‘Find your passion and make it your life’
BUI Technical Consultant Emily Bekker tells us how she embraced her inner nerd and defied expectations to pursue a career in technology.
“I did one of those aptitude tests in high school and the recommended job for me was ‘mechanic’ or something hands-on like that,” says BUI Technical Consultant Emily Bekker as she describes an early discussion about her career path. “The test revealed that I used both sides of my brain equally… Left and right, or logical and creative, pretty much the same. I was advised to look at professions where I’d get to use the two abilities together, but I already knew I wanted to work with computers. I knew that my analytical nature would serve me well,” recalls Bekker.
When she matriculated in 2005 and announced her plans to pursue CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ certifications, there were a few raised eyebrows in her Free State hometown. “My family and friends were supportive, but they were also really surprised. There were a lot of conversations that started with ‘why’,” laughs Bekker. “Even in the early 2000s, I guess the idea of a young woman wanting to study something so technical was a bit strange to people. And maybe there were expectations for me to explore art instead,” she muses.
Bekker comes from an artistic family and has been drawing and painting since childhood. “When I was little, I wanted to become a graphic designer,” she confesses. “But I got my first computer in primary school and I was fascinated by it.” Bekker’s PC DOS 6.1 provided hours of entertainment when it worked – and when it didn’t. “I was a total nerd… I still am! I’d spend all day trying to find the problem and fix it. I was curious about technology, and I was determined to learn as much as possible about my computer, step by step.”
Curiosity and critical thinking
While she’s always been inquisitive, Bekker credits her parents for the measured, methodical approach to problem-solving that she’s employed throughout her career. “My mom and dad are very grounded and very rational. They taught me how to think critically and how to look at things from different angles,” she explains. “These are valuable skills to have when you’re in an IT job, especially one where troubleshooting is an integral part of your day.”
Armed with her A+ and Network+ qualifications and a solid foundation in hardware and software support and network maintenance, Bekker joined a computer sales-and-repair store in Welkom. “It was my initiation into operational support, but I learned so much about sales, customer service, and business processes,” she says, adding that the position paved the way for her later roles with larger corporate and retail establishments, as well as a lengthy spell with a gold-mining firm.
“Working in the mining sector was an eye-opener for me,” remembers Bekker. “I knew, going in, that it was a male-dominated industry, but I’m not sure I was prepared for the level of gender bias I experienced back then. It was intimidating at first, but I wanted to prove myself. I also wanted to prove that success didn’t come down to gender.” Bekker’s tenacity paid off, and she counts her seven years as an on-site support technician among her most formative experiences.
Making a real difference for customers
Today, as a technical consultant and key member of the BUI managed services team, Bekker provides operational and service support to customers around the world. “No two days are the same, and I love that about my job,” she says, explaining how she might move from server patching one moment to desktop troubleshooting the next. “I spend a lot of time talking to people, and it’s so rewarding to be able to help them. When I’ve answered their question or fixed their issue, and they can happily move on with their day, I know I’ve made a difference. There’s always something new to learn, though, and that certainly keeps things interesting!”
Bekker is currently studying towards her Microsoft 365: Modern Desktop Administrator (Associate) certification, and plans to expand her M365 skills in the future so that she’s equipped to manage and secure Microsoft 365 enterprise environments. “I’m grateful to have such supportive colleagues here at BUI, and to be part of a company where career development is not only encouraged, but enabled.” As an enthusiastic learner, Bekker admits she finds it tough to walk away from her textbooks. “But I’m taking Women’s Day off, for sure,” she chuckles, sharing her plans for a spa day with her mom.
What else is on the horizon for Bekker? She hasn’t closed the door on her childhood aspirations and may still add “graphic design” to her list of skills – but technology remains her favourite niche. “I’m always telling people to get into the IT field… A logical brain and a healthy sense of curiosity will take you far in this industry. And don’t let anyone box you in: when you find your passion, make it your life,” she concludes.