In Conversation: Angela Matlapeng (Vice-Chairperson, Africa Top Level Domains)

Angela's illustrious career includes, just to mention a few of her extensive achievements, managing the .bw domain registry, being a board member and vice-chairperson of Africa Top Level Domains (AFTLD). In this interview, she shares how she managed to make a way in an industry that has such a big gender representation problem, her wonderful work in empowering women and young girls in tech and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Angela Matlapeng is

I am a laidback and amicable young woman, a solid life-long learner, and a paradigm shift enthusiast who hails from Mochudi village. Professionally, I am a quiet leader who is empathic, intuitive, people-centric, and zealous about diversity, inclusivity, and a sense of belonging in the workplace. My passion is most ignited when I help others prevail over challenges and achieve set goals, as well as when I use my analytical skills and technology to solve problems. Outside work, I am an innovative and creative soul who enjoys reading, poetry & music, movies, outdoor activities & sports, deep conversations, and sunsets. According to the 16 Myers–Briggs Type Indicator personality types test, I am an INFJ, which just means that I am most often soft-spoken, yet strong-willed, highly opinionated, decisive, and will fight for what I believe is right!

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in information and technology

I majored in BSc. Honors Computer Systems Engineering for my undergrad and post my final year exams, I immediately got recruited as a Junior Software Developer where I focused on Enterprise App development for digital branding and marketing purposes for almost 2years. I then accelerated to being a Management Trainee for in-house Software Development at a Courier and Logistics company for about a year, where I was part of a team that developed the company’s corporate website and an e-commerce platform which I personally integrated to a warehousing and tracking system.

For the past 3 years to the present time, I joined BOCRA and have managed the .bw domain Registry, which is our country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). I am also part of the team that established the first of its kind in the country – a Sectorial Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) for the Communications industry. Through my tenure at BOCRA, I was appointed board member of the Africa Top Level Domains – AfTLD where I now serve as the Vice-Chairperson and here, we represent the voice of African ccTLD Managers internationally. I am also the liaison person of the AfTLD to the AfricaCERT Anti Abuse Working Group which focuses on the development of recommendations and best common practices for curbing cybercrime in the Africa region. 

What motivated you to pursue this career path?

In 2011 I had applied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Botswana, but I did not make the selected list. I then applied to Botswana Accountancy College for a course in Accounting – AAT. While I was in the queue to pay for my admission fee, I overheard a male student giving a female applicant advice not to apply for “CSE” - a Computing course offered at the school. In his words, female students in BAC were dismally failing this course and even dropping out at first year, specifically because of programming modules and a language called JAVA. Although I was clueless about this course, its subsequent career paths, and this JAVA, the young man’s words did not sit well with me as I witnessed a young lady being told that girls are not cut out for an ICT course. This immediately registered as a new challenge for me, and I was taken back to my teen days where I had been the only girl and best student in the Design and Technology class in my Form 1 – Form 3 group, and the Captain of the girls’ Softball team, a team that I started from the ground when this sport was considered a boys-only club in my Junior Secondary School. I remembered that gender had never stopped me from achieving anything before, and it wasn’t about to start now. 

Momentarily, I went back to the Registry office and asked to be enrolled for a degree in Computer Systems Engineering instead. Determined to prove this young man wrong and put shame on the words that were shaming girls, my journey in ICT began here. Throughout my 4 years of study, I applied myself at the best of my abilities and strived for excellence, always in the top 2% of my class. Although I could not afford to buy a laptop for the duration of this course, I didn’t lose heart writing my code on paper and staying behind after school to execute it on a lab computer, and ultimately, I became one of the few best programmers in the school. In 2015, I eventually graduated Top of my class as the only First-Class achiever and overall best student in the Computing courses across all campuses. This is the path that led me to find my voice and my undying motivation to stand upright in a career where women are often overlooked, hoping to be an inspiration to the girlchild so she too can confidently follow suit.

Unfortunately, tech still has a big gender gap problem with a paltry number of women participants in the sector let alone decision-making positions. As a woman in a leadership position, what has your experience been in such a field and how have you dealt with the challenges that come with such a wide gender gap?

Constantly having to prove myself in the ICT industry as a woman despite my skills and experience gained over the years has always presented a major challenge. Like most women in any patriarchal space, I also went through a phase where I struggled with an imposter syndrome which simply put, is self-doubt, a sense of intellectual fraudulence and fear of inadequacy despite evident success. I also had to come to the awakening that following a career path in a male chauvinistic industry means that your voice is not just about you, but it is also the voice representing other women, and that as you stand up for yourself, you also have the responsibility to stand up for the others who may not have equal opportunities as yourself. This means constant introspection and self-critiquing on whether one’s deeds are not a regression to the tremendous work put forth by women who came before us and those who are still fighting for our right to inclusion. As a young professional leading in my 20s, age remains a diversity issue that hinders progress, delays necessary change, and demoralises our efforts as young people as we are often viewed to be privileged, compulsive, irrational, and seeking a quicker means to success. This also largely influences how we are renumerated as young professionals in Botswana, where we see many organizations and companies correlating earnings and rewards to age instead of to the actual results and outcomes of the work being put in by an employee, and in so doing, we have witnessed many talented and skilled young people either unemployed, unhappily employed & unproductive, or exiting the country to seek greener pastures beyond our borders. 

A 2018 report published by African Cyber Security which Botswana participated in, in its findings on the gender gap in ICT, disclosed that women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce globally and only 10% in Africa and that women do not get promoted at the same rate as men are and occupy fewer leadership positions in ICT globally. The report also revealed that 66% of participants answered “Yes” to the statement “Cybersecurity industry is failing to attract young talent and women into the profession.”  A quote from the report to back this up said:  

“As a rule, women wait until they accrue required skills before applying for cybersecurity jobs, while men routinely bluff their way through. The men may have none of (the skills) and will still apply.”

For these reasons, my perspective is that women are woefully underrepresented and marginalized in the ICT workplace, and the icing of the cake comes in two of the most regressive approaches which are tokenism and meritocracy. Organizations are ticking boxes of diversity and inclusion by recruiting a small number of women to keep up with appearances, and in some cases, fill positions with women who least deserve to be there. On the other hand, some HR departments have acclaimed their manner of hire which is based on demonstrated abilities and merit and while this myth sounds reasonable, it does not work in favour of most women due to gender blind spots and unconscious bias during the recruitment and hiring process, and although some women do pass these interviews, the unconducive work environment they are hired into where the culture excludes them makes it difficult for them to fit in despite proven abilities, which ultimately results in low retainment rate of women in ICT.

My holistic approach to dealing with this has required a constant reminder of Why I am doing this, and my answer is and has always been to promote gender equality in ICT while offering solutions driven by technology. I have sort mentors who have been my personal board of directors in shaping my career and expanded my network relationships with both women and men in the industry locally and cross-border. I have also been a mentor to other ladies as well which has greatly improved my communication and leadership skills, but most importantly, I have spoken up and spoken for others by calling out gender disparity for what it is whenever it crops up in my presence. One last thing that has kept me in check is being proactive as an employee and a leader, always seeking ways to solve problems in exciting ways, and remaining relevant by learning the necessary skills.

What do you think can be done to reduce this lack of representation?

Visibility. What you are doing now with your blog will go a great mile in exposing women in ICT and I think more of such efforts should be implemented because that would mean upcoming girls get to know and see the possibilities of having women in this industry, believe it is attainable, and leap into the numerous career and business opportunities in ICT with no hesitation whatsoever. What I would also like to see improve is the development of programs that will teach and reprogram the boy child and men on how to accommodate the girl child and women in schools and in the workplace, as opposed to having many programs being developed to teach the girl child/women on how to stand up for themselves and thrive against stereotypes and exclusion in the school/workplace. If girls and boys joining ICT or any other industry in equal numbers is made the new normal, no girl would require a special class or programme to teach her: “This is a men’s world but Yes, you can!”. This means that mothers have a very crucial role to play in instilling this mentality in boy children from a young age. Additionally, I think both men and women need to eagerly guide, lead, and actively support upcoming girls/women in ICT as they lean into this career path. As for employers, I wish they could be more intentional about inclusion and diversity such as developing and enforcing quotas on equal hire opportunities and having a solid DIBs strategy. I’d like to also emphasize that women who resort to unorthodox methods of securing jobs as well as men who are perpetrators in such behaviour really make it hard for gender disparity to be addressed. I’ve no solution to this because it’s personal, but it really needs to stop.

On the other hand, what has been the upside of being such a trailblazer in the field?

I have experienced the thrill of being the youngest in the room yet trusted to get the job done nonetheless, which has extremely boosted my confidence and efficacy. Let’s just say people will never hesitate to offer a helping hand to someone who shows eagerness to learn and is proactive, and because of this, my job has been less strenuous, having a team of sometimes total strangers who are miles away from my country rally behind my work. I have also used my career, and success to expose other women and youth in general to opportunities such as mentorship, conferences, trainings, and media coverage whenever I can. I have remained an active alumnus at my former school BAC, where I constantly touch base with students, lecturers, and leadership to try to bridge that gap between school and the industry. One of the ongoing initiatives is the Angela Matlapeng (AMA) Women in ICT Award, which was born in 2019, and so far, 5 absolutely fantastic ladies have been recipients. These awards were introduced to reward female excellence in Computing courses and encourage the girlchild and women to take up ICT courses. I recently helped BAC organize the 10th Anniversary celebration of the ITU Girls in ICT Day which brought together different institutions to indulge in a conversation on how to collectively ensure the girl in ICT in their schools succeed. Additionally, I have assisted the school to revive its women in ICT club where female students come together for peer counselling, motivation, and discussions around topics affecting them.

Along my career, I finally met a team of the right people who believe in the same dream of using technology to solve real-world problems; Leisan Holdings (Pty) Ltd is the name of the brilliant minds behind one of the hot solutions we are soon launching – Klikah_Dah! which is a virtual Mall and a central location for e-commerce stores selling local products. I am really overjoyed by this achievement, and many other solutions we have to offer. I am excited at the fact that my team and I too will soon create employment.

On the fun side, the nature of my job also allows me to travel often, and it has always been my dream to experience the world in different cultural exchange, art, food, and people.

Please tell our readers what your job entails

My job roles are centred around country code Top Level Domain Administration, cybersecurity, Policy development & Internet Governance, Multi-stakeholder Engagement in the Communications sector, public awareness and information dissemination, capacity building, and ICT regulation. I also volunteer in working groups that advances work on digitalization, connectivity, and internet for all, such as the Internet Governance Liaison Committee under the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – an organization that oversees the global internet, as well as the global ISOC Accessibility Special Interest Group (a11ySIG) where I have focused on capacitating Persons with Disabilities on cyber hygiene and best practices, and how to stay safe online.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

My journey as a professional has been nothing short of amazing and a huge blessing, to say the least. I just recently completed a Women in Cyber mentorship programme with the International Communications Union – ITU, only to be nominated one of the Envoys to represent the programme regionally and internationally. I have achieved quite exciting things at an age I was not expecting so much from myself, such as becoming a board member of a regional body (AfTLD) at 27, while I was just 6 months into my new job at BOCRA. As I was still shocked by that, a year later I was appointed Vice Chairperson of AfTLD, which absolutely comes with its challenges no doubt, but has undeniably paid off greatly.  At some point in my life as a Jr. Software Developer, I got to develop the Bot50 Celebratory App with the team at SDK Digital Lab which was pretty cool. I have been a panelist contributing my knowledge alongside really amazing people from all over the world via my involvement with ICANN and other international fora. Through my position at the AfTLD, I have had a wonderful opportunity to not only visit the HQ of the African Union in Addis Ababa, but I also contributed largely in a recommendation paper on the Harmonization of ICT policies in the Africa region during a Policy and Regulation Initiative for Digital Africa (PRIDA) meeting in 2019.

With everything said, I am just happy that humility has always been at the forefront of all my engagements and efforts, and my proudest moments have only drawn me closer to effectively serving humanity within the realm of the internet and technology.

What’s something you know now that you wish you knew earlier in your career?

For the longest time, I preferred to work in the background mainly because I am quite an introvert and shy sometimes, and I extremely feared failure, until I learnt that failing is progress as long as you learn from it. As an introverted leader serving in a world where extroversion is ideal, I used to follow the principle of “fake it ‘til you make it” which frankly didn’t help me that much. I then came across a book by Brene Brown entitled “The Gifts of Imperfection” and from it I have learnt that being authentic and vulnerable is the birthplace of growth. Now I live up to the mantra: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. With this courage and tenacity, I often say Yes to opportunities even when I am clueless and push myself to learn how to do the task later. This has opened so many doors for me, networks, and has undoubtedly added to my knowledge base.

If any, what is the best advice you have received in your career?

Do your job to the best of your abilities but ALWAYS be kind and compassionate to yourself. This means setting boundaries, not pushing yourself to breaking point, taking care of your mental health, and adding PLAY to the success formula. Professionals tend to shy away from play because they feel like it is a waste of time and that there is no impactful reason for engaging in it, yet Tim Brown, the CEO of the innovation and design firm - IDEO suggests that this is the time when your brain is stimulated to be creative, innovative, and analytical. You’ll be surprised how not many people actually indulge in thinking the most brilliant of ideas when they’re at work. Another lesson I carried from school into the workplace is that Competency is not Competition; no one is Youer than You and striving to become the best version of You is really what we should all be aiming at.

What advice can you give to young girls who are interested in pursuing a career in tech?

First and foremost, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one” and to be good at something, you need to be willing to be vulnerable and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Technology is a very dynamic space that has now overspilt everywhere and in everything. Do not limit yourself to your field of study. Be open-minded and look into other domains where you can apply your tech skills to make life simpler.

A few years back during one of the BIH coffee sessions, a woman giving a keynote address to young ladies in ICT said:

“Men have a habit of just talking across the room in meetings even if they are not pointed at by the meeting chair, whereas women will always wait to be given the permission to speak and if no one points at them, they can leave the meeting without contributing anything. The day I decided to lower my hand and speak up as my counterparts changed my life as a woman having a seat at the table.” 

This was somewhat a very hard to swallow advice for me at the time, but over the years I got to realize that indeed everyone at the table, man or woman, equally deserve to be there – you just have to believe it and act the part. Never give up your seat because it will serve the greater purpose of humanity. If you don’t take the seat where you belong, someone’s life will go unimpacted, the world will never change, and you will find yourself regretful and unfulfilled.

I have also frequently heard the advice that says: if you are not invited to the table, create your own table. The truth of the matter is that this can sometimes be really difficult especially for someone who just started their career, and honestly, sometimes to succeed, you do be needing some of the people seated at the table you are not invited to. My advice is that if you can’t afford to create your own table at the time, do not give up, stand by the table you believe you have to sit at until someone feels your weight and offers you a seat.

And finally, I will conclude with the words of Nelson Henderson that say: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit”, meaning that sometimes you will sow a seed but not get the chance to see it bear fruit for you. Be content that others have benefited from it. C.S. Lewis says: “it is not your business to succeed, but to do right, and when you have done so, the rest lies with God.” 

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details in case they want to get in touch with you

I am Angela Matlapeng on LinkedIn. I’m not quite active on the other socials I must admit. You can also check out Leisan Holdings (Pty) Ltd at or email us at

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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