Yvette Adounvo Atekpe is the Regional Managing Director for Internet Solutions Ghana. With over 20 years’ experience in the Telecom and ICT sector, she has been involved in establishing world class customer service teams in the sector. In this interview with MobileWorld she talks about how she has fared in a male dominated industry, her company’s unique selling point, her take on the Telecom & ICT space and many more……
How would you describe yourself?
I am a very outgoing and reserved person at the same time, I love challenges and for me the chase is everything. I enjoy following up on things and seeing it come to fruition. I can be quite strict and a stickler for detail. You know in our business, you need to make sure that you’ve dotted your Is and crossed all your Ts, so I tend to be a stickler for detail in that manner. I would say, I’m also very much a people person. I love dealing with people, I like meeting new people and making everyone feel comfortable, and I think that is why I find myself very well placed in the service industry and that is what I have done my whole working life. Making sure that I am rendering a service that is enriching other people’s lives, a service that is helping people, and that daily interaction, that joy of seeing that people are happy with what they get, I think is what really gets me up and running. So in a nutshell, I’m a very simple person, I like the very simple yet nice things of life. I like to spend time with my
family, for me it’s very key, and also spend time with my team at IS, I take them as an extended part of my family, and make sure that everybody is in a good place physically and emotionally.
As CEO for Internet Solutions, what is your typical day like?
There is never a typical day, every day is different, and that is what has kept me going these past 10 years at Internet Solutions. Someone will think how can you be at a place for 10 years, and doing the same thing, but it’s not doing the same thing. You know every day brings a different challenge, and that’s what I like, so typically, in my day the only thing that I would say is assured to a large extent is that I will walk in and walk out! There is the constant barrage of meetings to attend or convene. On certain days I am working from an airport lounge, or in a different country! However, everyday has its challenges, there are different issues and projects that I am working on, there are various situations that would come up from the market, from our clients and administrative issues that need to be addressed. There are constantly new projects we manage, and you know in the IT world nothing is stagnant, and there is always something new happening.
The ICT sector is perceived to be a male industry, how have you fared?
How have I fared? I would say quite well, and I am quite proud of myself when I say that because it hasn’t been easy. I started in the ICT space from the telecoms sector, I was with Celltel, when mobile telephony was in its nascent stages in Ghana, and that was an exciting time for me, but it was still very much male dominated. There was not much I knew about cell sites and base stations and line of sight etc. back then, but the learning experience has been tremendous, one has to keep reading, attending courses, conferences, seminars in order to stay abreast with all the innovation. So I would say that I have fared quite well, it’s still male dominated, but I am happy to be among a growing number of females heading ICT organizations. The sisterhood definitely helps especially in boardrooms which are predominantly male! But I’ll say in a way too, let me not begrudge the men because I have learnt a lot from them, most of my mentors in the ICT sector were men, right down from my first employment, and without t
heir guidance and support to really bring you up to speed, it can be tough. So I’ll say I have been lucky to work closely with some very inspirational male professionals, awesome engineers, chairmen of organizations, they have also in diverse ways helped to carve my path in the industry all the way through to my appointment as board chair of Internet Solutions Ghana today!
Let’s take a look at Internet Solutions, how impactful has your cloud services been?
I would say very impactful; for our clients it’s been great. Cloud solutions in my opinion is the way to go. Cloud services involve moving both physical computing infrastructure and applications into the cloud, primarily through the use of data centre-based services such as lodging, hosting, and virtualization of servers, storage and back office applications. It is most impactful to stem the rising cost of infrastructure and reduce one’s capex, whilst operating in a secure environment. I believe there is a huge opportunity for cloud services in our market, however Cloud providers have a great deal of work to do in ensuring an accelerated uptake in our market. This therefore forms the basis of Internet Solutions thought leadership interventions on cloud services and security.
What will you say is your unique selling point at IS?
I can tell you that with my eyes closed that what makes us stand out is our entire service model; our client engagement is amazing. Anyone can deploy infrastructure and on sell that infrastructure to clients. However, it is how that service is supported Our USP is more around the service that we provide, the level of client service, and we are with our clients right from the moment they sign on, through to installation and thereafter, we are with you to ensure that we have a partnership. So it’s not just customer relationship, it’s a partnership and our distinctive model is client engagement, whereby we ensure that we are indeed engaging our clients and being an integral part of their business. We are assisting them even in areas outside the scope of services they have procured from us. IS Client Engagement for us is our unique selling point.
In five years’ time, where do you see Internet Solutions Ghana?
In five years’ time, I see Internet Solutions Ghana’s footprint spread very wide on the map, boot for boot with the larger telco’s in our local market and within the sub-region. We have grown our brand to a large extent in Ghana over the past 10 years within the Enterprise business, and I would love to see the Internet Solutions brand widely visible not only within our current Enterprise Solutions offerings, but to become more recognizable as a full-fledged Cloud, Communications, Connectivity and Carrier business serving SME and Consumer segments. We are working hard deploying our wi-fi hotspots, VoIS, and FTTB in order to meet the growing needs of the market over the next few years, watch this space.
Are you looking at going into Triple Play?
Definitely, the IS network already fully supports Triple play. At the Octagon in Accra, for example where we are the sole ICT service provider, we are providing voice, video and data/internet to the tenants, which all runs off our infrastructure.
If you had three wishes, what would it be?
My first wish will be to see a better regulated environment in the ICT space in Ghana. To have a more level playing field, because in my opinion, we are almost at a point where we could be heading once more towards a monopoly in Communication services. My second wish would be to see a decrease in Corporate taxes in order to free-up working capital and abolition of the CST tax chargeable to vendors in order to reduce our high operating costs and improve the cash flow position of businesses. My personal wish is to be able to get Internet Solutions Ghana to my desired heights, and at that point, I will be able to sit back and relax and not go through the hustle and bustle I have been going through for the past twenty plus years. It is my fervent wish that by that time, I should be in a position to be able to give back to society in many more meaningful ways, engage in other projects I am passionate about and have enough time to spend with my husband, children and loved ones.
What are your hopes for this year’s Tech 360 summit and GITTA Awards for Internet Solutions?
I have big hopes, I am hopeful that we can be the ISP/Enterprise Solutions Provider of the year, because we have put in so much work and innovation this year, and based on the positive feedback we received from the market, especially around our solutions, around our delivery, quality of service and support, I am hopeful that we would be winners in these categories. With regards to the summit, I must say that I really enjoyed last year’s event and it would be good to see a lot more participation from the industry stakeholders. It was very much an eye opener and it is well worth it for our industry to have this kind of collaboration. Furthermore, please enhance female participation especially on the panel discussions. There are so many women in our industry with a lot to contribute.
What one word do you have for upcoming female ICT practitioners?
Persistence, because it is very easy to give up. It’s a very fast paced environment and very challenging, it is very easy to sit back and say enough let me find something a lot easier I can deal with. One needs to persevere, make sure that you stick to the goal which you will definitely achieve. Don’t forget, victory loves preparation so stay the course.
Over the years, how have you been able to balance family and career?
I get that question a lot. It’s almost a myth, this work-family balance issue. Believe me, and if we have to be very honest with ourselves, it’s very difficult to find the balance. There are times when I have had to be out of the country at a time when I know my children need me the most. However, I compensate with the use of technology – Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp etc. No wonder, the Internet is now referred to as the fourth utility. I continue to manage the work-life balance to the best of my abilities and with the support of great work colleagues, domestic help and an awesome family.