Vodacom is a place where hard work and dedication pays off. We chatted to Nicholas Naidu, Vodacom's new Managing Executive: Technology Strategy, Architecture & Innovation about his journey with Vodacom.
What did you study and how did you join Vodacom?
My journey with Vodacom started in 2001, when I was awarded a bursary at the end of my matric year to study a B.Sc Electronic Engineering degree at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. When I completed my degree at the end of 2005, I was offered a graduate engineer position in Vodacom’s Regional Network Operations team in Johannesburg. My first job involved driving around Gauteng to test the network and fix any problems. I also visited customers to attend to their network issues.
Since then I have also obtained a M.Eng Telecommunications degree from Wits University while working, and which I pursued with the assistance of Vodacom’s internal staff bursary scheme.
What does your job entail?
As a Managing Executive, my job is to lead and motivate a large team of technology professionals. I also have to define clear priorities and goals to measure our team’s success and to provide support and guidance to ensure that we deliver on these ambitious targets. I am fortunate to have a great team who are extremely passionate.
Some of our responsibilities are to ensure that Vodacom’s strategic technology roadmaps are aligned with the company’s vision of being a leading digital company, and that the evolution of our Network and IT architectures are fit for purpose. An additional big focus for our team is to also ensure that Vodacom continues delivering wow technology firsts to our customers and maintains its reputation as an innovator.
Just over a month into your new role, what has this new job been like and what can we expect to see out of this portfolio?
The new job has been extremely exciting and I continue to learn new things every day. I have been spending most of my time getting to know my new team members and their responsibilities, as well as understanding how we can work with others across the business to deliver great results.
You can expect to see our team defining Vodacom’s strategy for future technology readiness to realize the best network and achieve IT excellence, all with digital at our core.
What has your experience been like working at Vodacom?
I have been fortunate enough to have worked for Vodacom while the company has achieved great milestones such as listing on the JSE, rebranding to align closer to our parent company Vodafone and launching the first 4G network in South Africa. My experience with Vodacom has always been exhilarating and there has never been a dull day in the fast-paced environments across the business in which I have worked.
'My experience with Vodacom has always been exhilarating and there has never been a dull day in the fast-paced environments across the business in which I have worked.'
Looking back with some sentimental reflection, I am grateful for the opportunities over the years which have allowed me to develop and grow both professionally and personally. It has been extremely stimulating to have worked in very different areas of the business over the years, ranging from Network, Online, Legal & Regulatory, Wholesale and also our Consumer Business Units.
It has also been fulfilling to have built long-lasting relationships with colleagues across the company and around the world. I am also proud of our contribution in keeping our customers connected to the world and empowering them to go about their lives using technology to make it all easier and better.
I consider myself fortunate to work in a company which is continuously recognized as one of the Top 10 employers in the country and which has fun, energetic and high performance culture.
What excites you about working for Vodacom? Any career highlights?
Some of my proudest career highlights so far was being a member of different teams who have won the Vodacom CEO awards in two successive years for different achievements.
The first was the renewal of Vodacom DRC’s service licence and gaining access to new spectrum. This enables Vodacom to operate in the DRC for 10 more years until 2028 and will help drive connectivity and digital inclusion in the DRC.
The second was the concluding of the infrastructure sharing, national 4G roaming and managed services deals in South Africa between Vodacom and RAIN in 2016 across 5000 base stations nationwide and for a 10 year period until 2026. This will greatly help to improve the data experience of our customers right now and also into the future to ensure their 4G experience is world class.
Last year was also special to me from an innovation perspective, as we launched the first commercial Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) network in Africa and also were the first operator in Africa to achieve speeds >500 Mbps on our commercial 4G network using a commercially available smartphone.
What fascinates you about technology? And what are your views on the continuous evolution of technology and its impact on every aspect of our lives?
I am fascinated by the endless possibilities which can be made a reality by employing the power of technology. The most impressive thing about technology for me, is the ability to completely transform people’s lives. It makes information and education accessible to anyone with a smartphone and levels the playing fields for all of us to learn and grow.
It enables us to stay in touch wherever we are, and it allows us to do things from the palms of our hands which would have otherwise required us to drive around and stand in queues, saving us time.
Technology is also enabling us to find important solutions to advance humanity where previously there were none, ranging from diverse topics across healthcare to farming. Technology is evolving at an exponential rate and is continually making our lives easier and better in every way. I could not think of a more exciting time to be alive.
'Technology is evolving at an exponential rate and is continually making our lives easier and better in every way. I could not think of a more exciting time to be alive.'
What is innovation to you? And what does it look like in the future?
Innovation for me means not just having a creative idea, but executing this idea to deliver impact and actual value from it. Like Thomas Edison, considered to be one of the greatest innovators of all time said: ‘Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration’.
One of the greatest examples of true innovation to me right now are the ambitious projects by Elon Musk’s companies. From re-usable, lower cost space flights to accessible electric cars for the masses, these are both great examples of how creative ideas have been successfully executed to create real impact and value. That being said, for me it’s important that innovation is not only limited to initiatives with radical or disruptive ambition, but that we also understand the importance of incremental and routine innovation in delivering real value.
In my view, innovation in the future is going to be driven by digitalization and ‘exponential’ technologies (which double in power and halve in cost each year). Digitalization is going to make our lives easier and more productive and will employ exponential technologies such as drones, Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, Biotech and much more to realize new possibilities. The future is exciting!
What would you say to someone looking to join Vodacom?
What makes Vodacom a great company is the people who work here. If you are looking to join the company, you can expect a great culture of working with Speed, Simplicity and Trust and an environment which encourages innovation, high-performance and agile decision making. There is also an amazing diversity of people who work together in world-class facilities. Vodacom also invests in technology which enables employees be more productive, and believes that any activities can be done anywhere that a network signal will reach.
The sky is also the limit for your career here, as development is very important and opportunities for continuous learning and development are available to all employees, together with significant investment in talent development.
The pace of change is also very stimulating and exciting, and you will work to bring the latest technologies to life for our customers each and every day. Most importantly, you will be part of a company which cares for our communities and takes great pride in making a difference to people’s lives by making them easier and better.
'[At Vodacom] you will work to bring the latest technologies to life for our customers each and every day.'
What career development tips can you share?
Always be yourself! Having a good personality and a great work ethic are more important and impressive than anything else. Stay grounded and humble as you grow, and always remember the importance of treating people how you would like to be treated, irrespective of position. Remember that we are all just people on our own journeys in life.
Have a plan for your career. Dream big but start small! It is important to have realistic expectations for the timing of each step along your career plan. You spend a lot of time at work, so most important is to make sure that you and those around you also have fun along the way. Having a work life balance is also important to allow you to enjoy the simple, irreplaceable things in life together with your professional successes.
Never stop learning! If you want to keep growing and developing, you’ll need to keep learning. Keep abreast of the latest trends in your industry and focus on improving the skills you require for the next step on your career plan which might currently be a shortcoming. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and see it as an opportunity to learn rather than as a weakness.
Find out more about a career at Vodacom
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