa that specialises in location-sensitive data and solutions. It provides customers across the board with a suite of cloud tools and APIs to connect to, enhance, and enrich their own data with verified and validated location intelligence and insights. The organisation was founded in 1997. It is a level 1-certified broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) business, with more than 100 employees, in Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, Dublin in Ireland, and Dhaka in Bangladesh.  


Media enquiries: Lydette Fouche, AfriGIS 

Contact details: +27 (0) 87-310-6400, [email protected] 


Issued by: Michelle Oelschig, Scarlet Letter  

Contact details: +27 (0) 83-636-1766, [email protected] 

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