CIO SA Year End Event was centred on purpose, people, and celebrating homegrown tech


CIOs at the event heard that because people get things done, they should be prioritised.

On the evening of 30 November, the country's leading, experienced and influential IT minds convened at Johannesburg's Four Seasons Hotel: The Westcliff. Nestled in the hills of one of Johannesburg's oldest suburbs, Westcliff, and perched on a hillside with views of the leafy suburb and the Johannesburg CBD, the venue offered a perfect backdrop to the community’s year-end celebrations.

A major theme of the evening was people, and for most of the speakers on stage, people are the pulse of the nation; they get things done, and investing in them by creating job opportunities is the right way to go. That is why, they argued, investing in local businesses is even more critical.

IT excellence

During the ‘Power to South Africa’ panel, which intended to shine a spotlight on homegrown tech companies doing great things, IT company CEOs discussed what their hopes and dreams and huge aspirations were in the IT space, and shared some of the reasons why they got into the industry.

Siddika Osman, CEO at Nkgwete IT, started her company because she was passionate about creating jobs and about the youth.

For Lethabo Mokone, CEO of Makwa IT, studying the big five IT companies, such as Dimension Data, to get a sense of their offerings and their scope, was an opportunity he wanted to explore to scale his own business. “I am very passionate about home-grown solutions and products, which is why we decided to partner with Cisco, making us today the only black and youth-owned Cisco Gold Partner in Africa,” he said.

He added that If you mimic the work ethic of tech giants like the Elon Musk, you’ll eventually get what you want to, and this was the approach Lethabo took when he was rebuilding his company. “My goal was to usher in a new era of technological transformation while also encouraging knowledge sharing. Because If you give people knowledge, they will have it for the rest of their lives.”

Gys Kapper, CEO at Wyzetalk, said that he wasn’t introduced to IT in the traditional way. “I started out in brickmaking and joined my father’s business and eventually bought him out,” he said. Some years later, Gys then joined Wyzetalk, a leading global digital employee engagement solution

“We put around 150 learners through our Wyzetalk programme every year, so like Lethabo we are very focused on the youth.”

Siddika Osman of Nkgwete IT Solutions is focused on “unlocking Africa's pulse through technology”, with the pulse being people and using people to their fullest potential.

Lethabo highlighted that startups such as Makwa IT should not be overlooked because they are creating jobs, unlike big firms who make the profits and share those proceeds with their shareholders. Therefore, startups really play an active role in empowering people rather than lining their own pockets.

Spirited debate on talent mobility

In the next panel discussion, the focus went from IT companies doing great things, to insights from IT leaders or “gurus''. The panel line-up featured Toni Serra, CIO at AECI, Dhesen Ramsamy, group CDIO, Momentum Metropolitan, and Malisha Awunor, HR director, EOH.

According to Dhesen, tech talent wants to work on engaging projects “cool things”. This was revealed in surveys they conducted. They also discovered that tech talent wants to know that there are opportunities for them internally.

According to Malisha, technology has changed by leaps and bounds over the years, including how we go about our daily lives. Technology has introduced certain conveniences, but not so much evolution in terms of recruitment, as “there's still a cookie-cutter approach to it.

"We need to change our approach to people management, particularly with millennials who are thrust into the new way of work and demand certain things from their employers," she advised. "It's all about extreme individualism, which is how the new world of recruiting works – and that's the approach we should take."

According to Toni, “IT professionals of the future need to be business people who can speak IT. That’s not to say that technical skills are no longer important, but rather that the business minded IT person is very important going into the future.”

The conversation then shifted to how CIOs should manage the most important component of any organisation, its people.

“The way we go about outsourcing should also be personalised,” said Faith Burn of Eskom. "I believe that any organisation, regardless of size, should have a strategic approach and strike a balance of internal resources and outsourcing,” she said.

Malisha kept it simple, reminding the audience that we are talking about people here, not just resources, when it comes to talent management. "First and foremost, don't call them billable resources," she advised.

However, one attendee mentioned that one of the most overlooked aspects of people management is that people want to work for a purpose as well as have one themselves. People want to work for something that is actionable, according to one panellist.

Illustrative roundup of events

After a round of drinks and a break, the CIOs returned to the plenary for some key takeaways from the event by Nicola Tyler, renowned expert in the field of lateral thinking.

She, quite literally, drew conclusions from the discussions of the evening. Her iPad sketches were projected live onto screens, showing the highlights and adding observations and ideas of her own.

Nicola also applauded the IT leaders creating jobs, but not only that, the knowledge workers.

Sidikka's explanation of what the name Nkgwete means was one of Nicola's standout moments from the night. It is an abbreviation for “champions,” and is in line with to the company's tagline, "technology makes things possible, but people make them happen."

The conversation around purpose also resonated because even in her own consultations, huge organisations have prioritised purpose.

“Leadership doesn’t just sit with HR, leadership means everybody comes to you when things go wrong. You are in a leadership role and expected to provide help, this isn’t only HR’s responsibility,” she concluded.

The CIOs went home with big concepts to grapple with, and new ideas to process – but most of all having had a fulfilling evening of networking, knowledge sharing, and good fun. The wonderful occasion would not have been possible without CIO South Africa’s partners, Deloitte, EOH, MakwaIT, Standard Bank. Along with, Executive Partners, Accenture, AppDynamics, Nkgwete IT Solutions, SAS, Software AG, Workday, and associate partner The Strategists.

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