Visionary Women Leader: Jodi Joseph, pivoting with style
Jodi, divisional executive at CaseWare Africa, Adapt IT, says women have the ability to set their own trajectory.
As a woman who has achieved a lot, Jodi believes in activating her abilities. She thinks the biggest barrier many women face is buying into stereotypes: “Women find themselves under pressure to play many roles and need to manage boundaries and expectations more. Too often we believe we must live up to expectations, rather than set realistic standards for ourselves. We must be self-confident enough to renegotiate requests and come up with the best way to be met where we are,” she says.
Catalysing your own change
This self-belief in driving one’s life has steered Jodi through her own life’s seasons. Early on, when she was with Investec, she went to work in London as part of the leadership team that transformed the UK Capital Markets division for Investec Bank (UK) Ltd. She first joined as CFO and was later promoted to COO.
It was during that time in London that she became a mom. The pressures of being a working professional, the tough commute and not being able to connect easily with family in South Africa prompted her to move back home so she was in an environment that was more supportive of the direction her life was going in.
Another period where she instigated a change in her own life was in 2012, when she took a hiatus from work. At the time she felt like it was time to reinvent herself and start a fresh chapter in a new environment.
In 2013 she joined CQS Technology holdings, which was acquired by Adapt IT. She describes the first meeting with the leadership team as “instant connection. Culture is very important to me and the leadership were all individuals who were family oriented and had kids of similar age. They were passionate about the purpose of the business and had a longer term approach to doing things.”
The strength of human connection
Last year was another year of evolution, and Jodi says that the Covid-19 crisis reaffirmed what she’d always believed about the value of human connection and how important it is to do that in person.
“The people who worked together pre-Covid-19 had very strong human connections and they continued to work very well in the virtual space. The people who joined during the pandemic didn’t have the benefit of that prior connection and it highlighted the value of it.”
She says collaboration is especially important in a technology business, where you rely very much on human creativity and collaboration. “I fundamentally believe that great teams are built through great relationships; I’m not sure how deep virtual-only relationships can go.”
She says the disruptions of 2020 have brought to the fore how many challenges people are navigating in their lives everyday and yet they still show up and deliver.
“Pre-Covid-19, many of the current challenges existed, but many weren’t so front of mind and people didn’t feel the environment allowed them to share the other facets of their lives. For instance, there were always single moms, but Covid-19 made it harder to manage the pressures and drew attention to people’s realities.”
Supporting the whole woman
An advocate for family friendly policies that support the whole life of the employee, Jodi says that the Covid-19 crisis has revealed how important it is to support a person’s ecosystem, whether they are the mom or dad in the household.
“We need to factor in other factors such as extended family, health issues, and so I’m looking more at what people need within the context of their lives and addressing those needs to help them be the best employee they can be.”
Doing things differently
She says their leadership team is being more deliberate about their people and being in touch with what they are going through. “We have practices around checking in and how they are coping with life. On my teams we have had many losses and that needed a new level of support.
“We started doing things with more rhythm – not ad hoc. That gives regularity and something for people to connect into and look forward to.”
Externally, she says she also learned how much clients need their support to navigate things they take for granted because they were already in the technology space. “At the start of the pandemic, clients were thrown off-course quickly, and unlike us, who were already prepared to work remotely, many were panicked and didn’t know where to start.”
Jodi’s grappling with how, in the future world of work, people will stay connected for a greater purpose.
“We learned to fully use and optimise the technology we had even more, and in the process learned that embracing new things isn’t that hard,” she says.
She sees her role as a leader in the future as seeing how to best navigate the next few years and bring the best of all of it together. For her, that looks like, “using the gains in technology but bringing the human connection element along.
“It’s important that as we attract the best skills, we have the flexibility needed, and when people join our teams, feel a sense of belonging. That way, together, we can all deliver on the greater purpose of our business for our clients.”