Learning to dance in the rain

25 Apr 2021
Learning to dance in the rain
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene, Author

Merinda Allam, Software Quality Engineer at Inspired Testing, harnessed determination and a positive attitude to help her overcome adversities she has faced since childhood, and now those strengths are intrinsic to her approach to life.

Merinda’s career in software testing became a reality through her desire and ability to “make life easier” for customers and for employees using the digital platforms at the insurance company she had joined as a claims advisor.

Her early childhood was fraught. Poverty, substance abuse, and a dysfunctional family life were her reality, first in Benoni and then in Springs in Johannesburg, living with her parents and older adopted sister. Her parents separated and her mother began a new relationship. The family moved to Durban, where the situation remained difficult. She says, “I was about eight, and I remember adapting my attitude one night. I was lying in bed very hungry and I said to myself, ‘Tomorrow’s going to be a better day. Just breathe.’” She learned very young to dream of a better tomorrow and to work towards that dream.

Her grandfather, “my Superman”, came to the rescue and fetched Merinda and her sister and they returned to Springs. Though times were still tough financially, her grandparents did their best, and the home rang with laughter and hope. “My grandfather was a man of great character, and he was never negative about anything.” Merinda adds that even when her grandfather was dying of cancer some years ago, he was cheerful and had not a word of complaint.

To help make ends meet in the home, Merinda started working during matric, over weekends and holidays, at a card shop and then CNA, and was soon promoted to supervisor level because of her quick insight, her ability to motivate, her strong work ethic, and her growing understanding of the need for systems to work efficiently to the benefit of the company and its customers.

She also found she had developed a profound appreciation and respect for people who had contributed to her wellbeing, and that being solution-focused and positive made a difference.

After matric, Merinda spent a year with a church-associated ‘peace corps’ based in Pretoria, where her love of people, her awareness of the need for tolerance, and her appreciation of the value of ‘giving back’ was further encouraged.

She then worked in admin for about three years, before joining a major insurance company where she worked for 11 years, steadily working up through the ranks, and always making herself available for new projects. “I discovered a passion for improving systems, making it easier for us and for our clients to use. Wherever I could, I got involved in finding ways to help to improve systems, or develop new ones that were user-friendly and ensured we always delivered awesome service to our clients.” She moved into a test analyst position, and was headhunted several times, working in senior positions in leading tech companies.

Though Merinda didn’t have the opportunity for tertiary education, she hasn’t missed an opportunity to study, to attend courses, and ensure she’s always on track with the ever-changing demands of the software industry.
She says, “As soon as I became aware of Inspired Testing, I kept an eye out for a job opportunity with the company. I liked their approach, their extreme attention to detail, their commitment to meeting client expectations, and how they nurture their people. I was quick to apply when this job was advertised in December 2020, and I’ve been a proud member of this team for about four months.”

Merinda, who loves her work as Software Quality Engineer, is also involved in staff motivation and has positioned herself as the “fun police”, because, she explains, “there’s often opportunity to bring fun into the workplace to encourage people and to laugh. It makes a difference to our work lives and boosts productivity.”

Something that has greatly impacted Merinda’s home life was meeting her wife-to-be 21 years ago, and marrying her in 2009. Terry Allam, who Merinda describes as “the person who inspires me”, has a positive approach to every aspect of life and an impeccable work ethic. “Terry is my encourager. She strengthens my hope in the future, and my understanding of the need to always give my best.”

Terry, her mother, Coleen and father, Peter, embraced her into their family and have provided a firm foundation and a loving environment, particularly as Merinda’s own family rejected her because of her “choice of lifestyle”. She says, “Terry has shown me how to believe in myself, she is my rock,” and adds that Terry and her parents are extremely positive people, always ready to listen, and to offer sound advice, strong support and constant encouragement.

‘Giving back’ has been part of Merinda’s journey throughout her career, and she’s been involved in corporate social investment activities at the various companies she’s worked at. She was quick to join 4IR 4HER at Inspired Testing, which is an initiative that prepares and supports girls to become part of the digital economy. “There’s a major gender imbalance in this industry and I want to be part of the team that shows young women they can thrive in this sector; they can be anything they choose to be. I’m looking forward to more involvement in the mentoring and training of females who have the skills and a passion for the world of 4IR.”

Merinda’s life is a study in ‘Diversity by Inclusion’. For her, it means “understanding that everyone is an individual, and regardless of your background, the things that make people different and special are their own unique perspectives. By including everyone, we’re learning and growing together; we’re better and stronger. Inclusion is a celebration of diversity.”