Jenny Mohanlall’s biggest assignment in IT

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DHL’s senior IT director reveals that moving DHL from its former premises took a toll on her both physically and emotionally, but it was the support of her team that helped see the project to successful completion.

Jenny Mohanlall is the senior director: information technology at DHL South Africa, which encompasses the data privacy officer (DPO) and chief information officer roles. She is also passionate about cybersecurity, an area she has done a lot of work in. In fact, calling it a passion is putting it mildly, as she is pursuing a PhD in the field.

“I find it intriguing: it’s a challenge. There’s no right or wrong answer or one-size-fits all with cybersecurity,” she notes. “Cybersecurity often requires an out-of-the-box, imaginative thinker, and creativity around how you want the message to land.”

Think before you click!

It is vital that people are more aware of clicking on unknown urls, says Jenny. When people become complacent, they forget about the dangers and negative impact that clicking on phishing emails can hold for both themselves and the business.

Jenny’s also quite passionate about children’s cybersafety. She believes that more needs to be done to educate children on the dangers of the internet. Social media and public figures play a huge role in the way the younger generations think and react. They are quite impressionable and keen to experiment with social media, not knowing the dangers that lurk behind this, she points out. We live in a digital age and we need to be more deliberate in ensuring our youth are aware.

“My cybersecurity journey began in 2015, at a global telecommunications organisation where I was the CIO and CISO,” Jenny explains. “This is where I led major cybersecurity and IT projects for SME clients within the public sector.”

Jenny recently attended CIO South Africa’s Cybersecurity Summit, a session she really enjoyed. “Everyone usually talks about how we get top level management to support cybersecurity and invest in this,” she notes. “However, it’s a little bit different for me working from a global organisation. Much of what we do is dictated by global as mandatory, which helps a lot.

“Cybersecurity for me is not a question: it’s not about if an attack happens, but rather when it happens. We take cybersecurity very seriously, as we are one of the top global organisations faced with daily phishing attacks. This means that we have to be at the top of our game and have a much firmer stance on cybersecurity. The responsibility doesn’t solely lie with the CIO/CISO but with every individual,” she explains.

Digging deep

Jenny has led one of the largest projects for her current organisation: to relocate one of the largest operational facilities in Africa. “This is one of the largest projects in Africa to date,” she notes. “My team and I managed to accomplish this with zero downtime or impact to the business, which was unprecedented for the organisation.

“I spent many late evenings at the office during the project, ensuring that the company was prepared from an infrastructure perspective. I had a brilliant team who were extremely dedicated and committed to ensuring the overall success of the project. It was truly a privilege and an honour to work side by side with them, in the trenches and getting our hands dirty.”

Jenny says one’s title should not be an obstacle to leading by example. “As a leader, it is important to experience what your team experiences. That’s how you really get an appreciation of what they go through,” she says. The successful achievement of this project saw Jenny and her team being nominated for a CEO Award in 2023. This award, presented by the CEO, is meant to recognise executives for their exceptional work that’s had a positive impact on the business.

Jenny highlights the importance of having a strong team around you. She was also moved by how supportive her own team was when her father suddenly passed away in the middle of the move. She says her team members rallied around her and supported her during this very traumatic period in her life..

When Jenny’s not rolling up her sleeves for work, she enjoys reading and yoga, which have a calming effect on her. However, her second biggest assignment on earth is being a single mom to her 15-year-old daughter, which is also a full time job.

“If you want to talk about inspiration, then I can confidently say that my daughter has been my biggest inspiration thus far. I think I speak on behalf of all parents out there that there are those days when you just don’t want to be an ‘adult’ or parent, but my daughter has a very funny and cheeky way of giving me a reality check,” Jenny concludes.

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