MTN CTIO Mazen Mroue’s greatest reward has been assisting former colleagues in their advancement.
Mazen Mroué, CTIO at MTN Group, has always had a natural affinity for IT. He says that he discovered his interest in IT when he achieved a perfect score in a programming exam at school.
“I discovered that I had a talent after scoring 20/20 in a programming exam, while the rest of the classmates scored zero in the same exam, '' he says. “Then I started concentrating on programming synthesis, software development and computer hardware ,” he says.
Mazen went on to study systems engineering, he holds a master's degree in engineering, computer, intellectual systems and networks; and after completing his academic qualification, proceeded to work for free to acquire experience in the IT industry. However, finding work after graduation was much easier than Mazen had anticipated.
“I recall completing my masters studies on a Friday and starting my first job that following Monday. I basically started off assembling computers, repairing systems and installing software as well as delivering desktops to clients and providing training to them when necessary,” Mazen explains.
“Back then, computers were quite new to the scene and very large in size, therefore, apart from delivering them, I had to play the role of carpenter and assemble tables for these computers, to accommodate their size – right at the client’s premises. It’s a very different scenario to the type of desktops we have today – they are more portable now,” he adds.
As far as mentorship is concerned, Mazen says that IT students had to figure things out for themselves in those days and also be inquisitive about technology. “I didn’t necessarily have mentors in my journey – nobody guided me – and during university, we learned how to search for information ourselves by going to the library and reading books for hours on end, making copies of relevant information, before Google came along,” Mazen says.
Leaving a legacy
Although Mazen has achieved great success throughout his career and received several awards for his efforts, he says, his biggest achievement is the legacy he has left and continues to leave behind at MTN, since joining the group in 1998.
“We have been quite successful in different markets, especially the greenfield markets and have built various businesses there, received many awards, including leading delivery, being the most engaged team, rapid response, succession plans, and performance,” he says.
“However, it has been amazing to see that my colleagues – who used to work for and with me – are now holding senior management roles in different markets, and that’s the legacy I would love to leave behind. Accolades are just a bonus,” he continues.
Humility and emotional intelligence
Mazen says every successful leader should have certain skills in their arsenal: the ability to listen, humility and emotional intelligence. “It’s important to always stay humble, understand people and be a good listener. We spend a significant time at work interacting, so as leaders, we must never forget that we are all human beings at the end of the day – no matter what position you may hold,” he explains.
“It’s crucial to understand people, give them the right attention when they’re up or down and try to assist them while giving them a chance. This way, you do not judge their performance from the first instance, and if they are really underperforming you understand why they are underperforming and the solution to that problem,” he says.
Where emotional intelligence is concerned, Mazen says, “We are a multinational organisation and all our people come from diverse backgrounds, which influences the way we interact with each other and manage situations, sometimes challenging ones. Therefore, emotional intelligence allows you as a leader to better understand your colleagues and what makes them tick. Also, it creates a culturally diverse and inclusive environment.”
The CIO role
According to Mazen, the traditional CIO is no more: today’s CIO wears multiple hats, especially one of a strategist. “In my case, my role is to oversee the IT and Network strategy, architecture and the information security for MTN Group and its operating companies. My biggest strength is that I have been able to acquire great operational experience in different markets and as a Group we need to understand the pressure that our operations have from ground level in addition to ensuring our technology platforms remain second to none,” he says.
“Being a Group CTIO, I need to lead the team that is laying the foundation to achieve our Group Ambitions 2025 - “Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress”, ensure the right structure, resources and strategy are in place to sustain our leadership , and to maintain internally a sustainable platform for our technology people to innovate, because there are no end solutions. Technology is always evolving, and exposing ourselves to new solutions that should be part of our roadmap is key, we should therefore constantly review our operating model and strategies along the way.”
Mazen oversees the network, information systems, information security and overall technology across the MTN Group in Africa and the Middle East with dedicated cybersecurity teams to his aid. “We have a structure, framework, strategy and guidelines and processes that ensure that we stay ahead of the curb when it comes to cybersecurity,” he says.
He does, however, point out that there is never one final solution or control in terms of cybersecurity and that there is no silver bullet for cybersecurity, “Cybersecurity is most definitely a journey because the technology is evolving, techniques and practices that are being used by hackers are also developing, changing and evolving as well.”
Staying ahead, he says, requires investment in talent, and to expose our people to the latest solutions as well as the techniques that can counter these possible attacks, and respond quickly to any threat.
Being in IT, you would assume that Mazen is quite fond of technology and his gadgets, which is true, but quality time for him involves spending time with his family and friends. And, as he puts it, we have become very addicted to our devices.