Women's month may be over, but we think the celebration of women in IT should happen irrespective of the month. Pila Booi, a Sales Manager at IS, gives us the inside scoop on what it's like to work at IS, a leading player in the IT industry.
If you are a part of the Women’s Forum, can you elaborate on its purpose, how it functions and your role in the organisation?
I am not part of the Women’s Forum although I believe in the initiative and its purpose. Amazing women formed it, some of whom I am fortunate to call my friends and colleagues. I was exposed to the initial phases of it and attended the focus groups. I am involved in the Internet Solutions CSI and the DD MEA Employment Equity Committees, which are chaired by amazing women.
What is it like to be a woman working for IS?
Internet Solutions is a great company to work for and I have learnt a lot in the five years I’ve been working here. Flexibility, autonomy, opportunities for growth and a great working culture are things I look for in a company. IS offers that for me, which makes it the ideal company to work for. As a young woman in an organisation, you want to be recognised for your hard work and have fun while you’re at it. I am fortunate to have a great team that I work with and which feels like family. In fact, some of my team members have built personal relationships with my family. I spend a lot of my time at work, so the work culture is very important to me. The organisation has allowed me to not only focus on my work, but to be involved in initiatives that I care about outside work like the “Into the World of Work” day and the coaching of young women.
I am also fortunate to work on the public sector side of our enterprise business, where we work daily to make the South African government work better through technology. It is always great to see a solution come to life that positively impacts the life of an ordinary citizen. It’s also fulfilling to work with a team of young professionals who are equally passionate about this.
Like most organisations, a radical transformation for women is needed in top management. There must come a time when the scales are balanced and there is equal representation of female leaders.
What made you want to work in the IT industry?
I worked in mining and management consulting companies in the past, and they had their own unique attributes that attracted me to them. On the next step of my career journey, I wanted to work in the fastest-growing industry that would allow me to grow and learn daily. IT became the obvious choice. The daily demands of the industry are constantly changing and you never get bored, you’re always thinking of innovative ways to be competitive and to remain relevant.
Can you share a few of the challenges and successes you’ve experienced?
I have always measured my success in terms of the positive contribution I have made to the people around me. Throughout my time at IS, I have had great coaches and mentors who have contributed to making me the person I am today. I have also dedicated my time to paying it forward and mentored and coached a few awesome women I am very proud of.
From a personal career perspective, I have achieved the key goals I set out for myself five years ago when I started at IS. I’ve been fortunate to further my ambition from the time I started in the graduate programme in 2012 until now. I’ve had great leaders who believed in me and recognised me when I put up my hand for opportunities. I’ve had success when I started as a client manager in managing one team’s largest accounts and met my target every year. I was then selected to be part of the Dimension Data global fast-track, management development programme through the IE Business School. I later took up the sales management position that I now hold. I still have so much to learn about the industry and to contribute more in the development of young people. They are our next leaders and we need to start investing now.
I hosted my first master class with the support of the IE Business School. The guest was Professor Gonzalo Garland who is vice- president of external relations at the IE Business School. The master class presented the current state of the economy in several regions and countries. We also discussed the potential future implications of the changes we were witnessing at various political levels. I’m grateful that the organisation supported me in knowledge transfer, something I am passionate about.
My chief challenge is that the company is still male-dominated and that men are still viewed as the default leaders, which is why there’s a low representation of women in senior leadership roles. The way to circumvent this is for women to start gaining confidence in themselves, their capabilities and the uniqueness they bring to a boardroom. So we need to continuously raise our hands for more opportunities and to get more involved. We also need our male leaders to be supportive and realise that we can do the job. We need to believe that we can lead successful global organisations without sacrificing our family lives. It has to stop being an either-or situation. As women, we can build a family and still hold it together. We need to learn to build a support system that enables us to do this. We also need to encourage and support each other because we understand the challenges we each face.
So I am challenging the leaders in the IT industry and government to engage and coach more young women so they are equipped to take on senior leadership roles.
How would you encourage young women to get more involved?
Get involved in the conversations on social media and debates held by various associations. Our country, like the rest of the world, has “leapfrogged” to the fourth industrial revolution that will affect how we do business and live our lives. We need young women to be at the forefront of this digitisation and the Industry 4.0 era. I look forward to a world where women start companies that become disruptors and market leaders in this era.
Young women need to get the relevant qualifications and build support systems of mentors, coaches, sisters and friends. We can never change the world alone, we need a community that will challenge popular thinking and take us to greater heights – a community that will encourage and support us.
One thing I will say to any young person, first know who you are and embrace where you come from. Society, institutions and the media all tell us who we are supposed to be and the rules we need to conform to. Don’t conform. As women, we also need to accept we are nurturers, builders and emotional beings. We should not act like, and try to sound like a man. We need to embrace the unique dynamic that we bring to any situations.
Lastly, it is being said that inner peace is the new success. To achieve that, you must be okay with who you are. The world has a “leadership hangover” and I think it’s because we have lost the essence of human existence which is to serve and care for one another.
Can you share a few insights of the industry that you’ve gained over the course of your career?
This is one of the industries where things are constantly changing and if you’re myopic, you will quickly become irrelevant as a person or an organisation. “Relevance is the currency of value.” I have learnt the importance of nurturing and investing in talent as it contributes to the sustained success of any business. Without people, you have no business.