Cell C CTO Dana Bakker has had a distinguished career in the South African telecommunications market.
Bakker started his career as an engineer-in-training at Vodacom after finishing his engineering degree at the University of Johannesburg.
He was lucky enough to receive one of the first bursaries from Vodacom to complete his degree, and this set him on a great career path in the telecoms industry.
Apart from the benefit of having his studies paid for, his starting salary at Vodacom was R125,000 per year – very respectable at the time.
He later served as the chief technology officer at Vodacom Mozambique and joined Cell C in October 2013 as the executive for NOC and Central Operations.
He was promoted to Chief Technical Officer in December 2014, a position he has held since.
Rise to the top
Bakker credits his rise to the top to hard work and consistent delivery.
“It’s those two things that unlock opportunities and when they come up, you take them and deliver, again and again,” he said.
“That was how my career worked. I started out with an area, delivered, moved up to a region, delivered, and so on.”
While being a C-level executive has many advantages, Bakker misses aspects of lower-level technical work.
“As a low-level engineer, you get to know, and work, with the entire system from end to end. You get to understand how each of the components work together,” said Bakker.
“There is something special about having those specialist insights that only come from physically working with the systems day in and day out.”
The Cell C CTO’s advice to young people who want to enter the IT field is to not be afraid to explore and try new things.
“Don’t be afraid to show your potential, because it’s only through raising your hand and showing what you have to offer will opportunities open up for you,” he said.
“When they do come up, take them and work hard to make sure you deliver.”
Bakker’s tech and business choices
Linux, Windows, or macOS?
Which smartphone do you use?
Samsung Galaxy S9.
Which laptop do you use?
What is the best gadget you have ever bought?
Night Vision Camera and navigation equipment.
What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?
A pen that records your notes as you write on a notepad and then supposedly transfers to an electronic format.
What Internet connection do you have at home?
High-speed Cell C fixed LTE. I like to use the services I build.
For gaming: PC, PS4, or Xbox?
I am not really a gamer, but kids have an Xbox.
What is the best investment you have ever made?
I hope the best investment that I have made is in my kids’ education, but we will see.
What is the worst investment you have ever made?
Vacation property – never use it.
What is the best business or IT book you have ever read?
The Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins. It just shows that you can make decisions now, and not understand the long-term consequences.