MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN 2015/16
CASE IN POINT | Westcon
by Samantha Barnes
Accolades Aplenty for IT Group
So what does a company need to do in order to be positioned as one of Southern Africa’s biggest value-added distributors of technology and converged communications solutions? We talk to WestconGroup Southern Africa’s top female leadership to unravel the mechanics behind the company’s success. We discuss how recent investments have given the group a further foothold in geographies in Africa. The company has an ethos of “value-added” services. This, and their high performance culture are among the reasons for WestconGroup’s success.
Elmien du Toit: Chief Operating Officer
Pulling all the pieces together is the best way to describe Elmien du Toit’s role as chief operating officer at WestconGroup Southern Africa. Elmien and her team create the
glue that holds operations together. Their ‘to do’ list is comprehensive: from ensuring that there are enough operational people to service the business practices, to making sure that the various teams have the right systems and processes to meet client demands, to working with the executive team to help foster the right culture and environment.
Recent investments have yielded handsome returns. “The acquisition of Comztek has given WestconGroup a further foothold in geographies and customer and vendor base in Africa where we previously didn’t have a presence,” says Elmien. “It has enabled us to grow our product portfolio to over 50 vendors, and this has positioned us as one of the biggest value-added distributors in the Southern Africa region.”
Other steps taken by the company include facilitating continued growth; namely continued investment in new staff and the on-boarding of new vendors to remain current in the ever changing IT industry.
WestconGroup prides itself on being a good ‘corporate citizen’. Something that is evidenced in its myriad CSI projects as well as in how it ensures compliance in all aspects of its business. The company, through its BEE shareholding, held by the Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC), are serious about transformation. Other areas where the business drives transformation include: employment equity; affirmative procurement and enterprise development.
The success of the IT distribution company is underpinned by how its logistics and supply chain is aligned with the supply and demand generated from customers. The stakes are high as are the challenges. “We are all only as strong as our weakest link – we cannot afford any weak links in our business,” says Elmien. “So it is that continual strive for consistency, perfection and excellence in all that we do.”
As WestconGroup Southern Africa is part of a global business, there is a strong emphasis on compliance and governance and best practices.
Robyn Newel: HR Director
Speaking to the executive female leadership of WestconGroup Southern Africa has exposed a single golden thread – people are what make the business, teams are what drive its success, and it is a company where staff are its most valuable asset.
“One word in my view describes Westcon Southern Africa and that is: Dynamic,” says Robyn Newel, Westcon HR director. When Robyn joined Westcon two years ago she set about preparing the hearts and minds of the people for any potential business impact that would be felt from its merger with Comztek, while also managing the post integration process. The merger was in HR terms a great success as the cultures of both companies melded into one. Today, together with the WestconGroup leadership and HR teams, Robyn continues to drive what is deemed a high performance culture.
To this end, WestconGroup and its stakeholders ‘invest significantly’ in attracting top talent. “One of our key strategic attractions is being not only a Distributor of Choice but an Employer of Choice,” confirms Robyn. “Succession management and retention management strategies focus on rewarding and retaining our key top talent.”
Westcon is mindful that technical and sales staff need constant upskilling and certification. “This is achieved through the implementation of a skills matrix that identifies individual needs and tracks the execution of training interventions,” says Robyn. One way is by attending international technology events for example HR manager Suzannah Bligh, attends programmes in the UK equipping her with the latest leading HR technology best practices. While, security channel manager Rory Vorster recently attended the F5 Agility conference in Edinburgh, confirming this as a fantastic opportunity to engage with peers and senior executives of leading brands.
Being registered with relevant professional bodies empowers individuals to keep abreast of ‘what’s truly happening’ in their areas of expertise. “This knowledge acquisition increases the level of skill for individuals and contributes to the mitigation of risk within our business,” explains Robyn.
Westcon plays a significant role in increasing the pool of IT professionals in the sector, and has partnership relationships with Torque IT and MICTSETA; Microsoft and Woman in IT. Robyn and her team are succeeding in contributing to the broader strategies of WestconGroup.
The common thread communicated by Westcon staff is how much they enjoy the company culture. “We continuously work on and instil in our staff the values of family, fun, compliance, honesty and integrity. This enables people to consistently perform at their best,” says Robyn. Work life balance programmes address total employee wellbeing; an important consideration in a fast paced, ever changing sector like IT.
Bridget Nkuna: Marketing Director
Bridget Nkuna joined WestconGroup Southern Africa earlier this year as marketing director. “I am really enjoying the energy, the people, the discipline and the business ethos of the company,” says Bridget. She has approached her role with a combination of humility and confidence.
“It is never my intention to walk in and change things, set new goals and force the people around me to deliver on what I deem to be right. I wanted to first understand the mechanics of the business and see how I could help the marketing team to work smarter, ensuring that they have the right tools to do their jobs effectively, and in that, unearth new ways of driving value to all of our stakeholders – be these our staff, executive, shareholders, resellers or vendors,” says Bridget.
“At WestconGroup we deem ourselves to be a ‘value-added distributor’. We are the first port of call for resellers of consumer and enterprise IT equipment to source their products. This is not something we simply want to pay lip service to. Marketing forms a key part of this service promise and our team acts as an extension of the entire business. We provide support to resellers and customers where for instance marketing skills or departments don’t exist.”
WestconGroup was named F5’s Europe and Middle East and Africa Distributor of the year. Bridget emphasizes that awards in the IT industry are not simply dished out to those with the best relationships: they are awarded based on sales, support, skills, teams in place and even marketing a brand.
Working within the IT industry is special. “You are right at the forefront of innovation at all times which is incredible. There is most certainly the people aspect – I have a team of Westcon warriors around me, from marketing and events specialists to digital strategists, creative designers and communications leads – all working together for a single goal.”
Bridget appreciates being part of something bigger than herself that extends beyond South Africa. The new WestconGroup building in Midrand, Johannesburg has been awarded the best commercial building by SAPOA.
This is an environment which encourages a work life balance, as well as improving logistics to clients: a winning combination all-round!