Category Archives: Enterprise

Women in Tech Series 3 – Working together to make a change

Episode 3 can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVVTY8dHzzQ&t=103s

As South Africa closes its Women’s Month celebrations, we bring you the final in the Dell EMC Women’s Month showcase, hosted by Women in Tech’s Samantha Perry.

Elizabeth Matsemela, Angela Qithi and Noluthando Maleka all have demanding jobs at Dell EMC. They all also find the time to work within the company to uplift their colleagues and benefit the industry as a whole.

Angela is the South African representative of the Dell EMC Black Networking Alliance. Launched in South Africa in July, the BNA aims to make the organisation a top company for black professionals through focussing on recruitment, retention, development and engagement. It is the first BNA Employee Resource Group outside of North America.

“About six months into my role I started reaching out to individuals to help launch the BNA locally,” Angela says. “Being a black woman, in South Africa, regardless of the industry – it’s so hard. It’s hard because of where we come from. Yes, we’re 25 years into democracy, but there’s a lot of psychological impact today where, as a black person, it’s difficult to verbalise what you want in your career. I believe BNA can bridge the gap – get black professionals to feel confident and comfortable to feel vocal about what they want and go for it, and not feel like they cannot talk to a white colleague or superior and disagree. For me it’s just so important.”

Says Elizabeth, “For me it’s about ensuring everyone gets their fair share. I’m also on the core team of BNA and Women in Action Employee Resource Group. In the STEM industry we’re finding less and less women coming through and it’s important that those who are there put their hands up and be recognised and be known so those who are aspiring can see them and get through.”

Women in Action is an employee resource group that aims to help women in the company succeed through networking and mentoring them with their colleagues and ensuring they have a voice and are included.

“In South Africa there are six million unemployed people, three million of them are between the ages of 16 and 24,” says Noluthando. “Forty-six percent of those are female. For us, as a company in STEM we need to bring young females up, we need to go out to rural areas and empower the youth. Dell does this with The Dell Development Fund. It starts with us taking high school students and training them and broadening the pool.”

The tech sector, she adds, has been very reactive in finding black, female skills, “companies throw money at the people already in the sector and haven’t been proactive in going to schools, working with NGOs, funding education and bringing people up. There has been very little investment.”

All three women agree that it’s time this changed. And they’re working to make sure it does.

Women in Tech Series 2 – Overcoming the odds with determination and drive

Episode two can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15QsSuqS_0s

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing some of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations, hosted by Women in Tech ZA’s Samantha Perry.

Doreen Kekana, Large Enterprise ASR, Dell EMC South Africa and Carolyn Arnold, Legal Counsel for Dell EMC South Africa could not look more different, on the surface. Underneath, however, both harbour a fierce determination and drive to succeed and to be extraordinary.

Doreen was number six of seven children, who lost her mother at the age of 16. She knew then she needed to do something to change her life, as she saw no hope, and she knew her choices would determine her future. She chose education. “I knew education was the only thing that would break the pattern. Education was something I could own that no-one could take away from me.”

Funding was a challenge, however, and Doreen struggled to get her matric, and then get into university. Once she had done that she faced another challenge – in her first semester she fell pregnant. Not being one to let anything stop her, however, she studied through open learning and correspondence while looking after her baby, and finished her studies.

“It was difficult but fulfilling. I look back now and I do not cry, I just smile. I know I’d made it so far.”

Doreen landed in tech as she studied informatics which has broaden her options. Unsurprisingly, to anyone who knows her journey, she’s excelling. She knew she needed to study something that would give her viable career options, and that was within the reach of her resources, so when she enrolled at Unisa, so selected a BCom Informatics, which gave her a passion for information systems. That passion led her to applying for and getting a role in administrative sales support at Dell 14 months ago, and has just been promoted to an internal sales rep – a substantial promotion in a short period of time.

Carolyn’s challenges have been self-induced, she admits. She’s completed the gruelling Absa Cape Epic twice, no small achievement, and juggles sport with parenting and her role as Dell EMC’s senior legal counsel.

“I was lucky that, when we lived overseas, and my children were younger I was able to work part-time. When we came back to SA they were older, and I decided to get back into sport. There are challenges to maintaining that kind of structure in your day – and it is about developing structure. At the end of the day you don’t feel like you’re losing out of any element of your own life because you can be with your children in the afternoons, pursue my career and be involved in sport. Working at Dell they’re fantastic at work life balance, and as long as you get the work done how you structure your day is up to you.”

Both say their journey has been rewarding and are grateful they’ve ended up in a sector that provides personal and professional support and fulfilment.

Women in Tech video series 1 – Rising Above

It’s Women’s Month, and Women in Tech ZA is once again hosting a video series showcasing the ladies of Dell EMC, hosted by our own Samantha Perry.

The first episode can be viewed here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCpdg2xettk&t=4s

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing eight of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations.

Emogene Smith, Khulisa Academy co-ordinator, Dell EMC is a single mom to three boys, and the survivor of an abusive relationship. One she was able to walk away from, she says, partly due to the support she got from her boss and colleagues.

“It took some time for me to get to grips, to tell everyone, and speak out. Speaking out is one of the first steps you need to do, and to take a stand,” she says.

Her children, and the need to get them out of a fearful situation, motivated her to make that stand and take those steps.

Reagile Mosaka, account executive, Dell EMC, experienced a different struggle. Born under the Apartheid regime, her father chose to register his children as coloured in order to give them what advantages that could. Named Susan Morgan during her early life, 1994 gave her the courage to reclaim her real name and surname.

She says she felt like she had a different identity at work, and at home and that it was only after school when she reclaimed her name that she could unite those parts of herself, and be the real Reagile.

For both of them, the technology world offers a place they can play to their strengths. For Emogene that is in nurturing the school-age children they take through the Khulisa Academy, which takes children from rural areas with no opportunity to study, teaches them high-performance computing and then finds them jobs. For Reagile, she gets to explore transformation, education, and empowerment, all topics close to her heart and her personal journey.

Helping Dell EMC’s women play to those strengths is the Women in Action Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sabine Dedering regional sales director at Dell EMC, says Women in Action was born out of the idea that both men and women in the IT sector would like to be able to support their colleagues, and help to nurture the next generation of ICT skills through networking and outreach in the community. The ERG hosts regular meetings, including mentoring match-making to connect mentors and mentees inside Dell EMC, and working with colleagues and girls in nearby communities to help them overcome the social stigmas around girls and women being able to do maths and science, and what the tech sector offers them.

Prathna Singh

Name: Prathna Singh Prathna Singh

Designation: Digital Lead – Health & Public Service

Company: Accenture

What do you do every day? Working for a global technology consulting firm, I work with clients in the Health & Public Service domain, to proactively adapt and react to technological change. In an era of technology advancement, I find great fulfilment in reimagining their operations enabling them and their customers to reap the benefits. I love being part of the Health & Public Service space because we do work that matters and work that impacts the wellbeing of citizens. This includes the improvement of service delivery, enabling trust and transparency, increased customer and citizen engagement, optimal cost of operations and innovation through technology. I spend my days working with our Digital teams to craft solutions that help my clients create business value whilst remaining efficient.

As a digital technologist, I have an understanding of the technologies that are disrupting businesses and governments. We live in a world of instant gratification. Organisations and entrepreneurs are quickly innovating to deliver delightful experiences and services to citizens in a convenient and reliable way. So in order to best partner with my clients, it is imperative that I spend my days continuously applying my understanding of digital technologies to their world, providing them with the ability to leapfrog the competition and remain relevant.

I spend my days at Accenture working with an array of people that come from diverse cultures. Having spent 5 years working abroad with Accenture in San Francisco, Singapore, and across various countries in Europe, I have a strong appreciation for cultural intelligence and teaming. I am energized by working with people from all walks of life. I am particularly passionate about encouraging and inspiring our women in digital and take an active role in initiatives that provide the platforms for women to excel in this area.

How did you get into the tech space? I actually won a computer through a maths competition when I was 12 years old. Makes me wonder had I not won a computer if I would have ventured in this field, but I am so glad that I did. Back then, computers were really novel and new and gaining access to one at a young age peaked my interest. I spent many days learning how to use it, playing games, dabbling with e-mail and the internet. This led to my passion for it. I remember visiting a school friend at her home and her elder sister had decided to study in the field. She explained what her job would entail after she completed her studies. I remember it sounding a lot like a doctor for businesses in order to make them perform at their best. I quite liked this version of a doctor – to be able to consult and advise on technology in business.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? It would have to be the advice that my father gave me whilst growing up. I am the second of three girls. In his words when he spoke to us about education and career, ‘there is nothing a boy can do that a girl cannot do, you can do well at anything you want to if you give it your all’. Those words empowered me from a really young age to believe in myself and to embrace my strengths in the areas of mathematics and science. I made decisions to study Computer Science at High school and at University and although I was part of a minority group of women in those classes, I remained positive and confident because of the support and belief that was instilled in me.

If I reflect on some of the milestones I have achieved, I attribute a lot of them to raising my hand to take on a challenging role, to having the bold conversation with my supervisor in order to explore new avenues at work, backing myself through my work outputs and decisions, always respectful and always knowing there was always going to be more to learn. It was the best advice anyone had ever given me. Turns out when you believe in yourself, others do too.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? This is the most exciting time get into the tech sector. With the readiness of such advanced technologies such as predictive analytics, drones, artificial intelligence, robotics, the list goes on… We are in the position of contributing to a crucial moment in history. Whilst the pace of change is superfast, there is a wealth of information out there. There are a growing number of women in tech that are applying their strengths and skills, reaching new heights in their careers. There is a drive by many organisations to drive up the number of women in this space and so if there are any doubts around your ability to build a career in this field, have a chat with myself or other women in this space and indulge in their insights and experiences.

I would say that if you are looking to get into the tech sector, you should remain relevant by reading widely, experiencing the technologies yourself and articulating a point of view. Having a point of view on how on how your technology skills can contribute to solving a problem or creating an opportunity for an organisation or individual will provide you with a voice. It will help you differentiate yourself in a high demand talent market.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? I am a ‘glass half-full’ kind of a woman. I believe that living a fulfilling life sits in your control. How you view your day, how you decide to learn from the challenges, celebrate the successes, how you trust the process of life to work in your favour is key. Positive affirmation and truly believing in what you devote your time to everyday are the special ingredients for my daily motivation. In this way, I can have the awareness of when change is necessary and remain true to my life purpose. This means working for an employer that values you, engaging in work that you want to do well and giving the best of yourself.

This also means finding the balance between work and life. Family and loved ones are an important part of my life, so are my passions for travelling, jazz, interior design and being near the ocean. You are the master of your minutes, take time to self-reflect and choose to live your days being happy and motivated. I also remember not to take life too seriously and to remember to inject laughter and humour into my life. We are not perfect and we should not be too hard on ourselves.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Part of me never wants to grow up, it’s my child-like curiosity of the how the world could be different or reimagined, which is something I really enjoy. Time does roll on though and I think what is really important to me is to grow up being authentic – being true to myself, my values, my potential and my passions. I really enjoy being part of a solution and making a difference in the world through my technology and business skills. More than anything, I want to be one of the reasons that other girls and women in my circle of influence, choose a career or hobby in technology. I think that we bring a different lens to the world as women and it is the cumulative impact that will make the difference. Being able to inspire others to be part of this exciting industry is one of the things I would love to experience as I grow up. I have some great ideas about how to bring together girls and women for this purpose and look forward to bringing those to fruition in the near future.

LinkedIn: https://za.linkedin.com/in/prathna-singh-2085a81
Twitter: @prathnasingh3

Cathy Smith

 

Name: Cathy Smith

Cathy Smith

Cathy Smith

Designation: General Manager

Company: Cisco, South Africa

What do you do every day? I lead and run Cisco’s business in South Africa. I manage a diverse team of over 200 employees who have differing backgrounds and a wide range of technical and non-technical expertise – from engineers, systems analysts, sales leaders, human resources to marketing and legal counsel. My day to day engagements will vary according to the needs of the business. Sometimes I will devote my day to visiting government officials, customers and partners and other times my focus will be on internal meetings involving members of my team.

I also travel extensively both within and outside of South Africa to attend and often participate in both Cisco and industry events. It is important for the role that I do that I network extensively in order to remain close to our customers and our partner network. I am responsible for engaging with public and private sector organisations to work on strategies for digital transformation, thereby helping them transform their IT strategies, connect everything, embrace analytics, and secure their technology and operations.

Outside of work my family and friends are a big focus for me and Friday evenings, for example, are often dedicated to having dinner with friends. From a wellbeing perspective, I try to do a Pilates class twice a week as I really do feel strongly about taking care of my mental, spiritual as well as my physical being.

How did you get into the tech space?

I ventured into the technology space purely by coincidence – what I call a stroke of good luck because I was in the right place at the right time and I happy and proud to say that I have never looked back. I started my working life in the insurance sector as an applications developer and was very fortunate to work in a number of roles that helped grow my experience. Prior to joining Cisco, I worked at IBM for more than 23 years, where I held various leadership roles in IT service delivery, HR and sales.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Have dreams and aspirations by all means and always strive to achieve them but also be prepared to be flexible and willing to adapt because as we grow we change. Our goals may expand and our career paths may take us into directions we never even thought of and could well end up being completely life changing, but for the better.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? When the IT industry started in South Africa, it was considered very unattractive to women simply because it was viewed as involving a lot of physical work as well as shift work and for this reason many women shied away from seeking roles in technology. This perception is so misleading in today’s South Africa and I would encourage young women, especially, to be open-minded, ask questions and take the time to really understand what a career in IT really involves. As technology has become more and more commoditised, the skill level required is focused on providing value and service to customers as well as solutions.

Today, those who work in technology need to understand the ever-changing needs of the customers and adapt in an environment that is growing and evolving at a phenomenal pace. They need to fully comprehend business and people and the challenges that need to be addressed. To work in technology today, a candidate can come from practically any background or discipline – collaboration, developing insight and being able to adapt is key to building trust and delivering the best possible solutions that meet customer needs.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?

I thoroughly enjoy what I do and I am passionate to succeed for both myself but more importantly for my family. I fully understand that I also have great responsibility to be a role model to young women in South Africa who would like to succeed within a leadership role as I have done. I am a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative (ALI), an organisation set up to develop the next generation of ‘values’ based African leaders who are capable of guiding and leading their countries as they struggle to align the demands of globalisation with local visions of ‘a good society’.

Who did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a financial analyst but interestingly enough my class mates at school thought I would become City Mayor!

Twitter: @CathyS_Cisco

Claudia Johnston

Claudia Johnston, Microsoft SA

Claudia Johnston, Microsoft SA

Name: Claudia Johnston

Designation: Education Sector Lead

Company: Microsoft South Africa

What do you do every day? I work with customers and partners to promote Microsoft in education. This includes assisting academic institutions to improve teaching and learning by leveraging technology in the classroom and on campus. The Microsoft in education business model is primarily delivered through its Authorized Education Resellers so a lot of my time is spent with these partners to ensure they are empowered and supported whilst they work with the end user.
I have a core internal team that assists me with this including some folk who are professional teachers and others who are more commercially focused. We have a balanced scorecard for education in Microsoft South Africa that I am responsible for which includes metrics around revenue, share, partner enablement and customer deployments.
I spend a fair amount of time in meetings orchestrating and co-ordinating all the resources at my disposal to ensure that Microsoft is successful in its vision of helping to transform education in South Africa.

How did you get into the tech space? My dad worked for IBM and I was lucky enough to be one of the first kids on my block to touch a personal computer. I started with very simple programming in BASIC (not Visual Basic) and playing PC Games using only the keyboard to manipulate very simple graphics on the screen. I eventually went on to study Information Technology and started in the internal IT department at IBM doing mainframe programming.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes”… as a young IT professional, I tended to be a little arrogant and unforgiving and my inter-personal skills were not great. After stumbling a few times, a good friend and mentor gave me this simple advice and I still use it every day. It so easy to judge, complain and look for fault if you only ever selfishly look at things from your own perspective – you can learn so much by put another pair of glasses on.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? After you’ve done your formal studying, try and start in an internal IT so you can get an understanding of what roles are available in IT and what the business needs from IT. This will give you the solid foundation you need to go into so many different directions of your choosing later on.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? Beating the Joburg traffic is a big motivation! But over and above that – I feel I have one of the most meaningful and strategic roles at Microsoft. I get to directly influence learning and teaching in South Africa and that gives me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people. I hear incredible stories almost daily that give me so much hope and faith in the future of our beautiful country.

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Well I’m kind of grown up already and am happy with exactly where I am.

Find me on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/claudia.johnston
LinkedIn: za.linkedin.com/in/claudiajohnston

Stacey Hudson

Stacey Hudson, Discovery Vitality

Stacey Hudson, Discovery Vitality

Name: Stacey Anne Hudson 

Designation: Senior Development Manager

Company: Discovery Vitality

What do you do every day? I “herd” technical IT teams across the globe, to ensure we deliver value and quality IT solutions for global partners.

How did you get into the tech space? I received a bursary from a big mining company to study IT and work for them in that space when I graduated, the rest is history…..

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? It’s a question but guides my thinking in a lot of difficult situations…. “do you want to be successful or significant?”.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? It’s exciting and dynamic, but it’s complex and it isn’t a 9-5 job, and you work with highly intelligent, often crazy people. The frameworks are always changing. Be prepared to try things and be prepared for change.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? I never quite know what the day will bring, so it’s a new challenge everyday!

Who do you want to be when you grow up? An executive coach.

Find me on:
Twitter – @Staceysuperr
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=101420515&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Anna Puzone

Anna Puzone, Zetta Business Solutions

Anna Puzone, Zetta Business Solutions

Name: Anna Puzone

Designation: Head of Enterprise Performance Management

Company: Zetta Business Solutions

What do you do every day? Being part of a new company my function spans all areas. I’m responsible for new business development in BI, CPM and MDM, which has me make calls, meet a lot of people and talk to them about the value of information management.

I’m also responsible for existing accounts management, project and in client delivery management, solutions design etc etc. No day is the same, and it’s never boring!

How did you get into the tech space? It was a natural choice for me, I started in finance and was soon more fascinated by automating the processes using tools than actually balancing the ledgers. I moved to a technology enablement role and never looked back.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Count to 10 before you answer anyone, anything. If it scares you, try it, it will make you grow in ways you never thought possible.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? Don’t get discouraged, and persevere – it’s not that scary.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day? My family, they make me see the world though a better lens.

Where do you want to be when you grow up? Enjoying the sunshine on an exotic island.

Find me on:
Twitter: @AnnaPuz1
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=7609876&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile