In Conversation: Koziba Kombani (Technology Professional, Mining & Resources Sector In Australia)

As the Principal Lead Planning for Technology Minerals Australia Operations at Australian international resources company BHP, Koziba's job involves strategy execution, five-year planning, and portfolio performance. In this interview, the Matobo native tells us what inspired her to pursue this career path, her experiences working in tech abroad as well as lessons she has learnt in her impressive career.

In your own words, please tell us who Koziba Kombani is?

I am Koziba Kombani – based in Australia. Born and raised in Botswana, kanyi or gae (home) is in Matobo. I have a passion for technology, working with people and solving problems. I’m an avid reader – Toni Morrison, Chinua Achebe, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are standouts for me. I also love music, pop culture, Arsenal Football Club and legendary striker Dennis Bergkamp.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

I pursued a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degree in Computing on a Debswana scholarship at the University of Bath in England.  Post-graduation I began my career with Debswana as an IT Developer graduate trainee. A Head Office secondment early in my career helped me realise that I loved connecting technology to business challenges. Through luck, timing, and a support system of good mentors and leaders I gravitated towards roles that played to my strengths: being able to understand the strategy equation of a business and the role that technology or transformation played in that equation.  In a career spanning Botswana and Australia, I have worked in diverse roles in shared services, project delivery consulting, technology business partnership, business planning, technology strategy, project development (pre-feasibility and feasibility study) and transformation. In my current role, I am Principal Lead Planning for Technology Minerals Australia Operations at Australian international resources company BHP.

What motivated you to pursue this career path?

Curiosity about technology after taking a computer class in high school – I have to thank Mr Doherty.

You have been based in the diaspora for most of your career. What have been your experiences working in tech abroad?

The scale of the projects in technology in mining I have been fortunate to be involved in. I have had opportunities to work with people from all over the world, in diverse teams – people who are deeply technical, come from a strong business or operational background, and people who are really strong at business case development, feasibility studies, project delivery, commercial or successful organisational change. There are many pathways to being involved in tech.

If there have been any challenges with being based abroad, how have you been able to surmount them?

Moving countries and successfully adapting is a big one. Yes, I spoke English but there was a nuance in learning Australian culture. Being open to learning about a culture as well as having a support system of family, friends, mentors, and coaches and being supported by good leaders.

On the other hand, what have been some upsides of being based abroad? 

The breadth of work I have been fortunate to be involved in has given me a broad understanding of both mining and technology. There’s also both professional and personal growth in immersing yourself in a new culture.

Compared to countries like Australia, Botswana’s tech industry is what one could call archaic. What learnings do you think we can get from such countries to grow our tech industry?

I would prefer nascent rather than archaic. Personally, I have observed partnerships between industry and technology, an investment in a technology talent pipeline and technology ecosystems. Canva and Atlassian are two global footprint tech companies that began as Australian start-ups.

Please tell our readers what your job entails

I focus on strategy execution, five-year planning, and portfolio performance.

What is your favourite part about the work that you do?

The privilege of leading a team and coaching. The opportunity to work on Culture and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.

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

Seeing a high school leaver from Barolong Farms I met through chance and mentored briefly, go on to successfully apply for and be awarded a Debswana scholarship.

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

Learn the business and find mentors who will teach you the business. In 2015 a leader in the company I was working for at the time shared Susan Colantuono’s TED Talk “The Missing 33%: the career advice you probably didn’t get” with me. It changed how I thought about my career. I share that TED Talk liberally with both women and early-stage career young people.

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

“Work on a problem that the business cares about”.

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

Follow your curiosity, don’t be afraid to try things. There are so many technical and non-technical roles in tech, it is amazing. If you love being technical, go for it – there are so many women excelling in technical roles and in technical leadership.

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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