In Conversation with Mark Harris

Mark Harris is one of the most respected leaders in the South African digital sector. He entered the sector in 1981 as an engineer at IBM. He remained with IBM for over 30 years rising through the ranks to become Head of IBM SA and then Vice President of business development for the Middle East and Africa region. In 2013 he left IBM to become CEO of Kagiso Media. In 2019 he joined Altron Nexus as its CEO. Over the years Mark has nurtured and mentored many young South Africans, some of who have gone on to fill top leadership positions. One of these is Mteto Nyati who featured in one of our previous podcast episodes.

Profile

Like many of those of his generation, both in SA and around the world, Mark Harris entered the IT sector by going to work for IBM, which he joined as an engineer in 1981. But unlike many of his peers he didn’t hop from job to job. Mark stayed with IBM for over 30 years. He rose through the ranks of what was, and still is, one of the world’s most influential IT companies, becoming Head of IBM SA and then Vice President of business development for the Middle East and Africa region.

In the late 1990s and 2000s Mark served as a key advisor to the SA Government as it developed its post-apartheid economic strategies. He served, for example, on President Thabo Mbeki’s “Presidential International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development” which consisted of local and international CEO’s of major IT companies. Mark also used his position at IBM to mentor and grow a new generation of leaders for the local digital economy. One of these was Mteto Nyati, who we have interviewed in this podcast season. As you will have heard, Mteto went on from IBM, where he worked under Mark’s leadership, to become CEO of Microsoft SA, MTN SA and Altron. Its interesting to note that Mark now works with Mteto at Altron. There are many other leaders in our community who Mark nurtured and grew.

Mark left IBM in 2013 to become CEO of Kagiso Media where he drove a digital transformation journey. He is now CEO of Altron Nexus, a company that designs, builds and runs advanced ICT networks that lie at the heart of transforming our cities to smart-cities.

Prof Barry’s connection with Mark goes back nearly 20 years when as head of IBM he supported and encouraged him while he was setting up the JCSE. He is chair of the JCSE’s advisory board and a member of the Tshimologong board. He is also a great supporter of Wits University where he has served on several advisory committees.

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Barry Dwolatzky

Prof Barry Dwolatzky is the original "Grand Geek" and founder of The Grand Geeks collective. He is an Emeritus Professor at Wits University and Director of the JCSE at Wits University