AS a little girl growing up in a rural village called Oshipanda near Oshikuku, Alisa Amupolo never imagined that she would one day become a strategic leader of note in the ICT industry. But today she is so confident of her role that for the first time arguably, she agreed to an interview to talk about her journey. From NBC, CRAN to MTC amongst other entities, her privileged position in the industry and now as CEO of PowerCom gives readers an insight of challenges and priorities she dealt with to boost performance in a complex business and communications environment. Beyond that she’s an ordinary woman who enjoys spending quality time with her loved ones and indulges in literature.
Give us a snapshot of who you are?
I am an ordinary millennial leader striving to do extraordinary things and on path to fulfilling my potential in the communications industry by doing my bit to leave the world better connected than I found it. I was born and bred in rural northern Namibia and grew up in Oshipanda village near Oshikuku where I spent my entire defining ages and migrated to Windhoek at 18 in search for tertiary education, shortly after matriculating from Oshigambo High School.
Today I can say I am a strategic leader in the ICT industry with a lot of miles still to be travelled however committed to serving Namibia and the globe at large, the best I know how.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
I grew up in an average family of educators and I am the elder of eight siblings along with my twin sisters and grew up with many other relatives raised by my parents. Like many households in rural settings, the struggle was real in making ends meet and survival came with labour and many sacrifices to keep the entire family fed.
I was familiarised earlier on to rural domestic chores, apart from the obvious of crisscrossing the village on foot to make it to school, looking after livestock and crops with books in tow, fetching firewood, cultivating mahangu, seasonal fishing and harvesting mopane worms; were the order of the day.
Not to forget fetching water with no less than 5 litres on your head from the only water tap around at the time along B1 road.
My parents also dedicated their lives to civil service. I was born during war in a politically active home where my parents took on many leadership responsibilities at community level, and I grew up attending political events with my parents.
I was brought up in a liberal home and very open where my family welcomed people from all walks of life. Post independent we hosted Peace Corps volunteers for two consecutive years which as kids we were fascinated with and learned a great deal of things including the English language. We were also a transition base for combatants during war and equally hosted a number of returnees from exile up until they were reintegrated and reunited with their families, so I grew up seeing new faces all the time.
What triggered your interest in ICT? Also what are your educational qualifications?
Communications has been in my DNA since childhood but it was not until way later when information and communications begin to interface with technology in an unprecedented manner. But the real trigger was the English lab at high school, which had a central broadcasting system controlled by the teacher that transmitted and exchanged communication to student cubicles and vice versa.
I was absolutely fascinated by it and the English teacher at the time had time keeping my ever flashing button turned off during oral presentation and reading. I was intrigued by the whole platform set up and I wanted to explore it more and more, right then I knew this was destiny.
So I went on to pursue a BA in media studies at the University of Namibia and graduated in 2004, my real first encounter begun with introduction to ICT course and until then I have never learned computer nor used internet. However, with my immense love for all things communications technology, it was no surprise that I ended up being the key lady to the computer lab in my department.
I then went on to pursue a Masters in International communications at University of Leeds and graduated in 2008 after finally receiving a Canon Collins scholarships jointly funded by Chevening/Foreign Common and University of Leeds (at second attempt) and f o c u s e d mainly on how to advance the communications industry from a technology standpoint with focus on telecommunications.
This is really where the intense exposure to ICT begun as in my course I then deliberately took keen interest in technology standards and being in the EU at the time, the likes of iPhone was just entering in the market and there was enough debate around encryption. Hence the focus was really analysing those advanced markets on how they are bridging the digital divide and the lessons therein for Namibia.
A few years’ later, I began to interact more with industry players and took a loan to invest in a business leadership programme to bring me on par with the business side industry and graduated from Emerging Leaders Programme with London Business School in 2011 and ever since I have ventured more on the commercial and strategic side of the industry.
Congratulations on your appointment as PowerCom CEO, how did that come about?
Thank you so much. I am really humbled by the opportunity to serve this dynamic entity with amazing potential. I still have a long way to go in my career and however I see it as just one of the steps towards something even greater.
It was really by the grace of God and enormous preparations by my prior journey which was a mix of failures and small successes here and there. Put together it prepared me and culminated into something great such as leading a dynamic entity which I would never have otherwise dreamt of as a young rural woman.
I believe all the above is a result of a series of support and empowerment by others along the journey be it through mentorship, training or simply exposure and dozens of wisdom, while hard work goes without saying. However, these could only be attained if given an opportunity for one to apply their skills and talent.
I would again put emphasis on prior having studied and worked in the industry across all levels public and private of which the experience spans over a number of years across all sectors of the industry. Today I can proudly say I have worked across the entire value chain of the industry from policies, regulatory, enterprise and commercial both on the back end and front end, spurred by both success and failures.
It can be drawn back to Broadcasting Communication at NBC, ICT Policy and Development at Commonwealth, ICT Regulatory Environment at NCC and CRAN, tech start-up & business at my own ventures such as information.na, and Telecommunication commercial environment at MTC on a non-executive level.
Tell us about PowerCom?
PowerCom was established in 2007 and begun trading as Cell One, it was later acquired by a new shareholder and rebranded its trading name to LEO. In 2013 it begun trading as TN mobile after its 100% acquisition by Telecom Namibia Group and in the same year sold its mobile license to Telecom Namibia and in return purchases all the tower infrastructures and consolidated it in its portfolio.
Today the principle nature of PowerCom’s business is ICT infrastructure and equipment provider serving ICT industry players of which core business is currently telecommunications towers by leasing space on its infrastructures. Its clientele is made up of its shareholder Telecom Namibia, MTC, Paratus Telecom, NBC, Multichoice, One Africa TV, Africa online and nearly many radio stations. PowerCom also services other players in a transmission place requiring infrastructure ranging from rail to aviation industry and security to mention but a few.
What vision do you have for the company?
My vision for PowerCom along with our dedicated lean team is to become a sophisticated steward of its infrastructure asset that is powering the communication industry to connect Namibia with quality services.
I see my role as to grow from a Towerco to a fully fledge Infraco with a plug and play model that is value adding to both passive and active infrastructures at every price point whilst maintaining shareholders value with maximum returns.
As the ecosystem in the infrastructure industry is vast, it is my wish that with each component of the value chain, we can foster sound partnership with other business players and entrepreneurs across the industry to build a sustainable and enduring entity.
Above all my vision is for PowerCom to become an employer of choice where employees can apply their talent to the best of abilities and have an environment where they can thrive and grow to the next level and also have a bit of fun at work.
You served on various boards, how has that shaped you as a professional?
It has been a privilege to have served the industry in various capacities of which the highlight was the Non-Executive Director at the largest mobile operator MTC, for nearly three years where I also served as a Deputy Chairperson for the Board before moving on in March this year to join PowerCom. The exposure was vast, the challenges immense, the returns fulfilling and overall journey rewarding. The industry being male dominated I never once felt insignificant as woman in the boardroom and the confidence comes from knowing that you are appointed on merit as with your male counterparts and it was not a wheelbarrowing affair. This is really where my tenacity as an emerging industry leader was nurtured as you constantly representing all other women outside the mainstream and have to remain conscious to make space for more women to penetrate the leadership ladder.
By delivering excellent results consistently, one is reinforcing that our presence in the boardroom as women is not to decorate by showing up looking pretty; there is a unique value proposition associated to women’s presence in the boardroom from ethical balance to more responsible corporate citizen apart from making a professional contribution through our callings.
Professionally, it has moulded me in a strategist that I made today, as at every encounter in the boardroom, I am more inclined to wear my strategy hat that is connecting the dots, more than anything else.
What advice do you have for girls and fellow women?
There are simply no shortcuts, education and hard work is the merit to claiming our rightful positions in the Namibian society. Women should support each other and also do themselves a favour by looking for learning opportunities no matter what level or age they are; it is never too late.
We can be hard working and labour with sweat but it is in vain if it is not well informed. The only way we can break the pattern is to expose ourselves to insights in order to recognise and attract the right opportunities that can really take us further.
We also need to create space for more self-made women as a result of their hard work and credentials. I also want to urge woman to aim high and measure themselves by contribution they can make rather than for the security they can attain in the society by virtue of their marital status.
Just what do you do for a little fun?
I indulge a lot on literature and writing. I do like to escape to anything bursting in nature and I spend a lot of quality time with my loved ones on weekends and there is no such a thing as too much romance.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015