Airtel has redeployed Matthews Mtumbuka, former Airtel Rwanda information technology (IT) director, as Cluster IT Governance Lead for Malawi and Zambia. Business Editor MOSES MICHAEL-PHIRI caught up with Mtumbuka to share some insights on his new role. Excerpts:
Welcome back, what will be your new portfolio now?
I am the Cluster IT Governance Lead for Malawi and Zambia—reporting to the Africa Head of IT Governance in Nairobi, Kenya. In this role, I primarily manage all aspects of IT governance for the Malawi and Zambia cluster. I am also responsible for some internal IT governance activities spanning all the 17 countries in which we operate in Africa.
What does this new assignment mean to you?
I like this job – it is quite different from my previous job. Previously, my main focus was IT operations and projects. The new role is mostly to do with process, policies, compliance and controls. New things come with learning, challenge and growth. I was always worried that I would be ‘stuck’ in career. Now I find new excitement in the changes that have come about in the last couple of years, constantly challenging me, constantly refreshing. That my job covers Zambia as well plus some work that will cover all 17 countries in Africa is even more exciting. It is an opportunity for professional development and job enrichment.
Are you happy that you are back home?
That I am back home to Malawi which is the country I love most makes me really happy. My family and I thoroughly enjoyed the one year in Rwanda. Wwe learnt a lot even beyond the work, just how Rwanda came out of the Genocide in 1994 to build what is arguably the most admirable national turn-around story in Africa.
What are some short/long-term targets that you intend to achieve?
In this role, a key part is to ensure that the IT partners that we work with do what they are supposed to do within the agreed service levels. Building good professional relationships with such partners will be crucial at the beginning. Key to this is the need to have clear guidelines and benchmarks. I expect to spend a lot of time building these benchmarks, guidelines and relationships as a starting point. Then we have to identify areas needing immediate and ongoing improvements so that we add maximum value to the core business objectives as an IT function.
What are the major highlights of your stay in Rwanda?
On the professional side, my major highlights cover team building, billing automation and project execution excellency. I had a team of four managers reporting to me plus others from the outsourcing partners. They are all young high potential talent. I used to have regular team building meetings on Mondays and Thursdays for one hour, coaching and developing them professionally. Over time, I saw rapid growth in how they approached work. One of them left the company for alternative opportunities and the three that remained continued to grow rapidly. At the end of my assignment they gave very positive feedback on how much they had grown and developed as managers and leaders.
What about on the operational side?
My boss [the managing director ]gave me a challenge to fully automate our billing operations. We agreed a deadline of July from April. Through effective collaboration with multiple partners and two of my managers over three months, we completed the holistic automation by July and engaged continuous improvement and by October we were beating the standard service levels for billing. The third major highlight was on project execution. Through developing the team around projects, we became a projects team that was relied upon on delivering projects on time and within budget. We delivered a couple of dozens of technology projects within the nearly one year I was there.
Share with us a little bit of your professional background?
I was trained as an engineer with a BSc in Electrical Engineering at the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic graduating in 2002 and the same year, I got a Rhodes Scholarship that supported me in my PhD studies at Oxford University in England, UK completing in 2005. Professionally, I joined Shell Oil in Europe, based in Aberdeen, Scotland where I worked from January 2006 until March 2009 when I resigned to come back home and take up a position as head of technical services for Malswitch. In June 2011, I was hired by Airtel Malawi as their IT director, a role I held until I went to Rwanda early 2015 and now back in a role for Malawi and Zambia. Basically, I was educated as an engineer and I work as a technology business leader. n