Posted by Hennie Loubser, General Manager of Microsoft West East Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
It’s been a great 10 years for Microsoft in Ghana so far. We’ve seen tremendous growth in the country’s ICT sector, particularly its mobile and internet penetration rates, and our initiatives have reached over one million youth to date. As Microsoft now shifts its global focus to a devices and services offering, we want to continue to ensure that Ghana remains one of our critical investment markets. As part of this commitment, I’m excited to announce that we have appointed our first country manager in the region, and our first female country manager in Africa.
Otema Yirenkyi is a native Ghanaian with over 14 years of experience in ICT and an inspiring leadership vision. I managed to sit down with her and chat about her new role and what she hopes to see Ghana achieve in the future.
Welcome to Microsoft! Why are you excited to be joining the team?
I feel privileged to lead the Microsoft business in Ghana. This is an exciting time in Ghana when the country is rapidly transforming both economically and socially. This offers an unprecedented opportunity to drive innovation, particularly in the area of mobile technologies.
What are your roles, responsibilities and goals as country manager in Ghana?
As Country Manager for Ghana, I will lead the team to grow the Microsoft business. I will serve as a brand ambassador and evangelist for Microsoft technologies and I hope to inspire young people to create a culture of innovation driven by technology.
Your previous line of work has seen you quite involved in strategy and business development. What are your thoughts on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in Africa?
I think once African entrepreneurs have increased access, affordable technologies and the ability to monetise innovative ideas, they will create solutions that solve many of the economic and social challenges confronting Africa
What advice would you give to young women looking to join the ICT industry – what challenges have you faced as a leader in ICT?
I would work to dispel the notion that ICT is mostly for men. I encourage young women who studied in technical fields, as well as those who didn’t, to pursue a career in ICT. The industry offers many technical and non-technical options for women to have rewarding careers.
My challenges as a leader in technology have mostly been around how others might perceive a woman leader. But I have always overcome such obstacles by demonstrating that my position is based on my skills and capabilities.
Why are you passionate about technology and the ICT sector?
I love problem solving and have always been fascinated with how technology solves so many challenges. . I love how on a personal level it makes my life so much easier and how on a global level provides the tools that enable us to solve problems or explore the boundaries of some of life’s bigger challenges.
When did you first realize your passion for technology? What was the first piece of technology you ever owned?
In High School we had a computer lab and I loved spending time there, to learn more and tinker with the machines. My parents, realising that I loved computers, bought me my first PC and it made me one of the most popular girls in my school.
What are your thoughts on the state of technology and ICT skills in Africa? Are there any interesting market trends in your region?
I think there is a skills and access gap in Africa. Given the right investments in providing access and affordable technologies, that gap can be closed. I think the mobile platform offers, for the first time, the opportunity to leapfrog and close the digital divide.
What qualifications do you hold? Why did you choose to study these subject fields?
I have a BSc from Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations and an MA in Development Studies. I wanted to be a labour /employment lawyer but once I started taking African Studies courses I was inspired to commit myself to a career that would enable Africa’s economic development. I spent an internship at the United Nations in New York and in Kenya, and then decided to pursue a Masters in Development Studies. After leaving school I kept wondering how I would marry my love for technology and passion for Africa, so joined the ICT industry and have worked in a number of African countries ever since.
What are your hobbies and interests?
I love the arts, particularly going to museums and the theatre. I also write and perform poetry. I love travelling and learning about new cultures. I also enjoy riding my bike and hiking. I have a real commitment to the community and express that through a number of mentorship programs and the mentoring of youth.
What do you love most about Ghana?
I love the vibrancy of Ghana, the richness of the food and the energy of the people – striving towards their dreams and always smiling. This may seem clichéd but Ghanaians are some of the friendliest people I know!