Cathy Smith

November 4, 2015 in Enterprise, GM, Profiles


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

Lorraine Sefolo

August 19, 2014 in GM, Profiles
Lorraine Sefolo, SABC

Lorraine Sefolo, SABC

Name: Lorraine Sefolo

Designation: GM: IT

Company: SABC 

What do you do every day? I provide the strategic leadership and management of the IT Business Unit within the SABC. I am responsible for all the provisioning and back-office support of all IT systems for the SABC, from the network internal data runs on, to all the radio and television websites, to how we secure the electronic IP of the SABC as a National Keypoint, to the HR and financial ERP system. I am a very involved GM, so be it a business case or turnaround strategy for the services we offer as IT within the SABC, I’m involved with it.

How did you get into the tech space? While studying Industrial Engineering I bumped into a friend at a Checkers store and she told me she was studying IT and she was going to be a computer programmer. I had no clue what she was talking about, so she showed me the receipt from her purchases and said: “A program was able to create and calculate what’s on this receipt…a programmer wrote this”. I subsequently qualified as a Cobol Programmer, although I spent most of my career in the open server environment as a Certified Unix Solaris Engineer.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? My mom, growing up, showed me that if you lean with all your weight on a wall, if anybody removes that wall, you will fall. She taught me that I must have balance enough that if the wall is removed, I can still remain on my feet. It’s the mantra in my life. I always strive to learn, to work for all that I have achieved without waiting for someone to hand it to me. Of cause that’s not to say one is an island. And I’m grateful to those that have offered their help in my career by offering opportunities to work and make a difference, I am very thankful as I don’t believe that anybody owes any of us anything. God gave us talents and abilities to make a positive difference in this world, we must use them. It is this strong belief in God that has helped me discover my unique talents and abilities to charge my career to where it is and where it is headed to.

What advice would you given someone wanting to get into the tech sector? It is definitely the future. With the concept of the “internet of things”, technology is a part of our daily lives and offers so many rewarding aspects for those who are scientists at heart but don’t want to dissect plants and insects or mix up chemicals in the lab. The world has now become that very IT lab.

What motivates you to get out of bed everyday? To be honest, getting out of bed in the morning daily is the least pleasant experience for me, BUT I view my chosen career the way I view user problems – with excitement. I get excited about searching for an answer and watching how technology has, for example, made the world so small and enabled access to people one would have never had access to before via social networks, how it has also changed the way we study etc. I think I am wired that way…I think it’s called “geektisis”…J

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Tina Turner *straight face*

Find me on:
Twitter: @sefolol