T-Systems South Africa has a proud 22-year history in South Africa, having first invested in the country in 1997. As a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, T-Systems South Africa is a global ICT services firm which has delivered innovative solutions for South Africa’s leading public and private sector enterprises.
With its head office located in Midrand, and a second major office in Cape Town, and other representative offices in locations throughout South Africa, the company is among the top leading businesses in the T-Systems International Group.
T-Systems South Africa provides powerful assets to support and make ICT strategies real, end-to-end and scalable. The company’s four core focus areas – connectivity, digital, cloud and security, create value for businesses and are integrated by the unique ‘T-Systems approach’.
In 2018, the Level 1 Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) contributor, tasked Dineo Molefe to take over the reigns as Managing Director to steer T-Systems South Africa in a new direction, focusing on medium sized businesses as well as large enterprises with an offering that is geared to propel its customers into a new, competitive and digitised era of commerce. As a seasoned professional, Dineo’s strength lies in not only finance but also in repositioning business for growth and sustainability. She has achieved this at T-Systems South Africa by shifting and repositioning its market focus, transforming the business to increase efficiency and customer base, whilst navigating the businesses through a number of critical issues.
SAprofessionals.com sat down with Managing Director at T-Systems South Africa Dineo Molefe for an in-depth chat about her personal and professional journey thus far.
Tell us about your early life, your training, professional development to your role today
I was born and raised in Diepkloof, Soweto. After matriculating with a distinction in Mathematics, I joined the world of work as a filing clerk at one of the major banks. I also started studying towards a degree via distance learning. I knew from high school that I wanted to be a Chartered Accounted, it was a goal I worked towards and I never lost focus.
I completed my first degree at the age of 21 from UNISA, thereafter obtained my honours in accounting and qualified as a Chartered Accountant (CA) SA in 2003. During my studies I was awarded a Grant Thornton bursary which enabled me to join the company and complete my articles with them. After completing articles, I worked for a couple of organisations including the Industrial Development Corporation and Eskom.
After gaining valuable experience at these companies, I advanced my career with a position at Thebe Investment Corporation as a Group Financial Manager. After two years in this role I was promoted to Group Financial Director, a position I held for four years before taking up an opportunity to join Vodacom South Africa where I held the executive role of Finance Executive – Financial Planning and Analysis, before moving to T-Systems South Africa in 2016 as Chief Financial Officer. When my predecessor resigned, I was appointed Managing Director of T-Systems South Africa in May 2018.
Have you had any particular challenges as a woman professional that you think differ from your male counterparts? How have you tackled them?
I show up as a competent leader who happens to be a woman, and I use all aspects of who I am to positively impact on my environment.
Although we have ‘equal opportunities’, the ability to fully exercise those opportunities differs between men and women. I believe our society needs to evolve from being predominantly patriarchal and needs to be more socially accepting and supportive of women in powerful positions. The role of motherhood is a wonderful part of womanhood, it does however come with added pressure that men do not face as they build their careers and businesses, because taking care of children predominantly lies with mothers. Balance, although desirable, is a very difficult thing to attain.
What does it mean to you that your colleagues have entrusted you with the position of MD?
I am excited about the opportunity and challenge to reposition, rebuild and grow the organisation.
This is an exciting time in history, where we are seeing more and more equalization of power, albeit slowly, where we are seeing the ICT industry leadership beginning to reflect the demographic of the country, and more and more women across industries occupying senior and powerful roles. This gives me hope, that our daughters have more and more professionally successful women to look up to as role models, and therefore they themselves can attain same.
I am excited to be part of making this history, this is a special time for the women of South Africa. Being a mother of boys, I am excited about my sons seeing me do what I do, their worldview of women is thus progressive, it’s what we all need today.
What would you like to have achieved by the end of your term as MD?
I would like to look back and see a company where I made a difference and was instrumental in reinventing and transforming the business to become one of the most successful players in the ICT space in South Africa. I also aim to leave a legacy where ethics, diversity and transformation, both in T-Systems and South Africa, are continually pursued and promoted through action.
How would you describe your management and leadership styles?
My management style is inclusive leadership and I engage across all layers of the business, listening to each voice. I believe that everyone’s voice counts.
I believe that you can get the most honest analysis and feedback on business operations from areas least expected in the business. It is therefore important to have your ear on the ground, and listen.
What makes you tick or keeps you awake at night with respect to your position as MD?
It is growing the business and gaining new customers. Also, I would like to see people realising their best potential and excelling in their roles.
How do you take part in mentoring others?
Mentorship is something that is very close to my heart. Throughout my professional career and personal life, I have made a point of being available as a mentor. I believe it is important to create environments that support mentorship – especially with the development of young women. Whilst at Thebe, I established the Thebe Women’s Empowerment Programme, “Thebe Ya Mosadi”.
Presently with T-Systems I am leading the Women of T-Systems initiative. My involvement in these initiatives stems from my desire to assist women to gain the necessary skills to foster leadership, understand and change learned behaviours that often stunt their professional growth, and to align themselves to ensure career growth and success.
I am extremely proud of what has been achieved by both Thebe Ya Mosadi and the Women of T-Systems in uplifting women who in turn are passing on the lessons learned to their own daughters and communities.
I am passionate about mentorship and often take part in speaking engagements, making myself available for one-on-one sessions, setting up and championing initiatives that serve as a platform for development.
If you had to relate a couple of experiences, what would be the highs and what would be the lows of your working career?
I have worked to guarantee that the highs of my working career are outweigh the lows. For example, I worked against all odds to qualify as CA(SA) and went on to become a Group Financial Director by at 32 and a Managing Director by the age of 40. I have used my position to impact on women in the workplace and society.
The low is a function of being “the first in a generation”, a single parent and trying to build a legacy for my family. This comes with a sacrifice and at times I could not spend as much time with my family as would have wanted.
What accolades have you and your organisation received recently?
These are our latest accolades:
- (2018) Vision 2030 – ICT Category Award
- The Vision 2030 awards honour organisations, enterprises and individuals who successfully demonstrate active alignment to the government’s Nine-Point Plan to boost economic growth, and achieve the milestones set by the National Development Plan (NDP).
- (2018) Gender Mainstreaming Awards – Investing in young women
- (2018) Gender Mainstreaming Awards – Positive role model: Dineo Molefe
- The Gender Mainstreaming Awards give public recognition to corporates who have championed gender mainstreaming within their organisations and communities.
How has the firm fared in terms of achieving its business growth objectives?
We are in a phase of transformation which was led by market changes and developments along with the transitioning of two anchor accounts. However, we have a 2020 growth strategy in place which I recently launched in a series of roadshows.
We have seen growth in our base in 2019 and this will be cemented by the foundations we have put in place for 2020 to continue the upward trajectory.
We expect to close off the current year reflecting a double-digit growth in revenue.
Our vision is to be a growing company that operates on trust, integrity and ethics, and the people are proud in working for the company. We see ourselves as being a partner of choice for customers as well as an employer of choice that continues to invest in South Africa in order to reduce unemployment and help grow the economy.
Through what means does the organisation ensure that the firm maintains high level of ethics and integrity?
When I took over as MD, one of the things that was high on my ‘to do’ list was rebuilding trust, integrity and ethics of T-Systems South Africa so that our people are proud to work for the company.
I have now strengthened compliance, procurement and governance by making the compliance function part of EXCO, holding people accountable where wrongdoing is found and increasing efforts on training on anti-bribery and corruption and compliance training for employees.
My Executive Team and I uphold the values of ethical behaviour and integrity, setting the example and a standard for our employees.
Is transformation considered a key objective at the firm, and if so, how is it attended to?
T-Systems South Africa believes in transformation and we are very conscious about ensuring that our initiatives and business processes are underpinned by transformation. As a leader in the organisation, I believe that our transformation agenda should not be for compliance, but it should happen because it is the right thing to do.
A case in point is how we is deliberately implemented transformation in our skills development programmes by driving for a 50% female representation in the programmes we do for young people.
Kindly highlight some recent contributions by the firm to the community and to the relevant professions your professionals are a part of.
Community development is critical to our business strategy – this is evident with our Nation Building Initiative that is aligned to the National Development Plan 2030. The focus of our initiative is developing skills for the ICT sector in the country.
We are running an ICT Academy in Johannesburg-CBD, where unemployed youth can obtain an internationally recognised qualification in ICT. What is noteworthy is that this college boasts an 85% employment rate. We also provide internships to graduates. Another example is our flagship community partnership project – the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre (in Mpumalanga) – that has evolved to become a unique “rural near-shoring” success story.
How does the firm ensure that professionalism and good customer service are upheld?
Customer centricity is at the core of everything we do. This means that everyone is working towards the objective of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. This is not only a local view but is driven from our parent company, T-Systems International. The global organisation embarked on a new strategy that drives outcomes for its customers by ‘powering higher performance’.
We are also reinforcing this by driving a culture of outward mindset within the company through a series of exchanges where we promote working in a collaborative manner, highlighting the impact of non-performance on colleagues as well as customers.
Do you believe your company is a great company to work for? Please list recent achievements that make it stand out from others in the same industry.
I am focused on positioning the company as the “employer of choice”. Our recent accolades in Gender Mainstreaming and Vision 2030 are testimony to the fact that we don’t only focus on the ‘bottom line’ but also how we can make an impact in the lives of our immediate and external communities.
Furthermore, the fact that we are a global company means that we have access to the best skills from our international counterparts and facilitate skills transfer for our local employees, providing them with skills development and growth opportunities internationally.
When you not at work, what do you get up to, including family life?
I prioritise ‘quiet time’ in the mornings for thinking and reflection. I also enjoy physical activity such as kick boxing.
Where can people follow you online?
I am on LinkedIn as Dineo Molefe.