Founders Spotlight: Segametsi Mafa (Founder, Service Xcellence)

With over 18 years of experience in ICT, Segametsi pours that extensive professional background into Service Xcellence, an ICT consultancy firm she founded to consult in IT Governance and IT Service Management among many other services. In this interview, she takes us through her early career beginnings in the early 2000s, the numerous roles she has held in tech over the years, her decision to dive into entrepreneurship, and much more!

In your own words, tell us who Segametsi Mafa is

Segametsi is the Founder and Managing Director at Service Xcellence, an ICT professional with over 18 years of corporate experience and almost 2 years of entrepreneurial experience consulting in areas of ICT, enterprise risks, strategy development, and project management

She holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Botswana, an MSc in Strategic Management from the University of Derby, and an MDP from the University of Stellenbosch, PG-ERM; PG-FFNFM and is a professional member of PMI and ISACA. An avid learner and currently pursuing more certifications.

She also loves speaking, MC, and enjoys working around and with people. She is also a Guest Presenter at Yarona FM on ICT Matters, Digital Citizen series

She also uses some of her time as a coach, a mentor, and participating in a number of wellness, charity, and social activities. She also enjoys running, walking and mostly misses her time in the tennis courts and swimming pool too since the pandemic.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

My career started after graduating with BSc in Computer Science from the University of Botswana in 2001. I then joined the Government Computer Bureau with a whole lot of other graduates and we were exposed to different sections of the department and later placed into positions. I was deployed to the Ministry of Lands and Housing then as Assistant Systems Analyst providing advisory services to the Ministry, managing user requirements as well as being a key resource on IT-related matters. I later joined CTO where I was now very technical and supporting the fleet management system as well as resolving issues and fixing a few other technical assets we were handling internally. CTO also exposed me to managing people below me and that was a journey into leadership. Over the years I moved out of Government into other organizations at various management levels with my longest stay at Debswana Jwaneng Mine. 

Summary of Positions held:

  • Sept 2019 – Jun 2020: Head, Information and Knowledge Management, LEA
  • Sept 2012 – Aug 2019: IT Manager – Service Delivery (Operations), Debswana Jwaneng
  • Jul 2010 – Aug 2012:  IT Operations Manager, Botswana Examinations Council
  • Aug 2005 – Jun 2010: Assistant User Support Manager, University of Botswana
  • Oct 2002 – Jul 2005: Assistant Systems Analyst, Central Transport Organisation
  • Jan 2002 – Sept 2002: Assistant Systems Analyst, Government Computer Bureau

What motivated you to pursue this career path?

Back in those years with little to no career guidance, all that we relied on was what we knew. I took computers just out of the love of seeing what a typewriter could do, typing out words on those keys and a paper coming out with exactly what you typed and I said yessss, when I get to University, I will study computers… ha ha ha

Women's representation in senior and decision-making positions in tech is still unfortunately low in Botswana. As a woman in a tech management position, what has been your experience?

I guess women have been fewer in numbers all the way from tertiary levels and i guess now when you are already in the field, you are still fewer in numbers and competition gets stiff and you know it becomes “survival of the fittest”... and fittest for me is what else do you bring over and above your degree - your diverse experience counts, your appetite to continue learning in the same field counts, your attitude towards work counts, you just need to work hard knowing that you belong to the minority and something must stand out that shows you are different and can bring something to the table

If there have been challenges as a result of this representation gap, how have you managed to surmount them?

I have not experienced much of these challenges personally and I always pride myself on the following facts that stand out for me as a woman, not known to many:

  • Was the first Assistant Systems Analyst ever to be deployed to Francistown CTO in 2002, and as a woman in a male-dominated environment I did so much; trained most employees - drivers and mechanics back then on basic computer knowledge and using the mail and the internet, fought through to get computers delivered to Francistown to cover most offices and interestingly since we could not get new ones I asked for second hands and they came; forced to have employees who traditionally by virtue of their positions and roles and location never used to have access to the computers to have user accounts created for them through the normal government process
  • Was the first woman to be appointed alongside men into the role of Assistant User Support Manager at UB in 2005 when the IT Department was growing its support strength
  • Was the first IT Operations Manager appointed at BEC in 2010 when BEC was setting up and we became the first team in the IT Department and did massive projects there including exiting from the Government Data Network and setting up our own network infrastructure, recruiting and placing people in the structure, developing policies and setting up IT governance in place. So much needed to be done and as the new department and the only Manager with a Director i reported to, a lot was done and achieved
  • Was the first and longest-serving woman IT Manager Operations for Debswana Jwaneng Mine from 2012 to 2019, and lots and lots achievements and footprint made during my leadership from excellent safety performance as we all know the level of safety expected out of the mining operations, excellent and high performance in all IT operations in the mine, executed projects well both within IT mainstream and those through business partnering, managed the assigned responsibilities within IT being IT Strategy, IT Audits and IT Risks with great results.

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

Women must decide to develop themselves to beat the competition. Go into places that you think are not meant for you and see if anybody will stop you. Actually, they will move back and wait to see but trust me we defeat the odds whenever we take on the challenge, so I guess we need to work harder yes but also step up and say here we are and the world will embrace us. There are men who also get intimidated by women who just know their stuff and are very competitive and sometimes they will try to pull you down but I believe if you know what you are and believe in what you know and believe in yourself then nothing can stop you. My advice to women is never to look down upon themselves because they are a woman. Gender should not dictate for you what you can and can't do. It is all in the mindset. I also encourage women to invest their time in the young females; mentor them and coach them and give them hope and we will grow the women in tech by doing that. We all have something that we can say that will inspire any young person who is looking at us and wondering.

Please tell us more about your company, Service Xcellence?

Service Xcellence is an ICT consultancy business founded in 2020. We do ICT consulting including IT Governance and IT Service Management with some technical and applications support and website design and management. We also do management consultancy in Strategy Management, Project Management, and Enterprise Risk Management. We are growing and hope to explore all other opportunities that we see. 

We want to grow in conferencing and events management focusing on the ICT sector because there is so much going on and we need to educate and make our audiences aware of what is happening from the digital era we are in. We have done webinars and talks on cybersecurity, data privacy, digital transformation and we continue to explore many other topics. 

We also initiated the Annual ICT Graduates Conference which we started in November 2020, the 2nd one was held in November 2021 and the 3rd one is in planning for November 2022. We have attracted a few sponsors to date and we hope to do more marketing and advertising this year to attract many graduates and partners.

What was the motivation for starting Service Xcellence?

I have always believed that I will retire at some certain age and that by then I will be an ICT Consultancy business owner. So while working and engaging with some colleagues they advised me to register it “now” than wait for the years towards the retirement age of which I did. Shortly after that I lost my job and  Service Xcellence came in handy and I had little choice but to get the business off ground and start running with it. It is doing well for a startup and I guess we keep getting recognition for all the things that we are doing.

As a technology consultancy company, what challenges have you faced operating in a somewhat technologically backward environment like Botswana’s?

Botswana has a lot to learn. What I have realized is that we have adopted lots of buzz words with little understanding of what they mean and I realize that's why most of the time we fail to implement though we have very good write-ups. We have good strategies in place, good policies, good procedures, good processes coupled with lack of knowledge, inadequate budgets, poor project management, poor work ethics and cultures, undefined change management, and lots of assumptions and perceptions that people either know or understand.

How have you been trying to overcome those challenges?

I love the radio opportunity I have with Yarona FM every Sunday 9.40am - 9.50am. The segment is very short but I have been on air since October 2020 and all I do is share with the listeners what I believe is imparting what I know and believe it is helping someone out there. There is a need to really educate at the individual level, at business levels, and at corporate levels. I wish I can get a sponsor for the show and have more time so we share more with the listeners and even sometimes get interactive with them but it is a good start all the same. I work a lot with young people as well and use every opportunity I have to share. 

I am a conference speaker and have used the opportunities I got so far to speak and also moderate panel sessions and that also always gets the message out.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers regarding what Service Xcellence is up to, project-wise, currently, and in the near future?

Our flagship conference, ICT Graduates Conference 2022 is in planning for November and hopes to attract many to attend this year and to partner with. This conference is aimed at giving the graduates' life skills to traverse the world. With the knowledge they have from the classroom they need to know that with or without a job they are fully armed with what the world needs today and therefore should step out there and sell themselves, innovate, create jobs for themselves and others, looks for jobs and not wait for the jobs to find them and so we are excited at that.

We also are planning another conference and will see how it unfolds and will communicate when all is shaping up.

Otherwise, we have had opportunities to do some jobs, especially around project and risk management, and also partnered with one renowned consulting firm on project management.

What has been the proudest moment of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

I have woken up daily, taken a bath, dressed up and walked into my office with or without a business offer, and continued to do something daily and for that, I just look at myself and marvel. And I thank God for the strength, the push, and the hope i have because i stay being focussed and not worry much. I believe what I do now is build Service Xcellence for greater heights.

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

“I thought people knew me…ha ha ha” but I realize that now that I identify with Service Xcellence. Most jobs ignore who you are and look for Service Xcellence footprint in the industry and not Segametsi Mafa’s footprint and that makes me sad at times when we don’t get jobs because we have little experience. But we don’t despair, we keep pushing and knocking on doors.

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

Keep your head straight, don’t look back, remain focussed and build your brand and your business

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

Go for it, you will always compete with men and women along the way but that happens everywhere even outside tech.

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

LinkedIn: Segametsi Mafa and Service Xcellence BW

Facebook: Serg Canaah Mafa and Service Xcellence BW

Cell: +267-71696870 / +267-73696870

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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