IBM’s Siyasanga Sihawu on Cloud Adoption Strategies and Women in Tech

Siyasanga Sihawu, Client Technical Lead, IBM Southern Africa.

August is Women’s Month in South Africa – and this month IT News Africa has been connecting with women in technology to provide needed signal-boosting for individuals in an industry that, especially in Africa, is male-dominated.

ITNA’s Luis Monzon had the chance to chat with Siyasanga Sihawu, a client technical lead at IBM Southern Africa. Sihawu is part of IBM’s technical team and engages with clients daily, aiding them on their cloud journeys. She also lectures part-time at the Tshwane University of Technology, focusing on Strategic Information Systems.

A few years ago, Sihawu co-founded the Mbutho Community Edu NGO, combining an interest in agriculture, technology and community building to give back to schools and young professionals. Her community work gives students access to information on how to pair ICT’s and agriculture.

In the Q&A below, Sihawu touches on cloud adoption strategies – including the challenges in moving away from legacy tech and important insights into navigating the tech industry as a woman professional. Finally, she gives a distinct perspective on why digital transformation matters for women in Africa too.

Here’s what transpired:

The adoption of Cloud has become a touchstone in Africa’s continued digital transformation, but one of the largest challenges to the technology’s usage is the hesitancy to move away from legacy tech.

  • What are the reasons why some may feel hesitant to move into Cloud Computing?

The main reason some are hesitant has been the security around cloud computing, especially with recurring cyber-attacks and leakages of confidential information.

Often it has been that the security policies, controls and technologies were not addressing some concerns the way stakeholders understand them – especially as all businesses set out to always be available to their customers, operate with trust and integrity and secure every business interaction that takes place.

I would say the adoption of cloud especially during this pandemic period has shown awareness and willingness of businesses to trust the technologies that are available because of the value these technologies demonstrate in addressing and resolving the pain points that businesses face currently and by doing so, help them achieve their objectives.

  • What should African business leaders keep in mind when beginning their journeys’ into the Cloud?

They should have an end in mind i.e. what they want to achieve as a business. They need to foresee what their cloud journey is going to look like and what they want to achieve by going through this journey.

For instance, if they have in-house monolithic applications then they should plan on how they are going to move from that to cloud-native applications and be clear what that will mean in terms of business e.g. rapid deployment of applications which will result in time-saving, cost savings, etc.

For each customer, the journey is going to be different depending on where they are currently. And with hybrid cloud, it becomes even easier to start the journey because it means the customer will still use their on-premises infrastructure investments together with cloud services for a better outcome.

  • As a woman in a significant position for a major ICT company, what mindsets should other women have when considering a career in tech? What insights can you share about navigating being a woman in this field?

Tech careers are for everyone who has passion and talent for it, it is not only a career for certain people, so that should be our first point of departure.

Yes, [the industry] is still male-dominated but things are shifting slowly but surely. It is important that while we, women, are in this field, we should own our own careers fully, and raise our hands when opportunities present themselves because no one will do that for us.

I believe we should be able to reach out to women who are already ahead and also open a door for those up and coming women behind us.

Let’s not be afraid to voice our opinions and understand the responsibility that comes with that privilege.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dire truth – Companies need to adapt or be left behind.

  • Why do you believe digital transformation is important for Africa, and the women who live there?

It is important for Africa and the women who live here not only because it is a trend that is happening globally, but also because it provides an opportunity for border-less education, access to services and also more and growing business opportunities – to name a few.

With Africa’s population estimated to be around 1.4-billion in 2020 and almost 60% are under 25 years of age, this calls for businesses to have a shift in perspective on who is using their services and understanding of new behaviours to develop better and more effective ways to reach out and service this young demographic.

It is also particularly important for women – we make up more than half of the population and it makes sense for us to be at the core of digital transformation in our society.

As women, we are also a majority of consumers of these services and being part of the transformation will allow us to have a voice on how we would like them to be.

By Luis Monzon
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