Jana Wessels, Software Engineer on Archery

What I love about archery is that it clears my mind of all the other thoughts swirling around – it allows me to put everything aside for an hour or two and just think of nothing. It is also a great stress-reliever to shoot things, especially when I have had a tough week or a tough bug to fix.

My name is Jana Wessels. I am a recent graduate, and I am currently working as a Software Engineer, mostly back-end Java. I have always enjoyed solving puzzles and always knew I wanted to do something in the sciences or engineering. I actually studied Geospatial Information Systems and only started coding in first year, which is when I fell in love with it and decided to major in it.

I have lived in Cape Town for the past 10 years, spending my entire high school and university career there. I would refer to Cape Town as my home town.

Outside of my job, I love archery. I started archery in my 2nd year of University when I had some time to kill after my classes. A friend of mine was going to the archery club, so I decided to tag along to the practice – the rest is history. In my third year, I became the Vice-Chair of the club; in my Honours year, I became the Chair. In terms of inspirations, I have always admired Ki Bo-Bae and her great mastery of the bow, currently holding three Olympic gold medals.

I use a left-handed light blue Olympic style recurve bow with carbon fibre arrows. I started out with a club box and aluminium arrows, but I then upgraded to my own personal equipment.

When I approach the shooting line with my bow, I try to clear my head of any thoughts or worries. I take a deep breath and raise my bow, trying to keep my body as still as possible. I draw my bow to my anchor point on my face – this is when I aim and take my last breath before I try to achieve full stillness. I then release my arrow (hopefully it goes where I want it to at this point!).

I think the most memorable experience was the first time I shot a bow, which was at my first session of the UCT Archery Club – it was so exhilarating, and I was hooked from that point onwards.

I haven’t competed in any official archery tournaments, only the little internal league we had at UCT. Once, I had more ambitions to compete – at the moment, I am happy with just competing against myself. One day, I hope to get back up to a level to compete.

I do see similarities between archery and my time as a software engineer. Archery is all about controlling the variables and keeping them consistent for every shot to ensure that the arrow always goes where you want it to, which is not the easiest thing to do. It is also very important to realise how changing one thing can change your whole shot completely and affect the final position of the arrow. I think one can see the relation to coding in this, as one must think about the processes and variables and get them to align to get the desired bullseye. It’s all about stringing the variables and processes together.

Archery also helps me de-stress and clear my mind, which helps me in my career. It ensures that I am always fresh and ready for the next challenge, and not overtired or stressed.

I would suggest that anyone interested in archery should look for the nearest Archery Range or Club – they usually have some sort of beginner’s program or coaches that can help someone get started. Archery equipment can be quite expensive, especially if you want to try a compound or Olympic style recurve – finding someone or someplace that can get you started without that initial start-up cost would be the easiest.

There is always more than tech. I think it can be very easy to pigeon-hole technologists into one stereotype – in reality, everyone is unique and have their own hobbies and passions. The only way we can change this point-of-view is by showcasing people’s sporting passions. It’s also an amazing way to show people all the interesting and little-known sports out there.

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