CIO Mojapela Makau: from mainframes to megabytes

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Tracker CIO delves into his journey through the evolution of IT.

Mojapela Makau, executive for information technology and security (CIO) at Tracker, embarked on his journey in the world of IT at Caltex, where he cut his teeth on mainframe computers. His talent and drive soon caught the attention of industry giants Deloitte and Accenture, where he thrived as an IT consultant, shaping solutions for complex challenges.

Transatlantic transition

A pivotal moment in his career came when he moved to the US in 1998. This shift wasn’t just about changing jobs; it was a full-scale immersion into a new environment, a challenge made more daunting by the tumultuous global markets of the early 2000s. The Y2K problem loomed large, and Mojapela found himself at the heart of preparations to counter its potential impact. His role at a prestigious bank sharpened his skills in crisis management and strategic thinking.

A major point of Mojapela’s career was his tenure at AT&T. Overseeing vast IT infrastructure and customer-facing applications while navigating complex regulatory compliance demands showcased his prowess as a leader and technologist. His journey through AT&T was transformative, guiding him from business analyst to senior technical director over a span of six pivotal years.

Silicon Valley beckoned, offering a new frontier of innovation; a shift which brought new horizons and challenges. Working amid tech giants like Oracle and Sun Microsystems, Mojapela was enveloped by a culture of innovation and rapid growth.

“Being a part of this community meant experiencing constant learning and growth. We were actively encouraged to share our knowledge and skills with one another, fostering a collaborative environment that thrived on collective progress,” he says. “The startup culture, which permeated Silicon Valley, added an extra layer of excitement and innovation, making every day a thrilling adventure. Witnessing the meteoric rise of companies like Facebook was a privilege that only enhanced the overall experience, leaving an indelible mark on my journey.”

Working in the heart of the tech industry, Silicon Valley, was both professionally fulfilling and personally enriching. The lively and ever-changing community fuelled his love for technology, sparking a desire to push his limits and discover new possibilities. “It’s an incredible place where the future of technology is being shaped every day.”

Moving from the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley to the strategic realm of retail was another transformation. Mojapela played a crucial role in transformation programmes at retail giants Kroger and Walmart (the parent company of Massmart in South Africa). The small town of Bentonville, where Walmart is king, provided a unique setting, where the dominance of one employer mirrored the concentration of tech talent within the data insights team. The dynamics at play highlighted the interdependence of technology and community.

Navigating constraints

Mojapela’s return to South Africa was a homecoming of sorts, marked by the challenge of accomplishing more with limited resources. The dichotomy between the ease of resource acquisition in the US and the resource constraints in Africa highlighted the need for ingenious solutions that balance efficacy and fiscal prudence. 

“The landscape underscored the need for fostering a culture of innovation to reduce reliance on external sources and elevate local intellectual capital,” he says.

He noted at the time that by enhancing our understanding of our unique circumstances, we can better navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. He says, “It is crucial for us to leverage our existing resources effectively while also fostering a culture of innovation and knowledge creation within our own borders.” 

Technology and safety converge

Now as CIO of Tracker, Mojapela oversees critical IT infrastructure that supports the company’s operations. The intersection of technology and telematics forms the bedrock of Tracker’s operations, encapsulating insights into driving behaviour and vehicle use. Mojapela’s oversight of IT infrastructure in this dynamic organisation underscores the criticality of cybersecurity in the digital age. 

“At Tracker, I feel part of something positive and impactful as we live our purpose, caring for and protecting people and their things, on a daily basis,” says Mojapela. “When you consider what our company, Tracker, stands for, it becomes evident that we hold people’s lives in our hands. 

“Technology plays a vital role in Tracker’s operations. Over the past decade, the tracking industry has undergone significant transformation. Tracker’s devices have become more intelligent, enabling us to provide detailed information and add value beyond just stolen vehicle recovery.” 

Unwinding and rediscovering nature beyond the boardroom

Mojapela’s 30-year voyage across the ever-evolving IT landscape is a testament to his adaptability and innovative spirit. When he’s not working, he enjoys playing golf, has a deep appreciation for nature and enjoys taking trips to places like Bela Bela and game lodges. 

After many years abroad, he says, “Exploring the beautiful landscapes of South Africa, such as going to Bela Bela or driving up to the Cradle of Humankind, reminds me of the incredible beauty our country has to offer.”

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