Yvonne Dias is passionate about empowering women and has made sure there’s a place for them at Mint Group.
Yvonne Dias is a first-generation South African. Her mother, Maggie, was raised in a conservative household, where she was expected to become a homemaker like most wives in the Portuguese community. However, she hoped for a different life for her children.
“When we were little kids, my mum would religiously take us to the library every two weeks and always motivated us to learn something new,” Yvonne remembers. “We were only allowed to renew a book once.”
As they grew up, Maggie instilled in Yvonne and her siblings a desire to be independent, always giving them opportunities she didn’t have. “My mother made certain that we knew we had a voice, and encouraged us to use it,” Yvonne explains.
With her mother’s unwavering support, Yvonne followed her passion for maths and business economics by pursuing chartered accountancy. “I knew that, with a CA qualification, I would have a foundation for any successful role in business, and it catapulted my desire to create and harness an exciting and challenging career path,” she says.
When she entered the workforce, Yvonne’s natural choice was the technology industry.
“I didn’t want a slow-moving industry. I loved IT, because it’s a transformative and ever-changing industry that’s always evolving and innovating.”
The fast-paced evolution of technology comes with a lot of planning and strategising, which is where Yvonne’s heart truly lies. Joining Mint Group gave her the opportunity to follow her heart.
The perfect opportunity
During her time as an audit manager, Yvonne helped one of her clients solve a big tax issue, and the chairman of the company was very impressed with her work. He approached her and said that there was an IT company that needed someone with her grit and tenacity to implement policies and procedures to help drive its aggressive strategy.
“When I first joined the company, it was a mobile applications business. After strategically growing that business for a couple of years, we were partly bought out by IT services management company Morvest Group, who wanted to merge us with their services business,” Yvonne explains.
We learnt very quickly that merging a services business with a products business was chaos, she adds. “We had completely different strategies and cultures. It was a tough time with lots of learnings.”
Over time Morvest changed their strategy which led to a management buyout. The business left the Morvest Group and became Mint Group.
Out of the 11 directors that made up the newly formed board of the new Mint Group, Yvonne was the only woman. “At this stage, the IT industry was still predominantly male-dominated, and when the company appointed Carel du Toit as our new MD I felt like my voice would not be heard as the only woman in leadership. So I felt it was best for me to resign from my post,” she confesses.
But Carel wouldn’t accept her resignation and instead listened to the challenges Yvonne was facing in the business at the time.
“It turned out to be one of the most inspiring conversations of my life,” she admits.
Yvonne explains that Carel was extremely receptive to her passion for women’s empowerment and improving diversity in the workplace, and he joined her movement to drive the transformation Mint Group needed for it to be an inclusive business.
She realised then that the first step towards change is having the courage to have the difficult conversations. “You need to be able to raise your voice and speak your truth to make a difference in this world.”
Giving people a voice
Yvonne and Carel delved deep into the DNA of the organisation, aiming to bring about significant change. Their first step was to implement diversity goals that would foster a healthy balance of age, culture, and gender inclusion.
They recognised the importance of cultivating a diverse workforce that encompasses individuals from different age groups, cultural backgrounds, and genders.
“There’s a clear divide between the back office and the front office in business, where sellers or delivery staff were favoured while others were overlooked,” she explains.
To address this, they reoriented the business to ensure that everyone feels valued, and have also given a voice to other individuals within the company. “Whenever we present business plans, all our departments, including those in the back office, have to present their own plans showing how they can contribute to the company's success,” Yvonne says.
"This way, everyone is equally involved in the impact we make as an organisation.”
She further explains that every individual in the organisation is not only measured on the basics of their roles, but also on the initiatives they achieve within the business to create value. In finance, for example, it would be efforts centred around optimising processes or saving costs.
The company actively revamped its recruitment approach, resulting in 40 percent of its workforce comprising women today. “We have women holding key positions such as managing directors, head of brand, head of people, and head of sales,” Yvonne highlights.
Additionally, Mint Group demonstrates its commitment to empowering young girls and women in the technology field by supporting the non-profit organisation, GirlCode.
It is for her contributions to transforming the IT industry that Yvonne Dias recently received the Women in Tech Award at the Sentech Africa Tech Week awards ceremony
Findings skills amid a shortage
Yvonne’s ambitions extend beyond enhancing the inclusivity of the turnkey IT solution provider; she is equally focused on expanding its operations.
Mint Group currently operates in many African countries and has a small presence in the US. As a leading Microsoft partner of choice and following Microsoft’s recent diversification, Yvonne explains that it made sense for the company to also expand its operations into the UK over the past year and is beginning to move into Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
“With regards to the UK, it is a similar time zone, with similar cultures and challenges. We feel like we can add a lot of value, quickly, and have a big impact there,” she says. With regards to MEA, they will be getting a data centre soon, which South Africa has just gone through, so they feel they can address the needs in this market through their experience.
The expansion is also a way to create opportunities for Mint Group’s staff to expand their experience across the shores. “We’ve recently seen a huge movement of South Africans who want to leave the country and work globally. With the massive shortage of skills IT is facing globally, the only way to retain staff is to create the opportunities our people seek,” Yvonne explains.
She adds that the company is really creative when it comes to dealing with the shortage of talent.
“We have apprentice programmes where we teach new IT skills to managers with long tenures that want to change their experience.”
Yvonne gets excited when she mentions that people with different backgrounds, from different industries, and with different levels of experience all come to learn these new skills in order to keep up with this changing digital world.
“One of these apprentices was a project manager in the manufacturing industry when they signed up; now they’re our head of delivery. We’ve also had someone come in from the retail industry that’s our delivery lead now.”
From libraries to book clubs
All grown up, Yvonne still loves reading books and sharing them with others in her book club. “I am part of a group of ladies that gets together once a month to exchange and talk about our favourite books. Sharing our love for reading, my sister and I also often swap books,” she says.
Until recently, she was also part of a book club with her niece. “I had to go buy children’s books, read them, and swap them with her. She even used to test me on them,” Yvonne laughs. “But her interests have turned to school and friends now.”