“It is ok to change your mind. There is no need to stay on one path even when it is not working (Plan A). Not changing your mind underestimates the complexity and flexibility of the world we are living in. Not all decisions are permanent and irreversible. Remember, even if plan B fails, there are 24 more letters in the alphabet,” says Keitumetsi Tsotetsi – a Senior Specialist in Cyber Security Governance, Risk and Compliance. Tsotetsi has held a managerial position as a Risk Assurance Manager at PWC, before joining one of the biggest telecommunication company in February 2021.
Education: BCom IT Management degree (UJ), Post Graduate Diploma in Management specialising in corporate governance (Monash University) and is an ISO27001 BSI Certified lead auditor (BSI Institute).
What do you do as the 8 to 5 job & what led you to this career choice?
I studied IT and started in the IT space but noticed that many organisations had challenges when it came to managing Information Security. I wanted to specialise in that field because of the opportunities it would bring, but also because it would be solving real world problems that would have never been encountered before. The whole world is learning about new problems and resolving them. I love being part of the global community. It is incredibly interesting to be part of this field. It is anticipated that for 2021 it will be one of the most high risk/high accountability careers because of the extent of digitisation that has come about as a result of increased remote working. I believe that it is important not only to protect organisations but also to protect people, their identities and their right to privacy.
In addition to this I have recently been appointed as the National Youth ICT Council’s Advisory board chairperson. I am keen to be driving the collaboration between the public sector, private sector and academia to drive the fourth industrial revolution in South Africa. More information can be found at: https://www.youthictcouncil.org.za/
Tell me about your upbringing, dreams & aspirations, educational and heritage.
Born and raised in Johannesburg, I was brought up in a very loving and encouraging household with the whole family coming together to ensure my success. I will forever be grateful for the sacrifices made by my parents and grandparents to guide me to where I am today. I have always wanted to be successful, success to me means bringing other people along and giving them the capabilities to be self-sufficient. If we all bring just 1 person up, that’s a whole lot of people coming up. Being in an industry that is growing supports my ability, with the support of others, to make this a reality. I want to make sure that the youth is aware of the options they have with career choices in a digital economy and also enable them with resources to realise the opportunities. I have always loved teaching and there are many ways to do that outside of the classroom. I hope that one day we as South Africans will have a wealth of our own information sources to rely on that will contextualise our challenges in relation to our unique problems. There is still a lot of reliance on first world countries for insights, statistics, research/development, solutions etc.
What is your side hustle business and or forums you actively participate in?
The side hustle I actively participate in is Geekulcha: Home of the Geeks – Geekulcha
I have been a part of the business/forum for over 7 years. I am also proudly a product of the forum. It has been a fulfilling experience to have my life improve as a result and not only that, but to see the positive impact it has had on the South African youth. It is an incredible community supported by various industry leaders to ensure its success. This platform has opened many doors in terms of incubation, providing resources, bursaries, internships and permanent employment through the functions we have hosted.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I didn’t come up with the idea for the business. This was the master plan of Mixo Ngoveni and Tiyani Nghonyama. By the time I joined, the vision had been established and was underway. The idea of the business came about when we were in varsity and realised that we were being taught a lot of theory but had very little corporate and/or real world insight. Even at varsity level, there is little knowledge about the career opportunities in the IT space. The motive was to bridge the gap between those studying and those working. To build a network of students and young professionals so that they are better equipped to take on the opportunities in the IT space. It has grown immensely. We provide not only the technical skills but soft skills as well. Soft skills are often overlooked and they are the real make or break of a business.
What about funding – what is easy or difficult and how did you navigate it?
Getting funding at the beginning was very difficult. Trying to establish ourselves as a brand and gaining the trust of sponsors was very difficult. It still is sometimes. In the beginning a lot of the costs were out of pocket. Making personal financial sacrifices to make things happen. Businesses are investments and a lot of the time before anyone else invests in a business, they want to see that the business has invested in itself.
Another important aspect is being sure of the running costs and being able to justify the requested funding. It must be feasible (feasible does not mean cheap). All involved stakeholders must have the understanding of why the funds are required, how they will be utilised and what the cost benefit analysis is for them. Always ask, the worst you can get is a no. Speak to anyone who is willing to listen (anyone that aligns with the brand that is)
Over time we have had the privilege of that trust through work we have done. Sponsors are more willing to provide resources we need to function and/or facilitate our events be it financial/non-financial. Keep in mind that investment in the business is not only money but time as well. There are valuable insights that can be provided by subject matter experts.
How do you balance the two aspects of responsibility (work & business)?
Luckily for me, the two coincide very closely. Although the requirements from my day job and side hustle differ, the knowledge required for both is similar. I am also able to leverage my professional network to input into driving the Geekulcha vision. It is important to set boundaries upfront. Taking up multiple tasks means giving 100% of yourself to all of them. What I did was write down the priorities of each along with my priorities so that I can order them according to importance. This enabled me to identify my strengths/weaknesses and reach out for help where required. Discipline is important. It means doing things that need to be done even when you don’t feel like it. It is good to know what anchors you so that when you start feeling like you are wavering, you know what is holding you down.
Did You Experience Failures as you built your business and how did you deal with them?
Any business that says they have not experienced failure in any form would be hiding some information. There have been a lot of failures (I’d rather call them lessons). Dealing with them meant not pretending they didn’t happen. Facing it head on collectively as a business/team and understanding where changes are needed. The changes may be processes, communication skills, budgeting or management skills. Getting up and moving on includes reflecting. Before moving on from our challenges as a business, we made sure we understood the root causes and impacts. We then made changes where necessary so that the same issues do not arise again. Another thing that I need to stress is that not all failures hold the same magnitude. There will be many but always recognise that not all of them are big or worth dwelling over. The business will scrutinise you more than the public ever will. EQ is important. A lot of the time a business is built on a conceptual vision, the ground work and soft skills are where a lot of the failures happen. When that comes up, keep the end goal in mind. The direction of the journey may change but the destination is the same.
Final Thoughts and message of encouragement to anyone out there about the importance of a plan B
Even if it is not something that will be immediately actioned, thinking of the next steps is important because it guides the journey and decision making. Having a baseline idea of what you want means that you are also planning for managing and absorbing any deviations that may arise. Deviations are not always negative disruptions, they can also bring opportunities for growth. Life sometimes leads us on paths we wouldn’t go if it were up to us and often we find ourselves happier than we anticipate with those journeys. Often those paths are plan B.
General pointers: Networking is important. Get to know people and what they do even if it is not in the same spaces as you. It might result in an incredible collaboration. It will also just expand your knowledge on how others do things. Don’t limit your knowledge or what you learn to JUST school/work.
Message of encouragement: Lessons are never learned in favourable conditions. Learning is difficult and can be a gruesome experience while it’s happening. The value is usually realised after reflecting and seeing how you are doing things much better, more efficiently and with less fear.
Make mistakes. It’s ok!! Resilience is built through failing and getting up again.