“Akhona Sass hopes that one day we can get rid of terms such as “the IT guy”, and has steadily been working to subvert the dominance of men in the IT industry by employing more young women at her company, Intotek.
Sass became director and owner of the technology and training organisation after initially declining a job offer from them, confident that she still had room to grow at Sage, where she was previously employed as a technical support agent. “I only had 10 months’ work experience at the time and had a lot of learning to do,” she says, adding that another job offer came from Intotek in 2015.
“I was eight months pregnant and had reached my ‘glass ceiling’ at Sage, having been there for eight years by then. I thought to myself: If I don’t take this leap now, I’ll have to stay at Sage for another year to pay off my maternity leave, so I took a leap of faith and left my cushy job to join Intotek – a small to medium-sized enterprise.”
A year into her career at Intotek, the company’s founder bought into other assets and gave Sass the opportunity to either join him at his other organisations or become the sole shareholder of Intotek. She chose the latter. “It was a no-brainer. It would fulfill my dream to become an entrepreneur.”
A few years later, Intotek was named the number one business partner by Sass’s former employer Sage — for three years in a row. She attributes her company’s success to failing many times and always trying to “fail forward”.
“We segmented our customers so we could get a better understanding of their needs and thus serve them better. We did not set ourselves up as Sage business partners, as that only speaks to our relationship with Sage. We want to understand all our customers’ business processes and automate these processes so they can get back to their core business.”
In addition to her work at Intotek, the Madadeni-born Sass is paying it forward by being involved in community initiatives such as HIV counselling at Rockstarz Foundation, and facilitating for the Spirit of Youth programme at GIBS Business School. “I was part of a youth group growing up, which shielded me from a lot of the bad things that happened around our neighborhood.
“I developed communication and leadership skills in this youth group. I therefore want to pour into the youth as much as I possibly can because during their crazy stage of adolescence, where personalities and life-altering decisions are made, you need just one caring adult to positively influence you.”
While her hopes for the future include further growth for Intotek, Sass is also focused on facilitating greater industry access for young women, playing a role in early childhood education and looking for ways to contribute meaningfully to township economies.”
“Leadership is not something that you master, then hang up as a certificate to display your greatness. It’s about putting systems in place to ensure that your team can operate with and without you, because their growth is important and this company is their legacy too.”