My name is Aakifah Bartlett. I possess a hunger and will to learn, a robust sense of morality and a unique burst of enthusiasm. Before joining Rlabs, I had completed my tertiary studies in the field of Project Management. I found myself in an unknown state of transition, I did not know how to find full-time employment in my field and I was equipped with little experience on how to navigate the world of work. Finding full-time employment without work experience is a challenge for many young graduates, I was no exception. This reality compelled me to take on work in the retail sector as a means of supplementing my income. Here, I worked long, strenuous hours and sacrificed time with my family to satisfy the exacting demands of the retail industry. I found myself feeling lost and unappreciated in this role, this led to my eventual resignation and my subsequent unemployment.

After months of unemployment, I decided to restore my sense of motivation and started searching far and wide for an opportunity. I decided to start looking for work outside my field and during this time, I came across RLabs. I was mesmerized by the work the organization chooses to undertake and I was captivated by the sheer power of hope. Learning about the opportunities on offer struck a match in my soul, it restored my sense of hope and it propelled me to move forward.

Aakifah Bartlett

My cousin, a permanent employee at RLabs, introduced me to the Skills Accelerator programme. The passion and commitment he displayed whilst speaking about his work deliverables inspired me to join the organization. The high regard with which he speaks about Marlon Parker and the RLabs leadership team drew me to apply for the programme. I desperately wanted to work for a company that sought to inspire its employees toward greatness through consistent growth and development.

Secure in the knowledge that organizations like RLabs exist, I am now more hopeful about the future of our youth. Before joining Rlabs, I was pessimistic about the state of my future. Now, I have a renewed sense of hope and I am excited for what is to come.

The leadership sessions have helped me to conquer my past traumas so that it does not affect my future productivity. The Skills Accelerator program has allowed me to develop my digital communication skills by prompting the building of websites and mobile applications. I have learned to hold myself accountable for meeting my deadlines and I have adopted time management skills to complete my deliverables.

I am extremely used to working on my own, I thus have trouble working within a group. I had major anxiety when we were split into our tribes and expected to work together to complete a deliverable. However, I put my fear aside and chose to open myself up to others. We ended up working well together and our end goal was achieved.

I joined the Skills Accelerator programme as a means of gaining experience and developing the soft skills required to function successfully within a contemporary work environment. Though my studies allowed me to learn theoretical concepts, they did not allow me to grow exponentially in my capacity. I joined RLabs to undertake personal development and self-discovery to become the best version of myself.

I have been granted many opportunities to complete micro-courses, this has helped me to grow my knowledge and expertise. I receive monthly income which I can utilize to sustain myself and purchase the things I need to survive. I have obtained certificates that I can utilize to gain employment after this programme.

Whilst completing a deliverable wherein we were required to build a mobile application, I became aware that many of my peers were struggling to complete the deliverable due to a lack of knowledge and understanding. I then took it upon myself to host a zoom call wherein I conducted my Propal session to help my co-workers where required. I answered any questions they may have had and done a tutorial by sharing my screen.

One of my highlights was completing a course offered by UCT in conjunction with RLabs, entitled, “Social Innovation: Becoming a change-maker.” This helped me to identify hidden resources in communities and acknowledge the importance of defining a problem before assigning a solution. I have completed this course and I have uploaded my certificate on LinkedIn.

This opportunity has demonstrated the distinct benefits of leading with love and treating people with compassion. I have adopted this strategy in both my personal and professional capacities. My closest relatives and friends have witnessed this change and they are appreciative of my new normal.

COVID19 has left many people without a stable source of income, I am thus grateful for the stipend I receive from this programme. It enables me to give back to my mother who has cared for me and supported me throughout the years of my life. It has helped me to become aware of the many opportunities open to young people and I have shared this with those around me.

My advice to youth out there is, do not be discouraged, the opportunities available may not always be apparent but they do exist. Learn to do research and be open to any opportunity you are afforded. Treat every experience as an opportunity for growth and development. It may not always seem like it, but you are not alone.

I would like to thank JP Morgan, YES and RLabs for the opportunity it has afforded me. I promise to always lead with love and embody the principles and values undertaken by RLabs.

The Skills Accelerator is a proudly RLabs initiative that is made possible thanks to the support of JPMorgan Chase.

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