Solar portrait: An interview with Noni Motanyane
We caught up with Noni Motanyane, a SuperSolarSchool alumnus and currently the Commercial Director of Scorch Technology, a dynamic youth-led and -staffed solar installation company:
What did you study and did you plan to end up in the solar industry?
I studied a BSc in Mining Engineering (Hons) at the University of Witwatersrand.
When I graduated in 2016 I traveled to the United States as an Au Pair. There I studied Business Management and Organisation and also did a bartending course for fun. At the same time, I researched a sought-after business in the engineering space, came across solar … and the rest is history.
So no, I didn’t plan to end up in the solar industry but why not? I’d much rather be basking in Africa’s bountiful sunshine than spend 8 hours of my day – or more – underground, with not a clue of what might be happening in the world. Solar is Innovation, Technology, Critical Thinking, Specialised, Financially Lucrative and just soooo cool!
“Solar is Innovation, Technology, Critical Thinking, Specialised, Financially Lucrative and just soooo cool!”
What does your job involve now?
I am the Commercial Director for Scorch Technology (Pty) Ltd. I do all of the business management on the back-end except for bookkeeping and on the front-end, I do recruitment, sales, and client relations. I am also working towards becoming a Certified Energy Manager with an MBA in business analytics. My natural inclination to pay minute attention to detail comes into play in every aspect of my job.
What are the best parts of your job?
There are so many! Seeing a system successfully commissioned with a high level of client satisfaction is the first one. Scorch includes system monitoring and solar panel cleaning in its installation packages, and after-sales service is a high priority for us.
I believe largely in the impact youth empowerment will have on the South African economy, particularly in the new and developing Solar Photovoltaic industry. Equipping the historically disadvantaged youth of our country will have greater positive long-term effects on employability and development at the small- and large-scale community levels. To this end, Scorch technology currently employs 7 people all of the ages below 35. We have faith in young minds and the ability for focus-driven individuals to be equipped with a wide span of technical and specialized knowledge. All training and skill set establishment is done through the business; two of our members are electrical interns working towards their qualifications as Wiremen and Trade License holders together with their PV GreenCard approval through the Department of Labour.
The love for solar
“We have faith in young minds and the ability for focus-driven individuals to be equipped with a wide span of technical and specialized knowledge.”
Which parts do you enjoy the least?
Being young and female in a largely male-dominated workspace brings about its challenges where business-to-business relations are concerned, where pre-conceived notions may exist, but we roll with the punches. There is certainly plenty of room for improvement where gender equity is concerned.
What advice can you give to people who want to enter the solar industry – what is the best entry point in your opinion. And do you believe attitude is as important as aptitude?
Get the relevant training: you are only as good as what you know. It’s a constant learning curve, so have an open mind. Information will be readily available but not all of it is relevant: attending one of the specialized courses at GREEN Solar Academy, like the SuperSolarSchool, will definitely give you a better perspective.
You don’t need to naturally know how to do something; you can learn how to do something, as long as you have the willingness to learn. This is vital in an industry that is so specialized.
What do you see as the advantages of being a female in your role?
It’s an X-factor. A typical, what I call, “white rabbit” effect. The white rabbit effect simply means standing out. Everybody notices the white rabbit, not the black or spotted one. Standing out in an industry like this can be a benefit as there are a lot of “fly by nights” but it doesn’t automatically guarantee greater success – we work every bit as hard as our male colleagues to clinch that deal.