22 years with Telecom and counting...

By Truly Xamises
October 2013
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Telecom Namibia (TN)’s Ernest Matongo Mbanga joined the telecommunications company on 17 January, 1991 through an apprenticeship programme and has not left since.


Currently TN’s Network Operation Center (Noc), second level support manager, Mbanga started his career not knowing how far he would go with the company.


“When I joined Telecom Namibia, the key point [for me] was to land a permanent job and then adopt a ‘wait and see’ approach to what the future held for my professional life,” says Mbanga who hails from Makanga Village, Zambezi Region (previously Caprivi).


He did his primary education at Makanga Primary and then later went to Caprivi Secondary Schools where he matriculated. He would land his first job as a temporary school teacher at Ngweze Junior Secondary School in 1990. After a year, he joined TN.


With a full-time job, he went on to obtain a national technical diploma at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN), followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the Management College of Southern Africa (Mancosa).


Since evolving into a network guru, Mbanga has been to countries such as Italy, Norway, England, France and South Africa [to name but a few], to attend courses while serving the TN.


He is currently responsible for administering the company’s international point-of-presence (PoP) in Europe and in South Africa. Not only is he also responsible for monitoring the performance of international partner operators but he also provides input to the team responsible for Service Level Agreement.


His other duties include managing the staff responsible for the Network Administration of backbone and broadband platforms that facilitates the marketing of Telecom Namibia’s products and services.


Mbanga also ensures fault resolution time of all the above-mentioned platforms is kept as short as possible and remains in line with the specific standards of quality service.


“Co-ordinating network maintenance, changes in the manner the customer service impact is minimised and activating regional backhauling connectivity of land-locked countries to the West Africa Cable System(WACS) at Swakopmund to other submarine cables, are some of my many responsibilities,” stresses Mbanga.


However, he says keeping abreast with technological changes is one of the major challenges he faces from time to time. Managing complex networks and those that are 10 000km away from Namibia is not an easy task but that is a tall order he dutifully carries out with diligence and pride.


According to Mbanga, people should not take what he does lightly because coping with force majeure-related events that cause service outages in the network can often be challenging.


“Customers are increasingly becoming smarter and their needs and wants keep getting more and more complex. Therefore, one needs to think out of the box,” he explains.


To be successful in Mbanga’s career, one has to understand how international operators and partners do business and most importantly, have an eye for technology.


“If you want to take up a technical job at Telecom Namibia, you need to have a passion for technological gadgets, have a good general problem-solving ability and pay attention to detail while giving a systematic and methodical approach to problems. Also be keen to get things right the first time,” he advises.


After a 22-year stint at the company, Mbanga reveals he does not intend to start a new career elsewhere.


“I would rather build on what I have now at the company and climb the corporate ladder further into the executive management level than start afresh elsewhere,” he submits, adding, what has kept him going is that he values Telecom Namibia’s work culture and that it would be tough to leave when the time comes.


“I might sound biased but the work culture at Telecom is hardly found outside. I have seen people leave this place to join other companies, only to return after a couple of years,” says Mbanga.


Considering his current job involves travelling regionally and internationally, Mbanga has exposed himself to new mindsets and ways of doing things and that can never be taken away. However, he admits not all his days have been milk and honey as there have been days when he has had to endure unpleasant experiences.


To date, he recalls some of his worst experiences like engaging in a heated argument with an irate customer whose service provision had been suspended due to non-payment.


“The customer had made a payment the previous day and then demanded to know why his service had not been reconnected immediately after the payment. Despite all my explanations, he hailed profane insults at me, which I found overly offensive. It left me devastated,” he narrates.


But what is a ‘typical day at work’ like for this dedicated TN employee? He says there is hardly a day that goes by without having a meeting to improve network reliability, resilience and optimisation of the network, “to ensure we have a flexible and redundant network with ample capacities at all times.”


The married father of two says his job now allows him to spend enough time with his family as opposed to the previous years.


“Today, the Telecom Namibia’s backbone network has been built with a high degree of redundancy. Meaning, employees are not under the same work pressure, as a single failure in the network does not result into multiple service disruptions. As a result, employees are able to spend more quality time with their loved ones,” he says, adding, the most valuable trait he possesses is rooted in his 22 years of experience and the value he adds to the bottom line.


“The level of loyalty, dedication, experience, business understanding and exposure, coupled with a positive attitude could potentially be the traits the company values most in me,” he concludes. PF