First jobs, salaries of SA’s top telecoms CEOs

South Africa’s telecommunications CEOs are among the country’s high profile and best paid executives, but they had to start at the bottom like most other people.

MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa received a total pay package of R48 million in the previous financial year. MTN SA CEO Zunaid Bulbulia was paid R7.7 million.

Former Telkom CEO Pinky Moholi was paid R12 million for her last year at Telkom, while Telkom Mobile MD Atilla Vitai earned R8.5 million.

Moving to Vodacom, its current CEO Shameel Joosub received a pay package of R9.3 million for his work from 1 September 2012 to 31 March 2013.

The top dogs in South Africa’s telecoms market are well paid for running some of the largest, most demanding companies in the country. However, most of these executives started in jobs where they earned a pittance.

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub started his professional career as an accountant doing his articles, with a salary of R850 per month.

Joosub’s advice to ambitious individuals who want to move up the corporate ladder is to always exceed expectations. “If you are asked to do x – do x, y and z,” said Joosub.

MTN SA CEO Zunaid Bulbulia

MTN South Africa CEO Zunaid Bulbulia’s first full time job was helping in his father’s shoe store, where he earned R30 per day.

Bulbulia said a combination of luck, hard work and karma helped him to reach the top.

Neotel CEO Sunil Joshi

Neotel CEO Sunil Joshi started his career as a management trainee at a computer firm with a salary of R200 a month.

He said if you want to reach the top there is no substitute for hard work, but you also need a bit of luck.

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said that his first full time job was a candidate attorney, with a monthly salary of R5,000 per month.

He said that he is not sure that the position of Telkom CEO can be seen as reaching the top. “I should have stayed in law and perhaps I would be an advocate charging clients per hour – win or lose,” joked Maseko.

Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit

Vox Telecom CEO Jacques du Toit was paid R2,888 per month in his first job – a sales consultant at Astec Communications.

He quickly moved up the ranks, and he attributes his success to the “four basics in life”:

  • Stick to your core values – treat people in the working environment the same as treating people close to you and the same that you want to be treated.
  • Never let an opportunity go past without asking to participate or at least giving it a good bash.
  • The devil is always in the detail – make sure you understand it in today’s complex environment.
  • Never waste time – time is not a commodity that can be bought off the shelf.

Internet Solutions MD Saki Missaikos

Internet Solutions MD Saki Missaikos’ first full time job was an IT professional in FNB’s Networks Division, at a salary of R3,450 per month.

Missaikos’ said that his path to the top was based on three basic things (LLL) – Love what you do, Laughter and Luck.

Cybersmart CEO Laurie Fialkov

Cybersmart CEO Laurie Fialkov’s first job was a techie at Open Computer Technology, earning R4,500 per month.

He said people looking to own and run an ISP should focus on their goal and try take one step closer to that goal, no matter how small that step may be.

“If you can improve your business in small steps every day, at the end of the year all those small steps add up. Of course you also have to be lucky, but sometimes the more you try the luckier you get,” said Fialkov.

Web Africa CEO Tim Wyatt-Gunning

Web Africa CEO Tim Wyatt-Gunning started his career as an Investment banking trainee, with a monthly salary of R26,000 a month. “I don’t think I have ever been so rich since,” said Wyatt-Gunning.

For those looking to build and lead a profitable company, Wyatt-Gunning has the following advice:

  • Choose a fast growing or large market to compete in. If you have an amazing product with a tiny potential customer base, you should pack up and go home.
  • Go and look for capital to expand your business, and don’t be shy to give up a bit of equity in return for it. As a new business, to grow only as fast as your operating cash-flow will allow is a big growth-limiter.
  • Go for it and remember to have fun. A brand is created by the people behind it. At some stage that will shine through to your customers. I believe that a happy atmosphere creates a positive environment which rubs off all around. And if it all goes tits-up, at least you will have some memories to treasure.

Former iBurst CEO and Vodacom innovation head Jannie van Zyl

Former iBurst CEO Jannie van Zyl’s first job was a sound engineer at the SABC, with a salary of R400 per month.

His advice to be successful is simple – figure out what your passion is in life and make it your job. “That way it’s never just a job and you’ll automatically be good at what you do,” he said.

“As much as people argue, if you’re good at what you do, the recognition comes. IS has a slogan that sums it up: ‘Do what you love, love what you do’,” said van Zyl.

Afrihost CEO Gian Visser

Afrihost founder and CEO Gian Visser started Afrihost straight out of university, and did not earn any money for the first few months.

“My first real job was with Afrihost. My salary was zero for the first 8 months – I was still staying at home eating my Mom’s food,” said Visser. “My first salary was R5,500 per month for the next 10 months, until I received a raise to R6,500.”

He said something that has helped him is to try to always live up to the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

“I believe that if you go out of your way to give enough people exactly what they want, then you will get everything you want,” said Visser.

MWEB ISP CEO Derek Hershaw

MWEB ISP CEO Derek Hershaw started his career as a management trainee at Norwich Life, with a monthly salary of R1,500.

His advice to young professionals is to learn from their mistakes. “You’ll learn as much (or more) from the mistakes you make, than from your successes,” said Hershaw.

“If something goes wrong make the effort to understand why, and then save it to memory. It always comes in useful somewhere down the line. And trust your gut, 90% of the time it’ll be spot on.”

Telecoms CEOs first jobs
Telecoms CEOs first jobs

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First jobs, salaries of SA’s top telecoms CEOs