College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Unisa student creates app to connect tech talent with the tech industry labour market

Xola dos Santos

Despite their skills being in high demand, young engineers studying technology, data science and software engineering struggle to find opportunities to put their academic knowledge into practice.

At the same time, talent acquisition specialists at companies are undergoing a digital transformation struggle to find the right tech talent to implement their various digital transformation strategies.

That is a challenge that Xola dos Santos, a Bachelor of Commerce in Business Informatics student, experienced and sought to resolve for himself and others like him.

He has developed the Recruit Engine platform, a LinkedIn-like Software as a Service (SaaS) application, to solve the problem by bridging this knowledge gap.

"The problem is that a pipeline of outsourced talent needs to be continuously available at the right price, the right time, at the right quality and from a platform evaluated by professionals," said Dos Santos.

He built the Recruit Engine information system to solve this problem by providing an online, community-driven directory of students looking for work opportunities.

Technology entrepreneur in service of the tech industry

Dos Santos is currently based in Cape Town, but is originally from the Eastern Cape. He has always been obsessed with computers, computer systems and software. It all began when as a young boy, he would be commissioned to install home theatre systems in his community. "I have always been a technology entrepreneur in some sense, but it was only when I moved to Cape Town in 2011 that my eyes opened to the possibilities in the industry," he said.

Starting with a professional career in digital marketing, Dos Santos has been freelancing as a web developer since 2017; in February 2020, he switched careers. "I decided that I need to follow my dream of becoming a software engineer, and I resigned from my job to focus on the Recruit Engine project," said Dos Santos.

Recruit Engine is a platform for university students with technical skills in data analytics and software engineering to offer their services to hiring managers in the marketplace.

The user can create a profile that includes their previous projects, academic performance, strengths and personal projects. Then, hiring managers can advertise positions and shortlist and select candidates for special projects.

Although he resigned a month before the declaration of Covid-19, his ambition and passion for his project remained and even scored him a job as a junior software engineer in mid-2020. "I got my first full-time software engineering job through studying with Unisa and doing this project," he reflected.

Innovation Challenge Programme

In 2019, Dos Santos received the Technology Leadership Award and a grant of R100 000 through Unisa's Innovation Challenge Programme to realise his innovative idea to address a societal challenge.

"Getting the funding allowed me to start scaffolding out, not just a prototype, but building up a web application, building up a back end, connecting it to various services and making an application that people can install on their phones," he said.

The funding allowed Dos Santos to build a small team of six in his company, XDODE (PTY) LTD. He hopes to secure more funding (at least R400 000) to grow the engineering team to execute his mission of further building a solid prototype and going to market with it.

International Student Exchange Programme

Dos Santos was part of an International Student Exchange Programme group that went to the State University of Campinas in Sau Paulo, Brazil, in 2019. This programme fosters strategic collaborative relations between Unisa and other international institutions, emphasising BRICS and other developing countries.

"Sau Paulo was an eye-opening and inspiring experience. There, some start-ups are run by student entrepreneurs whose culture and performance far exceed some start-ups I have worked with in the tech sector in Cape Town," he said.

He was exposed to other innovation systems and training initiatives besides visiting tech start-ups. "It was my first time attending a conference and showcasing my innovation with an opportunity to meet with potential investors," said Dos Santos. "Also, my business card registered in 100 start-ups as a level-2 start-up because I had funding and a product idea. It is always nice to get that level of recognition," he added.

* Compiled by Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation

Publish date: 2022/06/23

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