(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)
Here is my interview with Nisha Maharaj, Managing Director of Niche Integrated Solutions – established in 2013, a 100% black women owned and managed Organization. Niche Integrated Solutions lead technology innovation to the Africa continent and through this, create jobs, uplift skills in technology and foster technology transfer.
What makes you do what you do?
Typically people do what they have to do because they do not have a choice so many people go to work hoping that entire day could pass by quickly. I like the doings that I want to and more importantly enjoy which is why I decided to build my own business. I admired many entrepreneurs, mostly my own managers who were the CEOs and wanted to have a taste of entrepreneurship for myself. I spent many years believing that I could also be like my managers until I finally got out and decided to do it for myself and, my children. I now have all the flexibility in the world even though I often work 15 hours a day.
How did you rise in the industry you are in?
I am still rising, it has been a tough journey but we have been persistent. People who worked with us previously had a high regard for us and as a result, it is easier to access clients because they trust us. We are also specialists in what we do so people value our opinion because we put a serious amount of energy into thinking of easier and better ways to do things. As we moved along, people started to recognize us for what we were doing and now -we are the ones receiving the calls.
Why did you take on this role/start this startup especially since this is perhaps a stretch or challenge for you? (or viewed as one since you are not the usual leadership demographics)
I took on this role because I was a single parent and it was frustrating trying to deal with my family life whilst locked into my work 24-7. No flexibility to watch my son’s school football tournament canceled holidays, the working life with the targets that I had was overwhelming. I needed flexibility and to be my own boss and for my children to have more of me. I was always one of the top performers in most of my own jobs so I had he faith in myself to believe that to make my own salary on my own would not be a difficulty. I did exactly this and have never looked back once.
Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries or did you look for one or how did that work?
I never really had a mentor, my stupidity that my head was burrowed in work in the start-up stages of my company. There are however two Long standing ex-bosses whom I always admired, aspired to be like them whom I have always remained in contact with -Chris De Beer and Eugene van Niekerk. I believe that what I have learned under them will serve me well for the rest of my future -I have yet to meet such impeccable persons in my lifetime.
Now as a leader how do you spot, develop, keep, grow and support your talent?
The one thing that I am good at is networking and connecting dots. I have the ability to be able to identify talent- in that crowded room, there is always that one person that you want to reach out to but never do, and I make it practice to do so. People always ask you questions but most of the time, they have the answers themselves, what matters is not giving the answer to them, you should be able to help them probe and examine in order to arrive at the answers themselves.
Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?
I am pretty much color blind, I support diversity unconsciously, just as how the co-founder Priya Singh and I happen to black women in ICT-we are both specialists in our fields and co-incidentally conform to the bbbee codes, though unplanned. I will not purposefully go out looking for a black employee, my focus is youth or any color or kind because I am proudly a South African and any proud South African will realize that serving the youth of this country should be the premium objective.
What is your take on what it takes to be a great leader in your industry and as a general rule of thumb?
The only words that I would use to say what distinguishes leaders are their level of emotional intelligence versus the intelligence quotient. Take calculated risks, do your homework well and make informed decisions is generally what works best.
Advice for others?
Entrepreneurship is not easy, many entrepreneurs fail -so pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and try again. As they all say, is not bad when you try and fail but bad if you fail to try.
Technology innovation is our passion if you need anything in the arena of software, IT services and networks and telco, feel free to give us a shout anytime.
To learn more about Niche Integrated Solutions, please see http://www.nicheintegrated.com/.
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