Woman in Tech of the Week: Pamela Mkhize
Name: Pamela Mkhize
Designation: Head of Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Satellite
Company: Enel Green Power
What do you do every day? I solve problems. Sometimes they are presented to me as technical challenges, other times they are presented as “the usual way of doing things”. I always strive to get results and provide solutions in the most effective and efficient of ways, instead of just “the usual” way. This involves me being able to make tough decisions quickly, and being able to respond to the requirements of the organisation that I serve and lead in, before a need arises. Every day I am both a servant to the business and the functions within it, where I interact with the Heads of other units within my organisation and external stakeholders; I am also a leader in the department and the countries that I am responsible for, which include South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, and Morocco, to name a few.
How did you get into the tech space? I’ve always been passionate about technology. Growing up I was usually categorised as that boring girl who would always be found by herself reading articles related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), I wouldn’t read them because I didn’t have anything to do, but I would read them because I was passionate about a “connected” future, which at that time was perceived as unreality. This then led me to enrolling for Electrical Engineering, and majored in Telecommunication Systems. For close to 10 years I worked in heavy manufacturing industries, where I did programming, control systems, and automation. During that period, I was seconded to a German technology company, where I contributed to a ZAR 960 million rand project. A few years ago, I was headhunted by Enel Green Power to lead their ICT strategy and operations as they started their operations in South Africa. They were looking for someone who not only had expertise in ICT, but also in Telecommunications, and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA). Today, about 15 years into my career, I am more excited about what tech means today, than I was when I started my career; not only is tech becoming more and more relevant in the energy and manufacturing sectors, but in our daily living as well.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? Although I understand that I am a product of what many people have contributed in my life, the one advice that stuck with me was one that I received when I had just started my career. My then mentor would say to me: “Always have your finger on the pulse Pam, always”. It took me some time to fully understand what he meant by that. At that time I was working for an organisation where 5 minutes of downtime on a machine meant a loss of millions of rands to the organization; I learnt at that time to always think of “the worst thing that could happen” and solve that before it happens. That is what he meant by having “my finger on the pulse – before the pulse stops”, this is how I translated it. He, unfortunately for me, immigrated to Canada, but 10 years later, his advice is still applicable, both in my personal life and in my career.
What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? It is important to first understand how much tech has evolved over the past few decades. Even with a basic understanding of this, one can have insight on what possibilities exist in tech, and what further developments can still exist. With such developments, more and more challenges are arising. For example, with such large amounts of data in the form of information, the challenge is – How do we store this data? How do we protect it? How do we transfer it? How do we replicate it? How do we make it easily accessible, without jeopardising it and the people who own it? These are the problems that exist now, and we have not yet found the best solution that will attend to these challenges. For a person who does not just want to get into the sector, but who also wants to succeed in it, they need to be thinking about the solutions to the problems that exist in the tech sector at this point and in the near future, and they should be equipping themselves to be ready to resolve them. I am certain that the tech sector needs plenty of problem solvers who are willing to dedicate themselves to doing what others are not willing to do – to think as though they are already in the future.
What motivates you to get out of bed every day? My eagerness to make a difference in the world motivates me to get out of bed each morning. For me, each day as an opportunity to make a difference, whether in the organisation that I lead in, or in someone’s life. If I were not to get out of bed, it would mean that I have just deprived the world an opportunity to get the best of me. Seeing the results of what I do consistently each day, motivates me to keep getting out of bed every day.
Who do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be Pamela Mkhize who is able to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, while having and maintaining the humility of my inexperienced self, as I continue learning.
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pam-mkhize-57b79ab