Surviving the War on Talent: Violet S Mtonga

The war on talent isn’t over yet.

Welcome to the fourth article on the War on Talent, to read previous articles click here. Meet Violet Mtonga, she Heads Procurement and Logistics for Vodafone in Zambia, which is a multinational telecommunications company. She graciously agreed to meet and share her survival tactics on the War on Talent.

Vi
She fed me.

Career and Education

Current Position: Head of Procurement and Logistics at Vodafone.

Previous Positions Held:

  1. 1. Head Supply Chain at CEC Liquid.
  2. 2. Senior Procurement Officer at the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ)
  3. Held numerous positions in the procurement department of ZAMTEL.

Educational Qualifications: 

Holds a degree in Procurement, Diplomas in Logistics and Supply Chains and she is currently working towards her Masters.

Biggest career accomplishment thus far:

I joined Vodafone before it launched so it was start-up in Zambia so to speak. Previously, I had worked for companies that had already been established but with Vodafone it was not ‘business as usual’. Processes, procedures and orientation all had to be done from scratch. I’d find myself in a warehouse till 23 making sure that we had the necessary stock. You could feel peoples drive and excitement in the air. It was a very challenging period but also gratifying because we launched successfully. 

Traits

What 3 words would you use to describe yourself?

Candid, Cheerful and Reliable.

What’s your favorite quotation?

At this particular point in my life it’s;

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away” – Maya Angelou

It relates to my personal and professional life. All three of my kids are very different and they constantly take my breath away. Living isn’t just work, school, work, school. I take time to say ‘awwwwww.’  I have a better and more holistic view of life now and that’s why this resonates with me so deeply. 

Would you say the following traits describe you?

Yes Somewhat No
1 Self-Confident X
2 Self-Starter X
3 Likable  – – 
4 Cooperative X
5 Ability for abstract and logical thinking X
6 High stress tolerance X
7 Hard working
8 Intelligent

In regards to being likable if you want to get work done you have to step on peoples toes especially if you’re doing the right thing.

She stated that she used to be hardworking. When you’re starting your career you really have to work hard and put in long hours to be productive. Over the years, because of the work I put in earlier I’ve sharpened my skills. So it takes me a fraction of the time to do certain things; I make less mistakes and I can see around corners. So at this point in time its more about working smart than hard. 

She stated that intelligence is difficult to quantify. Most people look at it as having knowledge but I think I’m only as intelligent as I am productive and successful in the things I set out to do. 

Behavior

What time do you wake up?

During school days I’m awake between 04:30 and 05:00 am. I like to give myself 30 minutes to read which is an addiction but because of time constraints I use audio books and talks to satiate it. After that it’s getting myself and the kids ready to start the day. 

What do you do in your spare time?

What is spare time? haha. Its a bit non-existent but when I have it I like to spend time with my friends and family because they matter a lot to me.  

How do you stay at the top of your craft?

I keep up-to-date with whats going on. You never stop learning and that’s something I live by and it doesn’t hurt that I like to read. On top of that I always have different mentors who elevate me and teach me to think in ways I never thought possible. It’s also important to learn from different fields, for example I’m in procurement but I’m also expected to mange a team and that way I can learn from people in HR. I also maintain relationships with people in Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply because its a fora for intelligent conversation and information about the industry. 

How have you found getting through the ‘glass-ceiling’ as a woman?

Its been challenging but I am lucky because of the leaders I’ve had. My first boss was a woman so it was easy to relate and learn from the problems and challenges she was facing. She would always mentor us and say that we needed to go the extra-mile and out-perform the people we’re working with because more often than not we won’t be considered first. So I’ve always had to work three-times harder to get to where I am. The telecoms industry  also encourages diversity in the workplace, so that has also helped me get to where I am. 

How do you handle office politics?

These are ALWAYS going to be prevalent regardless of were you are, so instead of avoiding them I have learnt to navigate through them. You need to understand and manage  your stakeholders in the office because they impact your success. 

Environment

Are leaders born or made?

Both, some people are born leaders, but most people are thrust into it and have to learn and grow into their leadership roles, that’s the category I fall into.

What role has your environment (the organisations you’ve worked for, the educational institutions you’ve attended, your family and your peers) had in getting you to your current position?

Your success to large extent is dependent on who you surround yourself with. If you’re constantly shrouded in negativity it becomes very difficult to meet your goals, be it in your personal or professional life. I have a fantastic team; my family and friends are constantly pushing and encouraging me. My husband is always supporting me, when it’s time to wake up and study he’ll almost kick me out of bed. He pushes me more than I push myself so I’m very lucky in that regard. When I look at my children I say to myself I have to live a legacy that they can look at and say “Our mother achieved this”. This is especially true for daughters, there aren’t enough role models so I need to set that example.

Enlightenment

They say hindsight is 20/20, is there anything you wish you could have done differently in your journey?

When you make mistakes you always think its the end of the world, but I’ve learnt that my mistakes and challenges have made me resilient and  molded me to get to this stage in my career. So no regrets thus far. 

For all of the people, who aspire to reach the heights you have, what would your advice to them be?

Its very important to plan short-term, medium-term and long-term. You need to know what it is you want to achieve and have a strategy on how to achieve it. Without this, it’s difficult to measure your progress in whatever area of your life. 

I’d also say learn to balance your life. Life is not one-dimensional, you need to work but family is the most important thing. 

Future

What does the future hold for you?

There is so much talk in the country about entrepreneurship and its a good thing for our economy, so I’d like to be my own boss at some point in the future so that I can contribute and also do things according to ‘me.’


I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Violet S Mtonga for taking time to do this interview. You taught me that success isn’t one thing, it’s many things. So here’s to counting the moments that take my breath away.