My name is Nicole Johnson, I am 23 years old and I’m the eldest of 6 daughters in a family of 8. Before joining RLabs, I was unemployed for a year trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. After high school, I completed my first year of studies for foundation phase education. I then left university because I needed to earn an income to help my family as my dad was the only one working at the time. We have never been very wealthy but we were always provided for by the grace of God. A challenge I faced in the time of being unemployed was finding someone who would be open enough to allow me to work and learn. With no proper experience and no degrees, I felt discouraged because where would I go and how could I get better with no help. And then a family member shared information that led me to the YES program and I discovered RLabs.

One thing that has kept me going through the challenges I faced is my faith. I am a Christian and believe that everything will work out because God is not finished working on me yet. I have a church that supports me and continues to minister my value to me. So despite the lows, I may experience in life I am constantly reminded to be at peace. I have a family that prays for each other and they supported me as much as they could in that time as well.

After I joined the YES program I was very confused for a short period as I couldn’t believe so many young people could get jobs just by being part of this program. The biggest thing that the YES program has taught me is to be open. Open to change, open to opportunities no matter how small and even to be open to the challenges that new opportunities bring. Because with those challenges comes experience and endurance. I have learned to overcome things that I could have let defeat me. I have learned to enjoy work I never even thought I would choose to do. The YES program has impacted my life by giving me and several other young people the opportunity and chance that no one else would have taken on us. Not only was I offered a job at RLabs through this program but I get to learn something new every day from the people I work with.

Before joining the YES program, I very much liked to keep to myself – I liked working on my own and just felt happy with not having to get out of my comfort zone. But now I am continually growing in communicating with others and doing things I would rather not do. Even though I may still feel uncomfortable at times I put myself out there because at the end I feel confident and feel as though I have truly accomplished something – no matter how small it may seem to others.

Nicole Johnson

On this journey in the YES program and then working as an intern for RLabs, I have learned how to first and foremost communicate in a team, this has been so so important. I have learned that without communication, a project or team just cannot work. A technical skill I have learned and never pictured myself being interested in is designing posters and creating content on a pc. I never thought I would be managing social media or creating designs like people far more skilled than I do. And I enjoy it! I am not where I want to be yet but I am so inspired by those around me. I am learning to be diligent and organized and most of all learning to get up again even when I fail.

This journey has been and continues to beautiful and exciting. I am learning more about myself and what I want to do and be. Another part of the reason I left my studies is that I was so unsure about who I was and what I wanted to do. I felt pressure to choose something or else I’d have nothing. But now I am discovering my passions, my goals, and getting the opportunity to consider those more now. Professionally, I am becoming open to working with others and learning from them. This has been an incredible journey so far.

A highlight for me was getting to meet the RLabs staff and especially my team. Everyone was so kind and fun.
Another highlight for me was getting the opportunity to work on the YOMA project. This one is quite big for me as it has opened the doors to so much learning for me. I am honored to be a part of this team. I have had the honor of attending a Value-Based Engineering workshop that taught me the importance of values & virtues. I was totally surprised to see some of my work presented at this workshop as well! I got to meet people that I never would’ve met if it were not for this project – people with amazing ideas and thought processes that motivated and inspired me.

A challenge I experience in my workplace was adjusting to all the meetings/check-ins we had to attend – being someone that enjoyed my space, I had to get used to being around people and needing to talk about the way I felt. Once lockdown started, I then had the challenge of adjusting to working from home and not being able to physically go and ask someone for help but having to now discuss everything via zoom calls which was a new thing to adjust to. I overcame these challenges by simply continuing. I got into the routine of how things were done and it became more natural to me. Now and again something may pop up that seems unusual or out of comfort for me, but hey, we have to start somewhere right?

This is not my first job. After my first year of studies, I took part in a learnership program as a student teacher for two years before deciding that I wanted a change and wanted more out of working. Earning an income helps me contribute to my household as well as support myself. Before working, I always needed to ask for basic things I needed knowing that my family was struggling already. But now I can help out here at home as well as provide the things I need for myself.

I have been offered a permanent position at RLabs and I am currently working along with my team on the Yoma project. I intend to get the most out of my time here and take every opportunity I can whether it be educational or practical. I know that I can only gain from my time at RLabs. Nothing I experience will be a loss, whether I fail or succeed I have already learnt how to rise again with hope and faith. And that is what I will be taking with me wherever I should go in life.

The Yes4Youth apps was a new and interesting experience for me. We were allowed to provide feedback on our work experience as well as complete modules that could only benefit our knowledge about ourself and the workplace.

My advice to unemployed young people would be:

be open to opportunities. When allowed to better yourself and gain experience, take it! Even if it seems like something you would never do or be interested in. It could be one of the best experiences you’ll have. And even if it so happens that you end up hating that opportunity, that would’ve been something you’ve gained either way. You can gain something valuable out of every opportunity you’ve availed yourself for.

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