This year at the Women’s Conference, awards were given to outstanding women in our company. These awards recognize the women who reached new career heights through great self-awareness of their strengths, limitations, and priorities in life. These women have a reputation for personal success, demonstrate a willingness to take risks through new opportunities, and possess an authentic personal leadership style.
This years “INSPIRE” award went to Kelebogile Phiri of South Africa:
Kelebogile (Kele) runs the DigiGirlz program in South Africa with tremendous success. She inspires learners across the nation to dream and aspire to a future in IT. She accomplishes this through classroom training, participating at Tech Ed, and ensuring awareness of DigiGirlz. She is passionate and dedicated to the cause and is well-deserving of this award. We recently spoke with Kele to learn more about her career, motivations and perspectives.
Q. Tell us about your career at Microsoft? When did you start here? What are you currently doing in role?
A: I started my career at Microsoft in August of 2004, I was one of seven hires from a pilot technical graduate academy in South Africa. From 2004 to present I have worked in Service Delivery, Technical Account Management and most recently as a Senior Operations Premier Field Engineer (PFE), working with dedicated accounts across many industries. Working as a customer advocate and as a trusted advisor has helped me build operational strategies and process improvements for customers.
Q: What are the three things that excite you most about your role as a PFE in Services?
1) Flexibility: As a single mother it was important for me to have a flexible schedule so I created a plan with my manager to meet these and the business needs.
2) Travel: I like to stay close to home for my family, but do enjoy expanding my global network through visiting other countries and making new friends.
3) Influence: I love working in a variety of customer environments and helping to influence customers to find the best return on their technology investments. This, in turn, can influence the economies within those countries so I know I’m making an impact.
Q: What inspires You?
1) Microsoft: Having a brand that stands for something. Participating in these initiatives is helping to create exposure to students in high schools and demystifying the myths that the [digigirlz] kids may have about IT and women in IT. By breaking down perceptions I can educate young women and explain that you don’t need to be “super technical” to work in technology. You can do what you are passionate about and see how it connects back to IT as all careers use IT.
2) Career perspective: I like to add value, so I always look for opportunities for the customers to get more from their current technology.
3) Being true to self: I frequently reflects on “who I am,” and ensure that I am always aligning to my core values and enjoying life.
Q: How did you first get involved in DigiGirlz?
A: A mentor actually got me involved in the DigiGirlz program. Since I got involved, I have helped to grow the program to host 10 events/year and am currently looking at how the program can extend to other provinces, camps and workshops.
Q: What has contributed to the success of the DigiGirlz program in South Africa?
A: The support received from students, teachers, employees, HR and local leadership all contribute to the ongoing program success. There is always a feedback loop about obstacles to remove, but we remain committed to the core intent of the program.
Q: How do you inspire these young girls to learn about technology?
A: Digi Girlz allows for multiple opportunities to inspire:
- The workshops allow Microsoft employees talk to girls about their career path and what they can learn from their experiences. This also gives employees an opportunity to interact with the next generation.
- The girls create “vision boards” so they can literally visualize where they will see themselves once they are out of school. The boards help facilitate great discussions.
- Microsoft employees also show the girls how to do technology development, and even create their own game to play.
- There are also opportunities for the girls to participate in “Story-Telling”, where girls are given resources to tell a digital Story and have the opportunity to work on their presentation skills while learning about technology along the way.
Q: Any other words of wisdom?
A: I am always focused on ensuring that the work I’m doing is adding value, preparing the next generation and enjoying life!