Masego Khutsoane

Masego Khutsoane – Independent Procurement Consultant

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Women focus groups are essential to allow for these tough conversations, to mold and lead younger IT female professionals, to advocate and establish a stronger voice for women in IT by enforcing and negotiating for impactful roles.

Masego Khutsoane is an Independent Procurement Consultant based in Johannesburg Area in South Africa. As a strategic and analytical thinker with management experience in strategic sourcing, procurement and leading dynamic teams she is experienced in customer support, retention strategies and developing successful competitive strategies. With a total of 19 years of work experience and reporting at executive levels, she has lots to say so read about her amazing journey.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

My job is interesting in that no one day is the same. Strategic Sourcing involves understanding business strategy, interpreting and analyzing ways to reduce and save costs, improve processes and align stakeholders within the company. Strategic Sourcing cuts across all industries. It is procurement at a strategic level, where risks from suppliers and internal clients are managed, as well as ensuring compliance to relevant regulatory and legislative requirements are met. 

Technology is involved in almost every aspect of business nowadays, which means that when you procure or look at operations in a company one cannot overlook the tech component. Any company that does that, will probably miss out on being either a forerunner against competitors or not have a competitive edge required to thrive soon.

I, therefore, must approach all procurement requests, process reviews and programme management with a view of:

  1. How technology can improve the as is 
  2. What impact will technology or lack thereof have in a minimum of 3 years’ time in the decision/s to be made 
  3. Is technology seen as a business enabler or an impediment given that this would influence budgeting and business operations, as well as increase market access and opportunities for small businesses

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

I have had the privilege to work with South Africa’s best companies and experts over the last 18 years. My expertise ranges from Supplier Relationship Management (“SRM”), Stakeholder management (through Operating level agreements), Client Relationship Management (“CRM”), driving cost containment and operational process efficiencies, as well as impacting company policies, strategies and the bottom line positively through strategic sourcing standards. I have held various positions of responsibility with the following industry leaders:

  • Johannesburg Stock Exchange
  • Woolworths Financial Services
  • Absa
  • Nedbank

As Divisional Head in a Software as a Service (“SaaS”) IT company, I looked after a staff complement of 65. I managed a portfolio of clients and products, formulated a robust strategy and divisional business plans. I had the task of ensuring that there is a clearly defined product roadmap, create a low effort development and maintenance environment, as well as improve the client engagement levels. It allowed me to delve into conversations with industry leaders around roundtables and seek sustainable solutions on cloud storage strategies, IoT, Master Data integration and Incident and Access management. I have since ventured on my own to run my own advisory and consulting company called Black Lining. 

Black Lining was born in 2015 out of a need to advocate for women in procurement, establish a forum to discuss the impact of and assist with driving Enterprise Supplier Development programs. This year saw the company being relaunched to focus on providing procurement consulting services to organizations searching for opportunities to reduce operational inefficiencies and increase their potential for success when sourcing products and/or services, whilst ensuring adherence to regulatory requirements. Technology being at the forefront of all our engagements to ensure either a competitive edge or introduce one in the value chain. We also offer procurement mentorship to procurement professionals and clients. Black Lining seeks to inspire, engage and transform the procurement landscape.

I studied Information systems at Rhodes University, with another major in Management. I planned to be a technology strategist, and I went ahead to study a Bachelor of Commerce honors in Strategic management. Later on, I enrolled to study my master’s in Business Administration, I am left with the dissertation part of the degree. 

My career has been nothing short of phenomenal. I have had my share of frustrations but overall, I have learned the value of hard work, networking with peers and industry experts, as well as the art of self-belief.

My bursar for my undergrad degree, Eskom, offered me a pre-sales role in the Unix team when I started working. The team was technical, and I was strategic. I had studied how to run systems from a business imperative position. I made the best of the situation and latched on the contract and client management side of the business. I was expected to understand all client contract agreements, I worked with the negotiation team before and after engaging with a client, as well as assist with client proposals. I found myself falling in love with Procurement from this experience. 

My next role required me to draft processes and policies for Information and Communication Technology products and services for the Department of Minerals and Energy. I led and managed a team of 11 staff members, as a Deputy Director. I was to establish, manage and run an IT sourcing environment within the department. It was a tough and career-defining role, as I was young. Ambition and the drive to succeed pushed me to have faith in my abilities. Besides, I had a point to prove given the fact that I was 23, black and female. I was invited to sit in at the GITOC (Government Information technology Officers Council), this allowed me an opportunity to advocate for procurement within the ICT sector, by ensuring that procurement is elevated to a strategic, executive level and not left as an operational enabler.

My career has been nothing short of phenomenal. I have had my share of frustrations but overall, I have learned the value of hard work, networking with peers and industry experts, as well as the art of self-belief.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I started working in the year 2000. That is the year that was deemed the Y2K millennia bug year due to the computer bugs that were related to formatting and storage of calendar data for dates beginning in the year 2000. I joined corporate when the whole world was on high alert. Everyone was talking risk management, client engagement and retention, ensuring that there are no penalties levied against my then employer in case of a glitch, as one of their services provided was a hosting platform. To witness the implementation of the work that was planned months and possibly years prior to the year 2000 was both a time of uncertainty and exhilaration. The learning curve was steep. Change management became a reality and no longer theoretical. 

Furthermore, I worked in an era were magnetic tape was used to backup servers.  These big rolls of tape were regarded as revolutionary, however within a period of 4 years, most corporates transitioned through to the desktop computer, with hard disks. Floppy disk was followed by CD’s, then USB’s, to remote storage to a cloud-based backup system.

I have seen meetings move from traditional boardroom sessions with everyone involved in the room to virtual meetings with individuals almost anywhere in the world dial in for a session.

We always hear there are not enough women working in tech. What needs to happen to change that?

Diversity and inclusion policies need to be looked at and actively reported on in parliament. It is not enough to have females joining corporate but not given a voice and platforms, and there is nothing being done about it at a political level and corporate level. 

Women focus groups are essential to allow for these tough conversations, to mold and lead younger IT female professionals, to advocate and establish a stronger voice for women in IT by enforcing and negotiating for impactful roles. A platform that will question the exodus of female IT professionals and come up with solutions on how to rectify, change and better the environment for women in IT. 

It is also crucial that the men in high positions advocate for and support these women-focused groups by actively participating, bringing resources and providing working environments that allow for women to grow and contribute without fear. We need more women IT leaders to act as role models for the younger generation, but this cannot happen in a vacuum.

What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?

  • My top three soft skills would be:
    • A sense of humor
    • The ability to handle stressful situations
    • Listening skills
  • Then you cannot survive and thrive without:
    • A good, positive attitude
    • Strong work ethic (Time management, being reliable)
    • Being able to communicate

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

Different people have influenced my life on various levels and areas. My mother having had the biggest impact in my life. She instilled a sense of pride and love for learning. She made me realise and believe I can be anything I want to be in life. She taught me that you become who you hang out with, therefore I should be mindful of the types of friends I keep.

My spiritual and religious upbringing has had a tremendous impact on my value system. My character has been molded and refined by the stories and teachings in the Bible. I am always challenged to be the best me possible. To dream beyond my current circumstance, to work smart and to know that there is a God that rejoices in me prospering.

Finally, my two kids inspire me to reach for my dreams and dare to be great, as I encourage them to be the best versions of themselves.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self? 

Focus on your dreams and attaining each one of them, never sell yourself short and learn to love you before you claim to love anyone else. How you do one thing in your life is how you would do everything else.

You are supposed to host a dinner and need to invite three people in Tech. Who would you invite and why?

  • Isaac Mophatlane – Started a black-owned IT company in 1996 when the barriers to entry were high and almost impossible. He and his twin brother made the success of that company and sold it in 2016 for a lucrative amount. He is passionate about small businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • Phuthi Mahanyela – Is the first black, female CEO of Naspers, Africa’s largest public company. She has an impressive career history and will not stop forging a path for black women in SA. 
  • Elon Musk – The CEO of SpaceX. He is a South African by birth, a technology investor, inventor and has an impressive cv and bank balance

Masego Khutsoane is an Independent Procurement Consultant based in Johannesburg Area in South Africa. As a strategic and analytical thinker with management experience in strategic sourcing, procurement and leading dynamic teams she is experienced in customer support, retention strategies and developing successful competitive strategies. With a total of 19 years of work experience and reporting at executive levels, she has lots to say so read about her amazing journey.

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