This month the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business had the pleasure of hosting Rhyn Potgieter, the co-founder and managing director of Webtonic Solutions. As a leader in the tech industry with over 25 years of experience, Rhyn brought a wealth of knowledge to share with students, providing valuable insights into building a successful career in technology. He presented five key lessons from his own journey, offering practical advice for those entering the world of tech or looking to grow their careers. Get inspired below!

Lesson 1: Never be afraid to try something new

Rhyn began his career in tech with little to no formal IT experience. He recounted his first interview, where he applied for a position configuring ATMs. Despite his lack of technical background, he found common ground with his soon-to-be bosses over a shared passion for hiking the Fish River Canyon. This moment of connection led to a job offer, and he was soon introduced to a “crazy new thing called the internet.”

One of his first tasks was to make internet banking a reality. He and his team launched a basic HTML-based system that allowed one banking transaction at a time. Rhyn emphasized that these opportunities to try something new are rare and can lead to unexpected adventures. His advice: don’t be afraid to take risks and explore uncharted territory — you never know where it might lead.

Lesson 2: It’s amazing what a focused, collaborative, and gritty team can accomplish

At just 25 years old, Rhyn found himself in charge of building a new banking platform for Investec, a leading financial institution. The project had a tight deadline of nine months, but with a small team of determined individuals, he was able to move quickly and deliver results.

Rhyn explained that having a clear goal and a team willing to collaborate and push through challenges can lead to incredible achievements. He highlighted the importance of teamwork, saying that a focused and gritty team can accomplish things that seem impossible at first.

Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid to fail, but learn

With two successful projects under his belt, Rhyn admitted that he became overconfident. His next project, a piece of software that wasn’t user-centric, failed in the market. While the failure was disappointing, Rhyn viewed it as a valuable learning experience. It sparked his interest in user experience (UX) and the importance of putting the customer first in product development.

His advice to students: don’t fear failure. Instead, see it as an opportunity to grow and improve. Learn from your mistakes, and use those lessons to make better decisions in the future.

Lesson 4: Understand your personal strengths and weaknesses

Rhyn shared that after nine years at Investec, he realized that he had built everything he could. He knew he was good at inventing new solutions, but he struggled with the politics of corporate environments. This self-awareness led him to leave Investec and join Discovery, where he met a project manager who “organized the hell out of him.” This partnership allowed him to focus on what he did best while others handled the areas where he was less effective.

Rhyn’s lesson is to understand your strengths and weaknesses, then surround yourself with people who can complement your skills and help you grow. This approach allows you to focus on what you enjoy and excel at while ensuring that the other aspects of the work are covered.

Lesson 5: Work out what gives you a natural high in your work

Rhyn concluded his presentation by encouraging students to find their passion—the thing that gets them excited to get out of bed in the morning. He realized that his passion was problem-solving, which led him to leave corporate life and start Webtonic. This decision allowed him to work on projects that interested him and gave him a sense of fulfillment.

One project that exemplified his passion was an e-commerce platform connecting seed growers with farmers looking to buy seeds. It was a simple solution that had a significant impact, and it reinforced his belief that finding what you love and following that path can lead to a rewarding career.

Key takeaways

Rhyn’s five lessons offer a roadmap for building a successful career in tech:

  1. Embrace continuous learning: The tech industry evolves rapidly, so staying curious and adaptable is essential for success.
  2. Build strong relationships: Networking and collaborating with others can open doors and provide support throughout your journey.
  3. Don’t fear failure: Mistakes are opportunities to grow and improve. Embrace challenges and learn from setbacks.
  4. Know your strengths and weaknesses: Surround yourself with people who complement your skills and help you grow.
  5. Find your passion: Discover what excites you and follow that path to find fulfillment in your career.

Rhyn’s final words to the students were a reminder to stay true to their values and keep exploring new opportunities. He encouraged them to embrace continuous learning and build relationships with others in the industry, emphasizing that these connections can be the key to unlocking new possibilities.

Webtonic, Rhyn’s company, continues to foster talent through its incubator program, providing opportunities for emerging professionals to work on real-life projects and develop their skills. This commitment to investing in the next generation of tech talent reflects Rhyn’s dedication to creating a positive impact in South Africa’s tech industry.