Solving puzzle first step to SMSPortal internship: NMMU

MAY 26, 2016

SMSPortal – the successful bulk SMS marketing business used by the likes of Pick ‘n Pay and Anglo American – was started in a Port Elizabeth garage in 2002 by two students from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Today, the business has an annual turnover of over R300m and a growing international customer base, but founders Charles Stretch and James Pearce remain loyal to their roots.

The company, which has offices in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, has eight NMMU graduates within its broader team – and this year kicked off enticing paid internships in Cape Town for NMMU Computing Sciences or IT students or graduates.  The next one is in June.

The company’s innovative application process requires applicants to first solve a programming riddle before SMSing their names to the company for the process to continue.

The upcoming internship – which is open to two NMMU third-year students or graduates – runs from 27 June to 10 July. In addition to a R7,500 salary for the two weeks, SMSPortal covers the student’s transport costs to Cape Town and provides free accommodation.

In January, it hosted its first student interns, both from NMMU, for a month.

Devon-Jon MacKenzie, 23, who has since become a permanent employee, applied for the internship out of curiosity. “SMSPortal sent out a little riddle that I needed to complete in order to apply for the internship and I struggle to back down from a challenge. I really had no idea I’d get the internship but I’m super stoked that I did.”

He quickly fitted in to the company. “I’ve been on other internships before, and the coolest thing about SMSPortal is that they completely adopted us from day one. I never felt left out of office banter and when I asked for help, I got it immediately.  The other cool thing is that we each got our own project to work on. Instead of being left to work on it, I was constantly encouraged to make it better and use better design practises.”

Among the highlights for MacKenzie was “creating quality software with high quality developers” and “Food Fridays”, where the whole office gets take-outs every second Friday.

“The best thing I learned during the internship was unit testing. That might sound boring, I know. But it’s a really important part of software development that I used to over-look. We touched on it at varsity, but you don’t realise how important it is in creating robust software until you see it in real world application.

“A lot of companies are willing to put out sloppy code, as long as it works. SMSPortal cares about its tools and services and puts in the effort to make sure everything runs smoothly. The bulk SMSing industry is a competitive one and SMSPortal dominates in every way. SMSPortal also cares about its employees and makes sure that each one is taken care of. You’re not just an employee number stuck in your cubicle. When you work here, you’re part of a culture that encourages you to grow and be the best that you can be.”

The other January intern, Francois du Plessis, 21, who is pursuing postgraduate studies at NMMU, said: “SMSPortal has the feeling of a startup in the sense that it is not stuck up ‘corporate’. It truly is an environment that encourages innovation.”

“NMMU is a university that is close to our hearts,” said SMSPortal Brand Manager Ryan Louw, himself an NMMU graduate.  

SMSPortal’s core market is in South Africa, but they also have customers in Ireland, the UK, Australia, Namibia and Nigeria.

To apply for the internship: go to http://www.smsportal.co.za/#!careers

Caption: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University graduate Devon-Jon MacKenzie started his career at SMSPortal with a student internship.