From an admissions clerk earning R1,661 per month to MD of SqwidNet

SqwidNet managing director Phathizwe Malinga’s path to the top was the same as most executives – hard work, a good education and some luck.

His in-depth knowledge of the South African telecommunications market and the Internet of Things (IoT) hides the fact that he started his career in a different field – as a bank admissions clerk.

Malinga fondly remembers his first job at a bank where he earned R1661.29 per month – after tax he took home R1507.30.

His love for technology, however, encouraged him to join Telkom as a developer in 1999. He quickly rose through the ranks to become a software development project manager.

After spending some time in the healthcare sector, he returned to the ICT space when he joined SqwidNet as chief solutions officer in 2017.

After serving as acting CEO for a short period, he was appointed as SqwidNet managing director in September 2018.

He attributes his success to a good education – he completed an executive MBA at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business – hard work, and “good people who took a chance on me”.

The best and worst parts of being CEO

Malinga told MyBroadband that the best part of running a company is mastering the process of value creation.

“Value for the people who have trusted you with their careers, value for the people who have trusted you with their money, and the communities you get to see improve because of what we do,” he said.

The worst part, said Malinga, is letting people go – even if it is the right decision.

“It’s necessary to always ensure that I put the company first, but it hurts when the best thing for the company is a person leaving the company. I can never get used to that,” he said.

Phathizwe Malinga’s tech and business choices

Phathizwe Malinga shared his tech and business choices with MyBroadband.

Which smartphone do you use?

I use an iPhone X. I have had it for 3 years now and it just works perfectly for me. And I remain happy to not upgrade it.

Which laptop do you use?

I use a Windows Surface Go. It’s as big as an A4 piece of paper, and I can use it anywhere – even in the middle seat of a budget airline.

What is the best gadget you have ever bought?

This is difficult to answer as I buy at least one new gadget every month. PoolSense is a highlight for me because it’s made by a local manufacturer and I watched an entrepreneur’s dreams come to life.

I’m also currently enjoying my Amazon Echo Dot speakers. I’ve bought 8 so far, littered throughout the house, and they are just amazing.

What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?

The worst gadget by far is an omelette maker pan. I can make a decent omelette, so I don’t even know what possessed me to buy this pan.

The pan has two buttons positioned in a way that you can use your thumb to press the buttons whilst holding the pan.

Excited, I made my omelette mixture, fired up the stove and poured the mixture into the pan. As you press one of the buttons, it is supposed to lift one side of the pan, about a third of the way, to create a flipping motion.

I pressed the button, but instead of flipping the omelette the mixture just oozed under the pan creating the biggest mess. One the other side of the pan the egg just stuck to that side.

I ended up eating scrambled eggs.

What Internet connection do you have at home?

I have a 100Mbps unlimited fibre connection from Supersonic.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

Definitely my education. It has changed my life.

What is the worst investment you have ever made?

A scooter which I bought to travel to the closest Gautrain station when it opened its doors. I fell off the thing, I got rained on like crazy, and to wear all the protective gear was so tedious that I eventually just drove to the Gautrain with my car. It was a good idea, but I failed to execute.

What is the best business book you have ever read?

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki – It’s so simple, so good, and so relatable to someone who has zero financial literacy.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christenson, which introduced the notion of Disruptive Innovation.

“An Opposable Mind” by Roger Martin – It speaks about becoming an integrative thinker using both the left side and the right side of your brain.

Now read: SqwidNet partners with Chipfox-SA for cattle tracking in South Africa

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From an admissions clerk earning R1,661 per month to MD of SqwidNet