A Homecoming for a Tech Investor
by Randy Wiggins as told to Nomzana Augustin
As an MLT 2015 MBA Prep and 2018 Professional Development Fellow, Randy Wiggins was excited to make contributions to South Africa’s burgeoning tech scene as a fellow with Echoing Green’s Direct Impact Program. To his surprise, he not only dove into the South African tech scene, he also got a rich cultural experience and formed networks that he believes will last a lifetime.
When I learned about Echoing Green’s Direct Impact Fellowship Programs, my mind immediately turned to how I could bring my interdisciplinary background in economics, policy, technology, and venture to create value for Echoing Green and its social impact startups. As a Manager on the Tech & Society team at Omidyar Network (the Silicon Valley-based philanthropic investment firm created by eBay Founder Pierre Omidyar), I saw a phenomenal opportunity to apply my skills and experience to help entrepreneurs scale their impact. This opportunity became even more compelling as I learned more about Direct Impact’s work in diversifying boards, as noted in this Stanford Social Innovation Review article by Fellowship head, Kate Hayes.
I was initially focused on what I could bring to Echoing Green. Little did I know the huge impact the program would have on me. Through powerful skill-building and relationship development experiences alongside program fellows from prominent organizations, we built connections and relationships that will last a lifetime. Just as significant as the chance to bond with other program fellows, was the program’s experiential component — one that took me and three other fellows to Johannesburg, South Africa. It was my first trip to the African continent.
Culture and Tech
To say that my experience in Africa was powerful would be an understatement. I was blown away by the motherland – its vast size, beauty, nature and treasures; its global sounds; its culturally rich cuisines. While embracing local traditions and regional experiences, I could not help but marvel at the bold presence of technology on the continent with companies like Microsoft and Samsung showing their commitment to Africa and its people – a tech-centered reality that certainly will only grow. These experiences left me not only thinking, but also feeling differently – seemingly embracing the past, present, and future all at once.
New Opportunities and Partnerships
The main portion of our visit centered on the African Leadership Academy (ALA), which supports both Omidyar Network and Echoing Green. Students from Africa’s 54 nations are brought together and trained to become future leaders. I not only met with the school’s amazing students, teachers and administration, but also sat with the head of ALA’s computer science department and supported the overhaul of the academy’s computer science program. I’m excited that this work will continue, as I will collaborate with the department on a new curriculum that will help prepare students to become technological leaders in their home countries, throughout the continent, and around the globe. My experiences extended beyond the classroom, and I was able to engage in cultural activities like visiting the Apartheid Museum, seeing Lauryn Hill and Nas as well as many African artists in concert. I encourage other alumni to embrace this wonderful opportunity offered by Echoing Green to MLT’s Alumni.
Coming Full Circle – The MLT Experience
From applying experiences and skills learned in Silicon Valley to impact technology on the African continent, to spearheading a partnership between Slack, Omidyar Network, and MLT to convene and build relationships between diverse tech leadership in Silicon Valley, I am living the values instilled in me from my very first days as an MLT Fellow. I am seizing every opportunity possible to be scrappy, connect dots, build relationships and create value and impact in tech, diversity and global development.
Randy told his story to Nomzana Augustin, MLT’s Alumni Engagement Manager. As a third-culture kid, born and raised across a number of countries, Nomzana found herself adopting a variety of cultures that have today shaped her global perspective and particular interests in tech, business, culture, and society.