Tsebo’s Yosheen Padayachee is an advocate for women in tech

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When the work speaks for itself, you’ll never be undermined, she says.

Yosheen Padayachee, group IT director at Tsebo Solutions, might be a biological technician by training with a BSc in Biological Science from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, but she would soon discover that her true passion lay in IT.

She landed a temporary position as an IT service desk co-ordinator at FNB while she was trying to secure funds to complete her studies. Grateful for the opportunity, she felt unengaged in that role, so she decided to spread her wings and discover what other opportunities were available at the bank.

“I was surrounded by a team of people who used to load machines and do fantastic IT-related work. This sparked my curiosity and I approached some of these individuals to teach me more about the work they were doing,” she says.

“Eight months later, a system administrator position came up and I applied, and got the job. From that position, I worked my way through all the IT disciplines, including system, LAN, network and voice administration. However, I felt quite frustrated because I would receive customer complaints but was unable to do anything about it. It was just too late in the lifecycle to help users,” she explains.

She went on to become a test analyst and was eventually promoted to a system analyst position. She also held various other junior level positions as well as other managerial positions at FNB, a stint that spanned over 20 years with the bank.

Yosheen’s first stint as chief information officer began when she joined Momentum as CIO for the rest of Africa. “I focused quite a bit on modernisation in that role and my team and I had some uphill battles to climb such as funding constraints and barriers to getting technology and buy-in into Africa, at the time,” she says. “Nevertheless, we came out victorious in that battle and worked on a few exciting projects and successfully rolled out a Health Platform and SD WAN network architecture to the rest of Africa; however, implementing robotic process automation (RPA) in our region was an even bigger move,” she notes.

Yosheen then joined Tsebo Solutions as group CIO in 2021, moving out of the financial services sector and into a totally different industry. “I’m now in the business of making sandwiches and cleaning toilets,” she jokes.

Tsebo Solutions provides clients with increased workplace productivity that contributes to their success. From city-based corporate headquarters to remote camps that are difficult to reach, they create, manage, and maintain environments that are pleasant to be in, easier to work in, and ultimately improve collaboration, innovation, and productivity.

She does, however, point out that there are some very exciting things happening in the world of cleaning in terms of modernisation. She recently attended Interclean Amsterdam 2022, which is the largest professional cleaning community and exhibition in the world, to learn more about the latest innovations in the sector.

Among the list of her academic achievements is a BCom degree in Informatics, master’s degree in technology and innovation from the Da Vinci Institute of technology. Her dissertation introduced Integrated Innovation Governance Framework (I2GF). She is currently pursuing her PhD through the same institution. Her thesis is on leapfrogging technology adoption in Africa and whether Africa can rapidly move forward with 5IR. Her research proposal has been accepted and she is preparing for the next steps.

Confidence is key, especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry, Yosheen notes. She says there are plenty of reasons that women become discouraged; most are questioned as to why they are in the IT space in the first place. “I recall being approached by a former manager in my earlier years who once asked me whether I wanted to be a mother or wanted to have a career. My response was simple: I wanted to do both. In fact, his statement motivated me even more – that’s why being courageous is important, especially when you are underestimated,” she says.

“Let the work speak for itself and always deliver. Be respectful, but also demand it and never compromise your values and principles, no matter how badly you want to make it.”

Yosheen points out that while the IT industry is male dominated, this doesn’t mean that there are not any men out there willing to support women. “I have had some great male mentors throughout my career and from an organisational culture perspective, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in environments where favouritism was virtually non-existent because of these open-minded individuals” she continues.

Each woman’s experience is different, she notes, but one thing women should always keep in mind is to remain factual. “It’s okay to get emotional at times, she says, but sticking to the facts can get you even further.”

Paying it forward is something Yosheen does well: she’s actively involved in women empowerment initiatives, not just from a professional standpoint, but also in teaching women personal development skills. “A former colleague and I, Eugene Brockman, helped launch the ‘women in technology’ programme at Momentum and this initiative continued to run even after I’d left the company,” she notes.

She highlights that financial planning is just as important as professional knowledge, and establishing your financial independence is very important, especially for women. Where you spend your money is important too, she believes, and has always encouraged her mentees to set some money aside every year and use those funds to upskill themselves.

“I’ve mentored three women thus far who are keen on understanding business and the steps needed to be taken to get to where they want to be. I did this through a national mentorship network I am affiliated with. In my personal capacity, I’m part of the ‘women in motion’, a closed community of women that myself and a few friends and relatives started. It has really grown into a movement over the years, where we host events and exchange ideas on how we can uplift other women,” Yosheen says.

“It is okay not to be perfect,” she advises her mentees. “I say this because women who are career-driven, wives and mothers tend to experience a lot of pressure to be successful at work and the best mom at home. Don’t strive for perfection: it puts unnecessary pressure on you. Strive to be present in whatever you are doing and most importantly strive for balance.

“In addition, give your family the time and attention they need, but there are times when work will require your full attention too and your family understands this when work is prioritised,” she adds.

Yosheen says women often make the mistake of placing unnecessary pressure on themselves by benchmarking and creating idealistic spaces they see themselves occupying. Added to this, working women find it difficult to switch off when they get home: “You can be in charge in the boardroom, but you can still expect chivalry. So, hold the door open for me,” she says. “Each role has its place and function, but one does not dominate or compete with the other.”

She says she doesn’t subscribe to the all-work-and-no-play philosophy. When she has some free time, she enjoys a little pampering at the spa, which she describes as the most therapeutic time she has to herself. She also enjoys trivia and the occasional DIY class at her local hardware store.

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