Duann Schlecter | Radford’s Product Designer Shares His South Africa to Tauranga Story
South African, Duann Schlechter was seeking a better quality of life for his family when he came across a job advertisement for a UI/UX role at Radfords, a key software company in Tauranga, New Zealand. Despite the fact he didn’t know where Tauranga was, Duann took a leap of faith and applied for the position.
One year on, he’s glad he did! Duann is thriving professionally at Radford’s, where he has found opportunities to develop his career and a warm welcome as an immigrant to New Zealand. His family has fallen in love with the work-life balance that Tauranga offers and the many adventures that lie just beyond their back door.
This is his story.
Duann, where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Centurion, Pretoria, South Africa where I lived for 27 years until I immigrated to New Zealand with my family in 2019.
Can you give me a brief overview of your career story?
In 2013, I was studying at Open Window, a private visual communication institute, when I got an opportunity to work as a web/graphic designer and developer for an investment software company. After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I slowly moved up the ladder and started to work in Sandton, Johannesburg for big corporate companies in the medical aid, investment, insurance, and banking sectors.
What drew you to New Zealand?
South Africa is not in a good state and crime is getting out of hand. My wife and I were fed up with feeling like prisoners in our own home and country. We wanted to live again! It was important for us to be able to provide security and stability for our family. We are very religious and believe God has a plan for us in New Zealand.
What was your experience of looking for work in New Zealand?
I searched for a job in New Zealand on Seek for almost a year. I had multiple interviews during that time and even extended my job search to include Australia, to no avail. I persisted, knowing it was a numbers game and that eventually, I would win.
The role with Radfords appealed to me because horticulture is a new field for me and I needed a new challenge. When the job description said the company was based in Tauranga, I didn’t even know where that was on a map. I decided to apply anyway and after going back and forth with interviews, I was offered a position.
After that, I knew our lives were going to change. It was one of the biggest moments of achievement of my life and I felt very blessed. I arrived in New Zealand on the 3rd of June 2019 and then started work on the 4th of June – the very next day!
What does your role involve?
I am a UI/UX designer, but when both are involved, the role is described as a product designer. I am responsible for the entire journey of the product from beginning to end. This includes the look and feel of Radford’s products, the software programmes, and the user experience. I am the one who decides how the interactions look and feel. We have received very good feedback about a project I worked on for Heartlands. My responsibilities usually include observations, interviews, site visits, personas, use cases, brainstorm sessions, prototypes (wireframes), usability testing, UI design, and design systems, etc.
What do you enjoy about the role?
I’m not going to lie – it can be very tough sometimes, but I’m persistent and don’t give in easily. I love the aesthetics of design, working with people, the psychology aspect of how people interact with technology, and solving problems. I am on the user’s side and want people to use our apps/website and say, “That was a joy to use.” I work for smiles!
What is Radfords like as a company to work for?
Radford’s helped me to settle into life here nicely and I’m very grateful for the opportunity they gave to me and my family. In the past, I always wanted to work for companies like Apple or Google, but my mindset changed over the last few years. I don’t want to work for a company that already has everything figured out. Instead, I want to be part of a company that is growing and becoming the best in its field. I want to help a company and product from the ground up. Radford’s software has given me that opportunity.
Some bonuses of working at Radfords include good team culture, walks outside every day, massages every second Friday, free fruit and chips and beers on Friday afternoons. Someone always brings something to eat to share with everyone else. One time I made biltong and droëwors for my team to try – they enjoyed it!
What is your view on the tech scene in Tauranga?
I think tech in Tauranga is growing fast. There is expanding industry and a growing population here and the tech sector follows this growth. Horticulture and exporting are increasing and I see a lot of opportunity for innovation in these areas.
I recently became a local leader for Interaction Design Foundation. Our vision is to create a vibrant UX community in Tauranga.
How have you gone about meeting people and making friends?
Immigrating is not an easy task, but we managed. My youngest daughter was exactly five months old when I moved to Tauranga on my own to start work and get everything ready for my family. We were apart for almost two months, but video calling made it much easier. I don’t know how they managed in the old days.
The hardest part of the move was being far away from close family and friends. We had great help from my wife’s nephew that lives in Auckland and we are now all settled in. We have joined Elim church, made good friends, and have many South African friends. We would like to make some more Kiwi friends our age.
What do you love about living and working in Tauranga?
Tauranga gave us precisely what we wanted and needed in a new home. It’s the perfect place for work-life balance and raising your family. Tauranga is a growing city, yet you only need to drive twenty minutes away to find national parks and forests or some adventurous thing to do.
My whole family loves the outdoors. We went exploring and camping regularly in South Africa. There is something special in nature that resets your brain. There is not too much heavy traffic and it doesn’t feel overpopulated. Come here if you want to live again!
What do you do to have fun and relax here?
We are explorers at heart, so we often try to drive somewhere we have not been before. We love hiking, camping, and spending time at the beach. Enjoying ice cream from Copenhagen Cones in the Mount and watching the sunset over the ocean is one of our favourite things to do.
We try to Braai (BBQ) once every weekend and to socialize with our friends. I recently bought a golf set on the $1 reserves on trade me and started to play golf as I live opposite the golf course. I’ve also recently started water colouring.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? My workload has decreased but I have taken on more responsibilities and challenges in a new sector. I can focus on what is most important in life now.
For your wellbeing? My whole life has changed dramatically. The past eight months have changed my perspective on what is important in life. Kiwis have taught me how to do life in ‘Kiwi time’. I like that I can go for a walk at 10 pm and still feel safe.
For your relationships? My beautiful wife, Marcoline, and I have drawn closer together here. We have come to understand that we need to sort out our differences quickly because it’s just us here. We have more time for each other and work as a team.
Ready for a Change?
Thinking of moving to Tauranga someday?
Take the first steps now.