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Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

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Lillian Barnard, a tech enthusiast and seasoned professional has spent over 20 years of her career working her way up the ladder in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, both locally and abroad. And she’s found real success.

In March 2019, Lillian was appointed as the Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa in March, 2019. She became the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in South Africa in the early 1990’s.  In her words, She said “My experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.” In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola, Lillian spoke about her passion for technology, experiences in top executive positions in the ICT industry, her vision and goals for Microsoft under her leadership. Excerpt.

 

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

From as young as 12 years old, I realise the value of education and the importance of Mathematics.  I was crystal clear that I was going to go to University and pursue a degree in Commerce.  I was exceptionally fortunate that I was enabled the opportunity to realise this dream, especially in the era in which I grew up.

 

Recently, you were the first woman appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa. How does this make you feel and were you surprised?

I am honoured to be the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in the country in the early 1990s. I am extremely passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.

My first 3 months in role have been filled with excitement. In my first week, I had the opportunity to be part of a momentous occasion where Microsoft launched the opening of the state-of-the-art datacentres as well our multi-million-dollar investment to create economic opportunities for South Africa through the evolved Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).

 

With 20 years’ ICT experience in leadership roles in South Africa and Internationally. What’s the greatest hurdle you’ve encountered, and how did you overcome it?

I was fortunate that early in my career, I was identified as Top Talent, and as result was often placed in roles which I felt required more experience than I could offer at point.  There were three key learnings that I had, which enabled to overcome an hurdle I faced.

Firstly, I realised that my diversity of thinking, my tenacity and my passion for what I do are they three things that often enable my success in any task.

Secondly, I realised that confidence in my abilities – and finding this quickly – was going to be important as I progressed in my career, because I always had ambitious goals.

Finally, and this is still true to this, life is going to be a continuous learning journey of self- discovery that you are going to have to embrace.

 

How has your background prepared you for success in the technology ecosystem?

I have more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry, and have held various executive positions with IBM and Vodacom, both locally and abroad, that have enabled me to gain extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership.

This experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.

My time as an entrepreneur really taught me the importance of resilience, and to keep focusing on your end goal and not give up until you achieve it.

I have also been fortunate to have a number of strong mentors, through whom I have learnt some key leadership lessons, and in particular the importance of leading through inspiration, constant focus on your people and continuous communication.

 

Tell us about your philosophy and leadership style?

In South Africa, leaders must make learning a new way of life and have to become intentional about their learning agenda; because the tech industry is ever changing. This will ensure that you keep your skills current and it will ensure that you remain relevant.

In my journey to leadership, I learnt that it is critical to have faith in your capabilities and the confidence to express those capabilities through your authentic voice. My personal mandate is to ensure that through authenticity; I am transparent, honest and effective in communicating plans and goals for the organisation and doing so with clarity.

People has always been at the core of my focus. As a leader you must be transformational in your approach and build a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is fair to say that we all understand diversity, but inclusivity is so important, and this is all about focusing on the needs of every individual, ensuring that the right conditions are in place, so everyone can reach their full potential.

As a global organisation that is committed to finding new ways of empowering people to achieve more, we are constantly evolving and creating change from within, so we can provide the best possible service to our customers.

We obsess over what matters to our customers, becoming more diverse and inclusive in everything we do and create, operating as one company instead of multiple siloed businesses and lastly, to making a difference in the lives of each other, our customers and the world around us.

Our business is anchored in a growth mindset, this inspires us to be curious about our customers — learning all we can about their needs and challenges with a beginner’s mind — and then bringing innovative and practical solutions to meet their needs and surprise and delight them. We believe by applying a growth mindset, we have the ability to change the world; empowering every person and every organisation to achieve more.

Also Read Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

What’s the best and worst decision you’ve ever made? And how were you able to turn the bad decision around?

I live with the philosophy that the only risks that we regret are the ones that we have not taken.  As such, I focus on ensuring I deliver to best on all the decisions that I have taken, while learning and moving on from the ones that didn’t work out as planned.

 

What’s the greatest transformation in tech you’ve witnessed in your career and the next big thing in ecosystem?

We are in the midst of a technological revolution, the 4th industrial revolution, and I believe that artificial intelligence(AI)  will be the defining technology of this time. Similar to the discovery of electricity or the development of the steam engine, I believe that AI will have the power to fundamentally change people’s lives, transforming industry and transforming society.

When developed at scale, quantum computing will change the world.  Imagine a computer that could accurately model the natural world, allowing us to create real and practical solutions to climate change. A computer that could accurately model human biological systems, leading to new and incredible breakthroughs in medicine.

 

Women in technology are definitely in the minority, how are you encouraging and supporting women to come be part of the ecosystem?

Women are still under represented and having women’s representation in these fields is not only a matter of fairness, but our economies and societies also lose out when we fail to engage half of the world’s brainpower in our engines of innovation.

We need to encourage interest from the early years of development, combat stereotypes, train teachers to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers, develop curricula that are gender-sensitive, and mentor girls and young women to adopt different mind-sets.

I have played a pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of Women@Microsoft and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.

At Microsoft, we start early in the pipeline by sparking girls’ interest in technology, for example:

  • Our YouthSpark programmes seek to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to learn computer science through unique partnerships with governments, business, and non-profit organisations such as Code.org. Girls represent 52 percent of the total beneficiaries of YouthSpark. Through YouthSpark we spearhead an initiative, DigiGirlz which is aimed at giving middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
  • Microsoft started a movement, inspiring girls, as well as the parents, educators and nonprofits who encourage and support them, to #MakeWhatsNext. Not only does this open up opportunities for careers in the technology industry, but in our increasingly digital world, STEM skills also offer a leg up for those wanting to become researchers, consultants, business managers, teachers and many more.

What is your vision and goals for the Microsoft South Africa brand under your leadership?

Short term;

  • I believe that cloud computing presents a big opportunity for Microsoft in SA. Public cloud services are set to triple in the next five years. This is because a lot of businesses are looking to drive innovation from cloud services.  The recent opening of the datacentres and EEIP investment talks to the heart of our focus for the next 2 – 3 years.
  • I also want to work closely with our partners to make sure we continue to build the requisite skill sets so that South Africa can continue to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become an emerging giant in this space. How we will skill our people to prepare them for the job of the future will also be a challenge.
  • I want to continue driving the agenda of a more inclusive and diverse workplace by providing equal opportunities for men and women.

Long term;

  • As I mentioned earlier, I am passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.
  • Together with our partner ecosystem, we are focussed on enabling business and Government to harness the opportunity presented by these emerging technologies in an ethical and inclusive manner to ensure that every individual is empowered and benefits from the digital era.

 

What are you seeing with organisations as Microsoft South Africa that have a social mission?

I believe that companies that have a social mission, aligned to their core business, tend to be more inspiring to their customers, partners and employees.  People deeply commit to companies with an authentic higher purpose – and it enables them to be passionate about what they are doing!

It not just about doing good or doing business, it is about doing good business.

 

Teach us one word in your home language. What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa.

In South Africa we are spoilt with our choice of incredible food.  But, with the beautiful oceans surrounding, I have to say I love fish!

 

Her Short Bio:

Lillian Barnard was appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa in March 2019. She joined Microsoft in May 2017 as Public Sector Director for South Africa, a role she held for almost two years.

Lillian has more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry. She is a seasoned professional with proven capabilities and a strong understanding of local market. Through the various executive positions that Lillian has held, both locally and abroad, she has gained extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership. This experience, combined with her deep industry knowledge, positions her perfectly to strengthen Microsoft’s commitment to South Africa and its wishes to drive its digital transformation ambitions and empower governments, organisations and individuals to achieve more.

She has become renowned for building strong, high-performing teams that consistently deliver on their financial targets, while also bringing innovative digital solutions to her partners and customers. Having led large teams both locally and abroad, she is recognised for strength in developing people and creating an environment where everyone can do their best work.

Lillian is passionate about enabling a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. By drawing on her own experiences, she endeavours to create a culture that enables people to bring their authentic selves to the workplace and be embraced for that individuality. She has been pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of Women@Microsoft and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Lillian served as Chief Sales Officer for Vodacom’s Enterprise Business for two years. She also headed LillianB Consulting Services where she was an advisor and coach to business leaders. During Lillian’s 15-year career at IBM, she held a number of key leadership positions, including working for 7-years at the IBM European Headquarters in France and Switzerland.

She previously served on the boards of Vodacom South Africa, Mango Airlines and Dad-fund Non-Profit Organization.

Lillian holds a BCom Honours in Business Economics from the University of the Western Cape.

CEO Corner

African Bank Appoints Kennedy Bungane, CEO

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African Bank New CEO, Kennedy Bungane (Press Release & Image: African Bank)

African Bank (“Board”) announces the appointment of Mr. Kennedy Bungane as the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) and as an executive director of the Bank and its holding company, African Bank Holdings Limited (“ABH”) effective 14 April 2021. The Bank confirms that the appointment of Kennedy was done in accordance with African Bank’s policy on the selection and nomination of executive directors, and in order to fill a vacancy as well as add to the skillset on the Board.

Kennedy brings over 20 years of banking experience with him, having started his career at Standard Bank in 1991, holding a number of senior positions, including Head of Global Markets Sales, Head of Institutional and Corporate Banking, CEO Corporate and Investment Banking for Standard Bank South Africa, and a member of the Standard Bank Group Executive Committee. After joining Barclays Africa in 2012 as Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Limited and Head of Absa Group strategy, Kennedy led the sale of Barclays Africa Limited to the ABSA Group. More recently, Kennedy headed up the Phembani Group as its CEO. He also brings investment and strategic experience gained as the founder and chairman of Nokeng Telecoms and chairman of Idwala Capital.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Master of Business Administration, and completed the advanced management program at the Harvard Business School (USA).

Commenting on Kennedy’s appointment, the Chairman of the Board, Thabo Dloti, stated, “We welcome the appointment of Kennedy as the new permanent CEO. Kennedy has a keen sense for managing complex stakeholder issues. He has a proven track record in identifying and nurturing leadership, which promotes strong teams to deliver successful results. His passion for the role that banking can play in transforming society resonated strongly with the Board.

As an experienced banker, he also critically has a good grasp of the strategic challenges facing the Bank, within a muted South African economy and competitive landscape, as well as the required regulatory and governance framework.

 

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CEO Corner

African Visionary Fund (AVFund) Appoints New co-CEO, Atti Worku

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African Visionary Fund (AVFund) New co-CEO, Atti Worku (Source: African Visionary Fund Website)

About a year ago, African Visionary Fund launched with a bold mission to tackle the inequities and power imbalances in global philanthropy by driving unrestricted resources to African visionaries. At the heart of all they do their values of equity and solidarity, which compel them to center African voices at every level of the organization. They are thrilled to announce the Fund’s new Africa-based co-CEO, Atti Worku!

Atti brings a wealth of experience in the nonprofit world, is a strong advocate for local founders, and is dedicated to righting the historic funding inequity that can hold them back. Prior to joining the Fund, Atti founded and led Seeds of Africa for over 10 years. Seeds is an Ethiopian grassroots organization dedicated to developing the educational foundation for the next generation of African leaders. Under her leadership, Seeds grew from an after-school program serving 15 kids to becoming a full-time multi-dimensional school educating 250 students from pre-K to middle school, and working with over 150 of their mothers providing small business entrepreneurship micro-loans and resources. In just over a decade Seeds has impacted the lives of over 2,000 people, transforming the trajectories of students, teachers, mothers, and their families and creating a future brimming with possibilities beyond a poverty trap.

“My mission is to advocate for African visionaries to be recognized by funders as experts, equal partners and critical drivers of systems change. I’m excited to learn from incredible African leaders with big dreams and even bigger global potential.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Why Co-leadership

The African Visionary Fund is built on the firm belief that proximity matters. Seeded by a group of foundations and philanthropists who wanted to not only take action on equity but also be intentional about shifting the power over resources to African visionaries, shared leadership has been part of the Fund’s DNA from the beginning.

“Co-leadership is mission critical. We cannot build new models for equity-centered philanthropy without living those values within our own institution.” -Katie Bunten-Wamaru, AVFund co-CEO

The AVFund’s organizational journey started with collective and shared leadership in mind as our Founding Working Group worked with our leadership to inform and design all aspects of our organization and funding model. This majority-African, majority-doer group considered a number of different leadership structures for the Fund but gravitated towards co-leadership because it prioritizes proximity and equity, centers the experience of African visionaries, and ultimately helps us shift power.

Our Founding Working Group proved that we can co-create new models of philanthropy centered on collective leadership that shift power and center equity – our co-leadership model is the natural, values-aligned extension of that founding idea.

The Fund

Atti’s lived experience as an African founder has given her firsthand experience of the realities and complexities that local innovators face, making her a great partner in executing the Fund’s mission.

“This role is very personal to me. I see myself in the ambitious and innovative entrepreneurs we engage with at the AVFund. I hope to learn from them, and partner with them to redesign funding systems that give African visionaries an equitable chance of success.” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

The barriers for African visionaries have been well documented with data showing that less than 5.2% of US foundation giving specific to Africa goes to African-led organizations. And in Atti’s experience, sometimes philanthropy’s oversight of African founders translates into a heavy emotional toll, an internal struggle she also had to deal with in her experience fundraising for her organization. She is committed to helping other African visionaries by being “the voice that reassures and validates them in the face of injustices.”

“Raising philanthropic dollars can be a long trauma for African social entrepreneurs and other leaders of color. On one hand, you’re doing innovative, high-impact work, but on the other, you are constantly being asked to prove yourself on a level far beyond your peers, doing so, and somehow still falling short. Aggregate data on racial inequity in philanthropy already speaks volumes, but systemic injustice is deeply personal. It took me years to realize that I wasn’t the problem,” Atti shared.

On Co-leadership

At the core, the AVFund seeks to create a bridge between global philanthropy and innovative African social changemakers and to do that, it’s critical to have proximity to both our visionary partners and our funding partners. Shared leadership makes this possible.

“There is an inherent tension in the work of the AVFund – we call it the ‘play the game, change the game’ balance. We want to support African social changemakers to play the game to access more sustainable funding now, while also challenging the status quo in ways that build a more equitable philanthropic ecosystem in the long run,” Katie explained. “There will always be a need to balance this tension – having a co-leadership model helps us balance both sides of our work and not lose sight of either goal.”

Having been on both sides of the table, Atti believes a further added benefit of co-leadership lies in the fact that representation matters. “I have been a micro-funder through Seeds and have seen the value of someone like you believing in your vision and empowering it,” she shared.

“At AVFund, we celebrate and choose co-leadership because we recognize the importance of diversity for strong, grounded and authentic leadership.” -Melizsa Mugyenyi, Advisory Board Member.

The Future

Atti joins the Fund at a crucial season of our organizational journey as we look to deepen our impact across the continent – we are more than a third of the way towards reaching our goal to raise US$10 million which will enable us to provide 35 nonprofits across Africa with unrestricted, multiyear grants by 2023.

In the near-term, the Fund is also on track to commit atleast another $US1 million later this year and partner with more African social innovators. Atti is particularly excited to work with those at the forefront of leading-edge innovations whose potential for impact is inhibited by lack of resources and buy-in from funders.

“African visionaries aren’t often given the resources they need to validate the new concepts they have which really makes innovation very difficult. A lack of unrestricted funding for the disruptive ideas coming out of Africa limits potential and slows development. I’m ready to help change that in every way we can!” -Atti Worku, AVFund co-CEO

Source AVFund

 

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CEO Corner

Rolake Rosiji, ex-Country Manager M-KOPA Solar Appointed As The New CEO Of Jobberman Nigeria

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Rolake Rosiji, CEO at Jobberman (Source: ROAM)

Jobberman, the single largest job placement platform in sub-Saharan Africa, has announced the appointment of Rolake Rosiji as the new CEO. Rolake takes over from Hilda Kragha, now Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs, and will continue the work of establishing Jobberman as the primary platform for job searching, talent acquisition and transforming workplace productivity across Nigeria.

Jobberman’s technology-driven platform, which uses tools such as application tracking, data science for skills and personality assessment, connects over 1 million job seekers to employers. With over a decade of experience in the recruitment industry, the company has built a reputation of trust and strong partnerships with the country’s most coveted employers; matching talented candidates with jobs according to their skillset.

Rolake joins Jobberman with a decade of global experience in strategic leadership and operational excellence. Most recently, she led the technology and sales operations for credit financed smartphones and solar power sets as Country Manager of M-KOPA Nigeria; a connected asset financing company that makes financing for everyday essentials accessible to everyone. Prior to that, she was Head of Strategy & Business Development for Arla Foods Africa, where she developed distribution and joint venture partnerships across West Africa to rapidly scale up sales and worked in Corporate Strategy roles in Denmark and the USA. Her proven track record of business expansion projects, digital and technical transformation and executing strategic partnerships will be key to her implementation for growth and development of the brand.

Commenting on her new role as CEO, Rolake Rosiji said “This is a very exciting chapter in my career and I am delighted to be joining such a passionate and innovative team. Jobberman has built a brand of excellence by using technology to revolutionise the recruitment sector. I look forward to steering the company vision to build a market of greater technology adoption, democratic access and transparency that will tackle dominant challenges, notably youth unemployment and underemployment.  It is a privilege for me to be at the helm of this dynamic team as we set out to empower job seekers with key skills and improve workplace productivity for employers in Nigeria.”

Hilda Kragha, Managing Director of ROAM Africa Jobs added “I am delighted that Rolake has taken on this position. Rolake’s expertise, understanding of different markets and high performance is what makes her the perfect person to anchor the next phase for Jobberman. I look forward to working with her to take Jobberman to even greater heights.”

Rolake took on her role as CEO on February 1st 2021. Her focus will be to broaden the impact beyond the white-collar space and continue to work closely with Jobberman’s impact partners in tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria.

ROAM

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