Woman in Tech Series: Episode 2 – Overcoming the odds

Overcoming the odds with determination and drive

South Africa is celebrating Women’s Month, showcasing its heroines, reflecting on their struggles and triumphs. In honour of Women’s Month, Dell EMC is showcasing some of the extraordinary women who work in its South African operations.

Doreen Kekana, Large Enterprise ASR, Dell EMC South Africa and Carolyn Arnold, Legal Counsel for Dell EMC South Africa could not look more different, on the surface. Underneath, however, both harbour a fierce determination and drive to succeed and to be extraordinary.

Doreen was number six of seven children, who lost her mother at the age of 16. She knew then she needed to do something to change her life, as she saw no hope, and she knew her choices would determine her future. She chose education. “I knew education was the only thing that would break the pattern. Education was something I could own that no-one could take away from me.”

Funding was a challenge, however, and Doreen struggled to get her matric, and then get into university. Once she had done that she faced another challenge – in her first semester she fell pregnant. Not being one to let anything stop her, however, she studied through open learning and correspondence while looking after her baby, and finished her studies.

“It was difficult but fulfilling. I look back now and I do not cry, I just smile. I know I’d made it so far.”

Doreen landed in tech as she studied informatics which has broaden her options. Unsurprisingly, to anyone who knows her journey, she’s excelling. She knew she needed to study something that would give her viable career options, and that was within the reach of her resources, so when she enrolled at Unisa, so selected a BCom Informatics, which gave her a passion for information systems. That passion led her to applying for and getting a role in administrative sales support at Dell 14 months ago, and has just been promoted to an internal sales rep – a substantial promotion in a short period of time.

Carolyn’s challenges have been self-induced, she admits. She’s completed the gruelling Absa Cape Epic twice, no small achievement, and juggles sport with parenting and her role as Dell EMC’s senior legal counsel.

“I was lucky that, when we lived overseas, and my children were younger I was able to work part-time. When we came back to SA they were older, and I decided to get back into sport. There are challenges to maintaining that kind of structure in your day – and it is about developing structure. At the end of the day you don’t feel like you’re losing out of any element of your own life because you can be with your children in the afternoons, pursue my career and be involved in sport. Working at Dell they’re fantastic at work life balance, and as long as you get the work done how you structure your day is up to you.”

Both say their journey has been rewarding and are grateful they’ve ended up in a sector that provides personal and professional support and fulfillment.

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