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Why knowledge is power

Aug 27 2012 13:37

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WHEN American software engineer and businessman Eric Schmidt addressed the students of the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, he made an insightful statement. "We have an opportunity for everyone in the world to have access to all the world's information.

"This has never been possible," he said. "Why is ubiquitous information so profound? It's a tremendous equaliser. Information is power."

This rings true for me. I work in an industry that is a true boy's club, but I've never let that dissuade me.

Yes, it comes with unique challenges, but women should never doubt themselves or feel intimidated by men because of their gender. I agree with Schmidt's statement – knowledge is the great equaliser and information is power.

If women know their subject and hold their ground in technical discussions, they will win the respect of their male peers who so enjoy the nuts and bolts of the IT and telecoms industry.

Likewise, strategy and learning has always been a passion of mine. I studied a BCom and was initially involved in education and setting up a business school in Pretoria, Gauteng. 

I also started up my own businesses on the side but kicked off my career in telecoms at Siemens Telecommunication as a fresh MBA graduate in their marketing and strategy division. Because I majored in strategic marketing in my MBA, the position sounded ideal for me - devising marketing strategies for the internal sales divisions. 

Telecoms happened to be the industry - specifically mobile telecoms, which had been all the rage in the early 2000s. Although this was seen as quite a technical (not to mention, male-dominated) industry, I was keen to gain experience and apply my newly-found skills in this industry.

I think young women today have less preconceived ideas about their typical roles. They should let go of them and look to women in senior positions in fields like engineering and IT for inspiration.

My advice to them would be to find out as much as possible about the industry before entering into a new field - for example, by doing an internship or talking to other women who occupy positions in the field. 

Pinky Moholi, CEO of Telkom - a very brave woman – is a great example of someone who was willing to take on a daunting task.

Again, knowledge is power. If you want to enter a field like telecommunications or technology, make sure that you know what you are letting yourself in for.

If this is what you want to do, go for it. It will help to specialise in a specific field since telecoms has many areas, ie mobile, fixed, converged, networks, applications, call centre, etc.

The industry is dynamic and you have to stay ahead of technology development as well as where the market is going. You need to know and understand your customer's needs and environment to ensure you bring them the products and services that best serve their needs. 

I greatly admire women like Irene Charnley. She was voted one of the top 50 businesswomen outside the US and is South Africa's 6th richest woman (she is believed to have amassed a net worth of $150m).

Aside from that, she is a diverse woman of many talents. She spent 13 years with the National Union of Mineworkers, has been executive director of companies like MTN, FirstRand Bank, Johnnic, Johnnic Communications and Smile Telecoms. 

She still serves on the MTN board and is currently the CEO of Smile Telecoms, an affordable telecoms product company working out of Mauritius and across Africa and the Middle East. 

Smile helps lower-income individuals have telecommunications and continues a line of anti-poverty programmes. Charnley is a great example of women who push through barriers to achieve great things.

If at the moment the industry seems skewed towards favouring men, don't let that stop you.

Knowledge is power and at the end of the day, most of the barriers that keep us from chasing after what we want in our careers are purely in our own heads.

*Mimi Viviers is key accounts executive at Connection Telecom. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.

Fin24 welcomes your participation in the campaign. Send your views to editor@fin24.com and you could get published.

Previous women's month columns:

Sweet and simple - Sandy Wilde, head of Sanlam icover

Does money matter
- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance.

Starting from scratch
- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group

 

* Follow Fin24 on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

workplace  |  women
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The leadership challenge

2014-09-16 07:09

 
 
 

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