Carol Koech, now in her third year as an executive with Schneider Electric, was recently appointed Country President of the company across East Africa. Carol has very much earned this role at the top of the region’s IT space, given her belief in East Africa’s potential and the work she’s doing to make a difference.
Claiming it all as a new art and refreshing leap, Carol confesses of walking into bigger shoes that demands more zeal and more energy that would with speed demonstrate her commitment to fulfil the new mandate bestowed upon her by Schneider Electric – a reputable global company providing energy and automation of digital solutions.
Her charming smile speaks volumes of a leader so welcoming and willing to share. “It’s a great pleasure to be featured by CIO East Africa. This is unusual for me but I am starting to get used to being in the limelight,” she said in her opening remarks. She added, “The programs Schneider Electric runs on sustainability passionately led me to develop the interest in working with this company.”
Carol, who largely focused on the company’s Contractors and Building Segment and ran the Access to Energy program, now engages with Schneider Electric’s customers, contractors, large end users and building developers.
Future of Data Centres
Schneider Electric East Africa has offices in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. In Nairobi, the company has a factory where they manufacture different types of equipment, including data centre solutions, solar containerised solutions, distribution boards and other products that are in demand by customers in East Africa. Carol has defined the company’s setup, which she purposes to make an impact with her very able team.
“At the regional level my responsibility is to manage the entire business, end-to-end, so I am responsible for the company’s overall performance, and, most importantly, keeping our customers happy.” affirms Carol.
Schneider Electric is a technology provider, and a specialist in Energy Management and Automation. According to Carol, Schneider Electric combine world-leading energy technologies, real-time automation, software and services into integrated solutions for Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries. “We pride ourselves on our eco-friendly, end-to-end infrastructure for whatever demand or requirement our customers have.”
“The big revolution in the market is connectivity, what we call the Internet of Things,” says Carol. “Here in Kenya, we believe that there’s going to be a major shift by organizations in the region towards the Internet of Things, so they can better operate their assets, be it a data centre, a building, a factory or even a home.”
This revolution she says is supported through the company’s EcoStruxure platform.
Present day infrastructure is very different from where we were 10 years ago, when people would construct their own small little data centres.
Kenya’s technology landscape has changed markedly over the past decade; ten years back, much of the growth in data centers came from small projects. Today, the focus is on larger facilities that’ll be easier to scale up and meet demand from both industry and consumers.
“When I look at East Africa’s data center landscape, I see huge potential for growth. It is projected that 70% of organizations in the continent will move their data and applications to the cloud by 2025, with Data center growth projected to be double digit for the foreseeable future. Schneider Electric is poised to take advantage of this growth opportunities.” she intimates.
For Carol and for Schneider Electric, data centers are the basis for digital transformation. According to her, we’re going to need many more data centers globally, including here in Kenya, to power the economy, speed up connectivity and reduce the overall costs for server-hosted services. To support this transformation, data centres will need to be hosted locally. Simply put, the closer a data center is to the user, the faster that user will be able to access information and use services hosted at the data center. The data center’s location also impacts reliability. And, like with any service, the more capacity that is offered, the lower the cost will be.
Carol views digitization as one of the world’s megatrends, and East Africa is no exception. She observes that when digitisation permeates further, as it will, then there is a need for supportive infrastructure that is both cybersecure and connected to the cloud.
“When you discuss digitisation being a part of day-to-day life, people ask themselves, is it affordable, are the speeds fast enough, or is it safe?”, she says. “Whilst the focus is on digital transformation, organizations must remember to ramp up their detect-and-respond strategy to be able to counterattack breaches and threats in real time,” she says.
While digitisation can help provide faster, more accurate access to information, there are also ethical issues organizations need to consider, such as who has access to data and if the data is secure from hackers. Cybersecurity has always been a high priority for customers in the region; however, the pandemic has pushed the issue higher up the agenda, with increasing attacks on infrastructure and hacks on software as employees work remotely.
“As a global company we have specific tools we use, and we have our own security systems in place. We consider cybersecurity in everything we do, for our employees, partners and our customers,” she says.
Inclusivity – give credit where due
Contrary to the public opinion that there is no opportunity for women to participate in leadership positions, especially for companies that are considered technical, Carol Koech opines otherwise. She says that Schneider gives women senior managerial positions based on merit. Women should focus on developing their skills and ensure that they’re visible, so that they’re ideally placed to be considered for senior roles. She confesses that her experience has been that women tend to do all the hard work, but that somebody else takes the credit. To her, women must stand up and say they are the ones deserving of credit for their hard work.
“This role being given to a woman is a big statement not just to me but the women in the organisation and the country. I am sure there are many women who are managing similar organisations elsewhere in Kenya. The point I’m making is to say to women in the country and the wider region, anybody can do any job as long as they have the right support and also the right mindset,” she says. “I tell women in Schneider that when they do a good job, they should present it and claim the credit. There is no point of shying off. If you are capable, let people know.”
Importantly, she urges women to ask for the support they will need from time to time from their teams, to make sure that their colleagues know and trust them, and that their areas of strength and areas for growth are known.
Future of Digitisation
Moving forward, the digitization space is going to be much bigger. Schneider Electric is pushing hard for its EcoStruxure platform to be used by industry; the technology is an open, interoperable, IoT-enabled system architecture that can be connected to any electrical infrastructure for improved control and monitoring. It leverages advancements in IoT, mobility, sensing, cloud, analytics, and cybersecurity to deliver Innovation at every level. From design to integration, right through to commissioning, EcoStruxure brings best-in-class engineering efficiency to your building, machines, plant and data centre without compromising on availability or operational efficiency.
Ecostructure can be implemented by any of Schneider Electric’s system integrators, many of whom are small to medium-sized Kenyan businesses. Schneider Electric has built up a strong network of partners, both experienced system integrators as well as start-ups, throughout East Africa. Schneider Electric is a channel-focused vendor and offers partners extensive development and training for them to specialize in the specific technologies and industries.
“In terms of influence and effect on the SMEs, we do it to spaces we are experts in. This market has got a lot of potential, particularly Kenya, you look at the EA region as a country from Schneider’s perspective, where do you see yourselves making a bigger impact,” she concludes.