Women in I.T. Profile: Loraine Botha
Key Account Manager at Altron Bytes Managed Solutions (Altron BMS)

With over 20 years spent in the world of I.T, Loraine Botha has experienced firsthand the ever-changing face of technology. She’s observed it grow and evolve at pace and is especially excited to have recently joined the Women in I.T. forum, comprising of an innovative group of ladies at Altron BMS who’ve been tasked to inject some out-the-box, tech-focused solutions, mainly into the current retail environment in South Africa.

“Anyone can join,” explains Loraine, “as long as you have an innovative idea that you believe can benefit both Altron and Retail, principally, which is of course a strategic focus of our business. The ladies come from different backgrounds and we all have varying skill levels. There have been some great ideas already which we now need to explore in depth. The forum is simply a dynamic, supportive and empowering platform all-round.”

She also feels that the forum is the perfect example of where the women of Altron presently find themselves: “It illustrates the kinds of opportunities that are open to women within the group. Altron is definitely heading in the right direction, thanks in large part to our values and strong corporate culture.”

Here she tells us more about her life and career…

You had a rather unconventional start in the industry. Tell us more about it…
Yes. My start in I.T. happened when I applied for a position as a Helpdesk manager whilst working as a Correctional Services Officer.

I wanted to go into teaching, but I was unable to study after school due to financial constraints, so I had to start working straight out of matric. I started working in Correctional Services and swopped small-town life (I went to school in Volksrust) for one in the city, working in Pretoria. This also then enabled me to study part time.

I funded my studies myself, studying Personnel Management through UNISA and had to find a way to fit it into my schedule as I was at college and had to also apply myself there to successfully complete my correctional services training. So, while my friends were out, I was hitting the books and quickly learning how to manage my finances. The transition from small town to big city was quite a shock to the senses but I’m grateful for it all, as it assisted me in my journey.

I’m a people’s person and working at Correctional Services allowed me to work within a multidisciplinary team and exposed me to diverse people from different backgrounds. It is here where I realized the importance of teamwork and trust. I saw an opportunity when they needed someone to manage the I.T. Helpdesk. I had no experience in I.T. before that but was successful in the interview and then had to skill myself to do the work. I completed a lot of training, which helped me excel in the position.

I was later approached by Olivetti. They were one of our onsite vendors at Correctional Services and they offered me a service level manager position. This was my entry into corporate and I ended up working for five different companies as I built a career – all at the “same desk” – as takeovers happened and companies changed hands. The experience I gained because of these changes, working with different companies and different cultures and having to continuously adjust, far outweighed any textbook education.

In your opinion, what’s the ‘feminine edge’ that women bring to the I.T. space?
I don’t think the feminine edge applies only to the tech space. I believe that women naturally want people outside of themselves to succeed. We may all have different skill sets and ways of working, but as a collective we tend to root for people. We are less afraid to put ourselves out there, to collaborate and share what we know with others. The point of departure for us is not personal gain; we understand that a win is limited when it happens in isolation.

Describe your typical workday
I am responsible for one of our strategic retail accounts, and what’s important to me is the relationship with the person behind the business. I also work closely with our Operational teams as there is a critical link between the development and the execution of a solution– we share a common goal of driving customer excellence. It’s important for me to stay relevant and well-informed, so I keep up with I.T. and Financial news as well as trends in Retail in general by collaborating with our pre-sales team and subject matter experts. My key objective is to ensure that we add value and yes, adding value is arguably one of the most overused phrases, but as someone once said: ‘value is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.’ Adding value means different things to different clients and there is no business value in solving problems that don’t resolve business issues. You need to support your customers on their strategic journeys, understand their challenges and be flexible enough to adjust the value proposition where needed.

What does your downtime look like?
I think I can now safely claim to be a runner because I completed my first marathon in November last year. I started the training 6 months prior to the event, keeping to the training program, doing my long runs on Saturdays, even during winter, heading out at 4:30am and running for 2-3 hours at a time. My goal was clear and completing that marathon was a great personal accomplishment for me. I’m also fortunate to have a supportive, close-knit family. My daughter is in Matric this year while my son (27) is married and he, ironically, became a teacher.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
I can’t really single out a person in particular, but I’ll tell you what does inspire me: single mothers who just find a way to make things work; selfless acts such as a family that donates a loved one’s organs, or a teenager that looks after a household after a parent’s passing. And real people – there’s a lot of ‘plastic’ around us, so real people inspire me.

What advice do you have for women aspiring to a career in tech?
Joining a forum like the one we’ve just started is a good stepping stone as it’s a safe and open environment for growth. I believe that a girl in school today has the same opportunities as her male counterparts. My advice is simply to have a clear goal and do the work to get to where you want to be. We prove, improve and develop ourselves by having goals, up-skilling, re-skilling and working hard.