Wireless Wipes’ Women: South Africa’s greatest girl geek
Wireless Wipes wants to feature amazing South African women operating in the tech space. No surprise that our next showcase is Kirsty Sharman, our country’s greatest girl geek. Kirsty is a digital marketing mastermind at Retroviral by day, the writer and manager of geek blog & online store Geeks Doing Stuff by night and in between she plays parent to two fancy bulldogs.
We sat down with Kirsty to find out how she fits it all in.
You’re a blogger, you’re running an online store, you’ve got a rather hectic job and you’re one of the founders and organisers for the Girl Geek Dinners. How do you find the time to dress up your bulldogs as well?
If you cut out TV you’ll be surprised what you have time for. Also my Bulldog is super chilled so he often gets dressed up on a whim. It only takes about 5min and I like to think it makes him feel special, right… RIGHT!?
What made you start the original blog?
Honestly. When I started working at Retroviral Digital two years ago I wasn’t that clued up on the blogging world. I needed to learn more about it and the best way to do that was just to dive right in and teach myself. I picked a topic I loved and started writing stuff about Superheroes. It took me about 2 months and a thousand YouTube tutorial hours but I managed to build the www.GeeksDoingStuff.com framework by myself. From there it was pretty easy.
Have you seen an increase in geek culture over the last few years? It seems to have become a rather “mainstream” love…
Yes definitely. And to be honest I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, I’ll probably get trolled for saying that though. Shows like The Big Bang Theory and Superhero movies have been slowly commercialising the whole geek culture thing over the last decade but I think it’s kind of cool. I don’t care if you love Star Wars or Spongebob, if you’re a rad person I’ll make time for you.
Also, I think the whole geek culture makes it a bit more acceptable to behave like a kid every now and again. My lounge is filled with Tin Tin art and Toys. I just play them off as ‘collectables’, but the truth is I let my Toy Story figures sit with me over coffee every morning. Ssssshh, don’t tell my mom.
Why “digital” as a career choice? What excites you about it?
It changes all the time and I love that. There is always something new to learn and the tracking and metrics behind everything we do online fascinates me. I’m obsessed with teaching myself new things and solving problems so I’m not surprised I landed up in this industry. The internet is the perfect place for obsessive people to feel normal.
Your blog has a massive following in SA – but there are a host of other online comic book stores and geek shops etc. Why did you choose to now move into retail?
I didn’t only decide to move in that direction now; it’s been the plan for the last year now. The same way I was excited to learn about blogging and social and how to build WordPress sites is the same way I’m excited to learn about the eCommerce industry in South Africa and all the things that go with that. There are a range of stores selling gadgets, comics and figurines but it’s difficult to get your hands on novelty items like Lego Brick Slippers without importing yourself, which is a nightmare. The GeeksDoingStuff.com store was really built to close that specific gap in the market.
There is quite a lot in the pipeline but I can’t let the cat out of the bag just yet. Right now we’re just focusing on building a niche eCommerce model that works.
I don’t think people really understand what goes in to setting up an online store. Want to give us an idea of the speed bumps and obstacles you had to face? What have you learnt from all of this?
I learnt that Monster is the best energy drink to keep you alert in front of your laptop all night. Just kidding, but not really.
I’ve learnt that payment gateways are a huge hurdle for online start-ups and that whatever you think your shipping costs will be – double it. Something else I’ve learned that is that it’s really hard for a geek to import geek accessories and not want to KEEP THEM ALL.
It’s definitely been an interesting journey. On the positive side I’ve learnt how powerful a niche community can be, to be honest I’ve been preaching it to clients for the last two years but you never really feel that community vibe until you’re right in the middle of it. I’ve also learned that Google can teach you pretty much anything, and that self-teaching is completely addictive. Remember when you were younger and your parents told you that you could do anything you wanted to when you grew up? Well, I don’t think they knew that Google was actually working on that. People all over the world have had similar thoughts/troubles/ideas to you – Google connects us and lets us share our learnings so that we can get over those digital speed bumps.
There are constantly drives for more women in tech. You run the Girl Geek Dinners – what are your thoughts on this and how do we go about accomplishing it?
My partner Leigh Fowle and I actually have different opinions on this, even though we both want the same thing in the end. I attended my first Girl Geek Dinners to meet new people that shared my passion for digital. Leigh started the dinners looking for a support structure as she moved into the freelance digital space. I think both of us were just looking for a bit of re-assurance at the time. I think the more woman just talk to each other and realise how the number of woman in the tech space is on the rise – the more confident they will be to join the movement.
I also think that with bigger brands supporting things like Girl Geek Dinners and student initiatives, women will feel a sense of confidence and security in joining the tech/digital industry. The more brands that jump on board and show their support for us girls the better.
I'd love to chat to you some more.
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