Tapping into the 4IR & creating skills for the industry of the future

 In Features, Female Entrepreneurs, Leadership

Short Biography : Ayanda Zimkhitha Saki

Ms Saki is an experienced CXO, Executive & Board Member and the founder and CEO at AtDigitalyze. Apart from her business aspirations, Ms. Saki is a thought leader, speaker and social entrepreneur, looking to contribute:

  • In efforts to transition South Africa to the Digital Age & the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • To the development of future skills in ICT & 4IR through the 4IR-for-Youth initiative
  • To the development of South Africa’s economy leveraging technology, especially 4IR related technologies, and
  • Towards improving the quality of life of South Africans by creating skills and future leaders

She is versatile, dynamic and has had an incredible career track record that has earned her much recognition in the ICT Space in South Africa and abroad. Ms Saki holds a BSc in Computer Science (Fort Hare), an MBA and MRes (PhD Option) (Liverpool).

She is Chairman of the Board at a Private enterprise and a member of the Chartered CIO Council in South Africa.  Ms. Saki is a single mother to Imbasa, an avid traveller and she loves to meet new people, experience new places and new ways of life.

Personal Info & Preferences:

Name:  Ayanda Zimkhitha Saki
Country: South Africa
Title:  Founder and CEO at AtDigitalyze

Website: www.atdigitalyze.com/

Interview

  1. Why do you do what you do?

South Africa is a country of many challenges namely lack information, communication and technology skills (“ICT skills”), which has hampered competitiveness and economic growth for many years. This has led to a stagnant and shrinking economy, joblessness and increasing levels of poverty over the years.

As someone who has been instrumental in helping companies leverage technology for profit, I am convinced about the positive impact technology will bring, especially digitalisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (“4IR”) on economic growth. As a result, starting AtDigitalyze was a natural next step after leaving a CIO role in December 2018.

The main aim of AtDigitalyze is to help businesses and organisations to strategically leverage Information, Communication and Technologies (ICT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to unlock untapped opportunities, maximise value and successfully compete in the Digital Age.

At AtDigitalyze, we also seek to contribute to the development of ICT and 4IR skills particularly for the youth, to produce leaders, pioneers and innovators of the future.

All these efforts cause AtDigitalyze to participate and contribute in the development and sustainability of South Africa’s economy. This will be achieved through the business activities we are offering, the development of skills and ultimately the development of entrepreneurs in the short, medium and long term.

At a societal level, we hope that this will lead to an improved economy, job opportunities that will lead to alleviation of poverty and a better quality of life for all South Africans.

  1. What are the keys to success in life and business?

For me, nothing beats hard work! With all the talent, intelligence, imagination one has, nothing will happen until I start working and working hard towards that which I hope to achieve. And I truly believe that any dream, goal or purpose without work is a pipe dream that will never be realised. Tim Notke’s quote says this best, “Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard”.

Grit is another attribute I believe is very crucial for entrepreneurs because we work so hard for excessive amounts of time without seeing immediate results. This requires us to persevere, to focus on the purpose and overcome challenges, obstacles and discouragement. We have to consistently stay on our course.  President Mandel’s quote here for me always rings true, “it always seems impossible until it’s done”.

I do like to combine passion and optimism together in this third point because an insanely optimistic attitude to me is an outward manifestation of the passion that rages inside of a person. You need both in order to persistently pursue a goal or purpose one absolutely loves and believe that you will succeed in the end. Passion motivates one to walk their talk and pursue with everything they’ve got, be it words and hard work.

  1. How would you describe your business to a potential client?

AtDigitalyze is an ICT services company that sells expert ICT Knowledge, expertise as in skilled personnel, services like Advisory, Strategy & Consultation plus Technology Infrastructure.

The ICT services we sell refer to all areas of ICT inclusive of technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). For example, Rapid Process Automation, Mobile Solutions, Artificial Intelligence, Business Intelligence, Analytics are just a few to name.

While we help companies maintain and improve existing capability, we also help companies to start their digital transformation journey by digitising data. Then, evolve their business functions by automating certain aspects of these functions using 4IR related technologies like rapid process automation and leverage digitised data. An example here is to automate part of a business value chain to improve customer experience.

Ultimately, for an organisation to be ready to go all the way, we help them to embrace and embark on a full digital transformation journey that will lead to adopting of new business models. A good illustration is a business-like Uber that operates solely on a mobile platform with transactions and customer interactions done completely via a mobile app on a mobile phone.

However, not all companies have to go fully digital, there are many hybrid arrangements depending on customer needs and behaviour. There can be different levels of digitalisation adoption by customers and companies in different industry sectors and geographies.

  1. What has been some of your greatest successes / achievements?
  • Graduating with Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and starting a career in the ICT Industry was a serious breakthrough for a girl child in South Africa as this was and is a male dominated field.
  • I was nominated and became Semi-Finalist in the 2002 Africa ICT Achiever by Google and Amazon for BI & Analytics case studies I had done in prior years. In addition, I became semi-finalist of the Top Women in ICT in Africa category of the same and subsequently profiled on the Brainstorm Magazine, also a leading ICT Leadership Magazine in ZA at the time.
  • My contribution leading ICT at the National Research Foundation (NRF) was profiled on the IT Web Magazine and because a registered case study at a leading Business School in South Africa.
  • I was also profiled on CNBC SA, together with CEO from a leading ICT Company and a Director from a Kenyan Government Private Partnership Organisation to give thought leadership and insights on the Impact of ICT in Africa’s Development.
  • This will not be complete without mentioning the opportunity to run an IT Outsource at the City of Johannesburg, Africa’s Commercial Centre. The latter got me nominated as one of the Top 11% Performers for two years and I was inducted into the Leadership Forum at a leading ICT Consulting Company in South Africa.
  • Appointed CEO (became Board Member) at an NGO called the South African Township and Rural Development Institute (SATRDI) whose mandate was to use research and capacity development to build economic centres in townships and transform them into Smart Cities of the future. I was privileged to serve under the Leadership of the late Honourable Ambassador George Nene, who amongst others served as South Africa’s envoy to Nigeria and the United Nations in Switzerland; and Dr. Peter Vundla who was the Non-Executive Chairman of AMB Capital and founder of HerdBuoys

The above drew interest of many including former President Thabo Mbeki and in April 2016, we were hosted by and received endorsements for this initiative from the President and ministers that were present.

  • I became CIO, Executive & Board Member at Motus Aftermarket Parts in 2017 and was profiled for thought leadership in Digitalisation and Digital Transformation in the UK based Magazines published in 7 continents called the Business Chief Magazine at the end of 2018, and later the Gigabit Magazine in January 2019.
  • I have been privileged to speak alongside prominent leaders and many respected leaders; inspiring women, peers, entrepreneurs and youth in South Africa (and other parts of the world).
  • Recently, it’s been quite an honour to be invited to be a member and serve in the Chartered CIO Council, set to transform and professionalise the ICT Industry in South Africa.
  • As the CEO of one of the few black female owned companies in 4IR in our country, I set an example and inspire many aspiring women and young girls across South Africa to follow suite.

All these achievements have prepared me and paved a way for the creation of AtDigitalyze, instrumental in every progress made and achievement AtDigitalyze has received to date.

  1. What has been the hardest part of being your own boss?

Being all things and everything from a tea lady, business developer, public relations, relationships manager, recruiter, marketer, speaker and thought leader plus many more. Fulfilling these roles and still being a single mother to my daughter, being a sister and aunt to nephews and nieces at the same time; has been hectic and overwhelming at times.

However, I thrive under pressure, rise above challenges and obstacles. My career has been a training ground and has in many ways prepared me for this journey. While there is much to learn, I am confident that I will continue to reach new heights because of the support I get from peers, family, friends and many mentors who continuously encourage and inspire me to do better.

  1. What 3 core advice principals will you give entrepreneurs that are wanting to start their own business?
  • Situate and immerse yourself in an ecosystem of people and businesses that do what you are interested in before you start. You will learn a lot about successes, opportunities and pitfalls in your area of business. This way you can learn how to position yourself well.
  • Use resources available in incubators to continuously develop yourself on various elements of running a business. I advise entrepreneurs to access and study relevant research in areas of interest to stay relevant. Funding support is a big hinderance to entrepreneurs and incubators are the best to assist in this regard and help small businesses break into other markets. Again, entrepreneurs must use every opportunity to network, exchange information and experiences with others to grow.
  • Entrepreneurs must take time to rest, spend time with those you love and who affirm you; and fill yourself up with goodness. However, I also encourage entrepreneurs to let go of what does not work and adopt new ways of doing things or implementing new ideas.
  1. What three ways describes your strengths and how have you used them in your career?

Achiever – I am a hard worker and this strength confirms that. I have also learned to focus and align my hard work to the goals that I have set and need to achieve. I tend to go on override until I achieve goals and have experienced lots of fatigue. However, I have now managed to strike a balance between the need to work hard and rest. More so, in recent months than when I started, as there were many things do to, bids to submit and customers to reach. However, I am always up for a challenge and being in this space keeps me on my toes because I have learned that there is never a dull day in the life of an entrepreneur.

Maximiser – I was always an overachiever and my disposition in everything I do is that of doing something and doing it well. However, I am not one for complacency and comfort zones.  I am always looking to find better ways and angles to doing things; and to do them better. This is an attribute that helps me a lot in my business, because one must be able to criticise one’s last attempt, advance thinking and break new grounds.

I can say that my experience in the corporate world, my ability to seek feedback, other perspectives and input; has improved how I view things, helped me to excel and develop further while developing others. It is important to not be too self-absorbed, to benchmark with peers and keep up with developments in other parts of the world.

Connectedness- I have always wanted to understand and tangibly see how our work connects to the bigger picture, how it ultimately impacts and makes a difference in people’s lives. This skill quickly became such an asset because I could see, build logical patterns and connections of how things fit and work together.  I can foresee anomalies, improve or put counter measures in place beforehand to make sure that the desired outcome and impact is attained and experienced in a tangible way.

  1. Who are 3 top business influencers that you follow and why?

The ICT industry is changing, and the future is uncertain for all of us because we can already see that the way we live, and work will continuously change and will not be the same in the future as it is today. As a result, I follow these 3 people to learn ways that are pertinent to transition and thrive in the future:

Jeff Bezos, Amazon – I have respect for companies who fall and rise again and learn a lot from successful turnaround strategies. Today, Jeff’s Amazon and ideas have and continue to redefine channel marketing, supply chain and shopping experience. The way he’s used and uses technology to reinvent and chart a way for the future is a lesson that will help many companies to achieve success and compete in the Digital Age.

Elon Musk, Tesla – Tesla thinks beyond our wildest imagination and brings to reality those things we never thought possible. This is something I find admirable, and I hope he maintains the balance between the imaginative and innovative edge when his company becomes a big corporatised company. The latter will be something I will be observing as this will provide great lessons for the digital economy.

Richard Branson – the quality I love about Richard is that he sees opportunities where nobody does, in areas where many believe are dead and there is no chance to resurrect them. Secondly, he is not afraid to take risks but is not afraid to let go of those things that hider his company performance and success. Many of us are held back thinking about how much we have invested than what we stand to lose; and his approach provides great lessons in creating consistently thriving businesses.

  1. What is your favourite quote and why?

There are two quotes that burn in my heart for this time and moment in my own life and for our beautiful country, South Africa. One is from President Mandela and the other is a bible chapter found in Isaiah 60 but verse 1 says it all.

Both quotes have been the biggest motivation and driver in understanding my purpose, the journey I have taken and the decision I have made to start a company, develop youth and contribute towards building a stable and sustainable economy in South Africa.

“Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”- Nelson Mandela

Isaiah 60 :1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.”

  1. What are the 3 top business books you have read and key lessons?

“Legacy & Four Steps to Success and Significance in Life and Business” by Jasper Cloete. This book has been very revelatory and instrumental in helping me understand how to live my life with a generational mindset. What it is and what it means to step and be a champion in one’s family; and pave a way for generations to come and leave behind a legacy.

“Business Unlimited” by Gunnar Olson. This is a biography of Gunnar, the founder and Chairman of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce. This is his journey being led by the Lord to serve in the marketplace and find new ways to economic reform and poverty alleviation. This book was a gift from a friend and mentor who felt I needed to read this book to learn new perspectives that bring new insights and enrich my own journey.

“Trillion Dollar Coach” by Eric Schmidt. I bumped into this book by chance, nothing intentional but it caught my eye due to my pursuits in technology. However, it reinforced the need for coaches and gave me interesting insights on how leading tech minds are coached to reach their potential. It also gives fresh opinions on how to navigate relationships and business dynamics to influence the lives of many.

Are you creating skills that are relevant for the future? Find out more about the services Ayanda and her company are offering here: www.atdigitalyze.com/

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