It’s still Women’s Month and we continue to celebrate women breaking the glass ceiling in technology. These are Women in Tech who persistently empower other women and dominate the industry. For the second segment, we bring you Siphindokuhle (Phindi) Mazibuko, Director of Service Delivery in MEA at Mimecast where she leads a team of Technical Support Legends. The team supports the Middle East and Africa as well as customers around the globe on Mimecast services.
She has spent most of her career in the solutions development space, working her way from business analyst right to solutions management. She has worked with different business functions to improve efficiencies through data, processes and systems improvement.
Mazibuko hails from a township outside Newcastle in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa and later attended Vryheid Comprehensive Secondary School as a boarder. She then went on to pursue a computer science degree, which she obtained from the University of Zululand in 2003.
Here’s what transpired during her interview with IT News Africa:
1. You mentioned that your journey into technology was planned, what inspired your career choice?
My journey to tech was not planned – I was studying biomedicine when I was first introduced to a personal computer and its capabilities. I got quite intrigued on how this machine was operated and that curiosity resulted in a decision to pursue B.Sc. in Computer Science and that decision got me here, it could have not worked out better for me even if I planned for it.
2. Being female is a predominantly male industry, what have been some of the challenges you have encountered?
I guess it’s been a blessing to be a minority in most rooms and at some tables I find myself at. It has given me opportunities to hone in on my self-awareness, ability to not own other people’s behaviour and courage to speak to behaviours that offends me. But most importantly to question my “out of place feelings” which get triggered in various situation, which has allowed me to take ownership of my personal growth.
So, when I am in the meeting representing my employer’s solution architecture to an IT consulted who has been hired to work for my employer but choose to indirectly undermine my existence, I can confidently and directly address the behaviour while being respectful. For me being a minority has been a blessing rather than a challenge.
3. What advice would you give other women looking to take up a career in the tech industry?
Technology is intertwined with every industry and business functions, which allows for great exposure for people that have taken up IT as their career. The biggest drive of technology is to improve situations mainly by driving efficiencies, which is synonymous with innovation and constant changes and learning.
IT has allowed me to work in HR, Finance and banking, retail, warehouse and distribution, power generation, business advisory, IT resilience and security industry sectors and exposed me to multitudes technologies. You will never get bored!
4. Who is your biggest inspiration?
I get inspired by different situations and people all the time. However, my life is mainly influenced by my mother. I was reminiscing over her this past weekend and how she – my mother – has bulldozed through challenges to get her career where she wanted it to be. She had to write and obtain her grade 12 certificate, formerly known as form 5, even though she was a practising nurse and full-time mom at the time. She did this to enable her to further her tertiary nursing education.
I will never forget how hard she worked to get where she is today, her bed was always full of books, she was always studying, she sometimes fell asleep while studying because she would have been at work the entire day, came home to cook and clean and spend time with my sister and I and then only could she look at her assignments and study material.
5. As a Senior Service Delivery Manager at Mimecast, what does your job entail?
I am now a Director of Service Delivery in MEA – My job entails working on the global service delivery strategy with my colleagues and the VP of Service Delivery (my boss) and forging tactical plans to realise results. The biggest output to that is to sell the strategy and plans to the teams, as each member is the manufacturer of the dreams, without them envision results will not be realised.
The biggest portion of my time is also attributed to making sure that everyone in the team is set for success, starting with my own development, so that I am a better leader and also working with the managers and every member of the team on their development so that they can realise their potential.
The biggest thrill of what I do, is seeing people being successful in whatever goal they set for themselves, especially ones that really pushes the status quo with themselves.
6. What does a typical day in your life look like?
The best days are the ones that start early with exercise and end with reading either part of a book or an article. My day will start with a prayer and a journal writing, on a good day, that will be followed with a HIIT exercise and I would start going through emails and orienting myself to the day ahead and sometimes take early online meeting before heading to the office.
Once in the office I would review our performance against the objectives and note insight from the data both from the reports as well as stakeholders to discuss further with relevant teams. Throughout the day I attend meetings, ranging from meeting with customers, tactical ops meetings to internal stakeholders’ alignment. There is also a bit of “in the moment” situations which are necessary and one could never plan for.
The time in-between is spent getting a sense on the “health” of the team.
7. How would you describe your upbringing?
I was raised with “privileges” that most children around me didn’t have. I had several pair of shoes and clothing, I was fed nutritious food on a regular basis. I got the love of travelling from my parents, every December holidays, we would travel to Durban and stay in Holiday Inn, Marine Parade. I once got lost there, but that’s the story of another day 😊. We then spent the time sightseeing and spending considerable amount of time at the Durban expo.
My sister and I grew up to a ritual of waking up finding gifts in our room to celebrate major holidays and birthdays. One Easter, my sister and I woke up to a portable blackboard written “Happy Easter” with Easter eggs at the foot of the board. I wrote on that board until was I was 12, pretending to be a teacher😊
I grew up with parents that prioritised education to a point that I knew well in advanced that I will do my high school education through a boarding school and soon after, I would be required to attend a tertiary institution. Anything regarding school was prioritised, I remember while attending lower primary school my school shoes got torn and were letting in water, but I didn’t tell my mom about it. For some context, I attended my primary schooling in a township, and I would walk for a distance of about 6/7 km to and back to school. So, when it rained in the morning I will wear gumboots but if it rains in the afternoon I would walk in the rain with my normal school shoes. One morning while preparing for school, the day before I had left my shoes outside since there were wet as it was raining that day, my mother brought them in to place them in front of a heater to dry them out, she then realised that the shoes had holes in them and was more concerned that I didn’t tell her about it and needless to say that same day that I got new school shoes.
8. What is your opinion on gender diversity and inclusion in the tech industry?
I think there are many facets to this question. ICT was considered a non-traditional role for women for a very long time and its possibly perceived as such by some people.
Recent research has indicated more female students, than male counterparts, are graduating tertiary institutions with qualification in the STEM space and yet most females are still not making the decision to join ICT. About 23 per cent of the technical roles are held by women in South Africa.
One can make the assumptions that the old perception of men working in the basement with no human interactions, could be the reason women a shying aware from ICT.
The perception is not changing quickly enough as women that make it to the leadership roles in the technical roles are way too far in-between.
I believe the issue is the numbers issues, early indicator that one will end up in ICT is their interest in science and maths subjects and as well as exposure to computer way before they get to tertiary to assist with providing information about ICT and change perceptions on what ICT entails and economics benefits.
The transformation on the technical roles is slow and not moving at the pace that is necessary which means, we will all miss out of the benefit that diversity will encourage on most, if not all the solutions moving the globe forward. As great as these solutions might be, they could be even better.
9. What are your future plans?
To be more courageous and believe even more in myself and work on myself. Continue to aggressively create opportunities for me by focusing on personal growth and applying myself completely in every task I take on. I have a friend who is the biggest “human success” activist I know, and he has been pushing me to get involved in society work. I want to get involved with society work, possibly work with girls, my heart lights up every time a woman breaks boundaries or when I see a woman just living her life according to her own truth.
I am bought into technology’s purpose to elevate and improve situations, I am going to continue to realise that purpose.