As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Fraga, Chief Marketing Officer for SYSPRO Corporate.

Sandra has spent most of her career in the IT industry. She worked nine years at Dell where she initially started in sales. Thereafter she was promoted and moved into the marketing department where she was made responsible for consumer marketing across emerging markets, which covered 140 countries and three continents (Africa, CEE and Europe). She also was responsible for enterprise marketing for the META region.

Sandra then moved to Microsoft South Africa where she was the Product Category Lead, responsible for growing the Windows and Office business within the Consumer Channel Group.

Sandra is currently working for SYSPRO and is responsible for global channel development, corporate brand marketing, product and solution marketing, external communications and market intelligence.

She enjoys studying and holds an MBA degree from Bond University in Australia.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career started in sales which equipped me with a good appreciation and understanding of what customers needed and wanted. It was also in this role that I was given the opportunity to develop marketing campaigns aimed at channel and distribution partners. The campaigns were so successful that when the opportunity to head up marketing for Dell in the META Region (Middle East, Africa and Turkey) came up, my vice-president for the region immediately put my name forward. The rest, as they say, is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Since joining SYSPRO, I have been an integral part of the team which has been tasked with actively implementing a three-year transformational strategy aimed at ensuring that we have all the building blocks in place to truly operate as one SYSPRO team across all our regions globally.

Several important milestones have already been achieved on this journey including:

▪ The two sectors that SYSPRO serves is manufacturing and distribution. We took a strategic decision to rationalize the number of industries we focus on from 52 to 12. All our product development, product innovation, sales, and marketing are geared to best deliver expert solutions to these industries.

▪ We launched our global PartnerUP program which provides our partners with access to an award-winning product, industry experts, high-quality training, marketing enablement, and support.

This has been an exciting time at SYPRO and this is only the beginning.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I was given the responsibility of creating and designing 15 booth stands for our key partners at a large exhibition called GITEX in the Middle East. Part of my task was to produce laptop display stands to showcase the various notebooks that were being showcased at the event.

In my haste to meet the tight deadlines, I ordered much larger laptop display stands that would accommodate three laptops instead of only one as had been requested.

When I realized my error, it was already too late to reorder the correctly sized stands and I remember being absolutely terrified to inform my VP of this mistake.

When I had worked up the courage to break the news to him I was surprised and relieved at his response which was: “Well done Sandra! This gives us more space to demonstrate our product. Three laptops on display are better than one.”

I learned three big lessons from this blunder:

▪ Check the specs and recheck — the devil is in the details.

▪ You can find opportunity even when things don’t go according to plan.

▪ Learn to find humor in mistakes

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes SYSPRO unique is that we truly value the relationship over the transaction and this ethos is weaved into the culture of the organization.

I believe Phil Duff, owner and current SYSPRO Group CEO, epitomizes this philosophy and sets a great example for us all to follow. I try to live this daily.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am working on an exciting new project aimed at creating a new Partner Enablement Portal which we aim to launch within the next six months.

I believe the portal will be pivotal in engaging, educating, and inspiring our channel partners. It will play a fundamental role in providing them with the product and industry knowledge they need to win.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Create a culture of openness and one that drives for impact.

Work to find common ground and create a win-win team.

Encourage collaboration within and between teams/departments.

Foster team play: Create a positive environment that supports people doing their best.

Share leadership.

Act with humility and lead in a way that others say, “we did it ourselves.”

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

You need to trust your middle management team and give them both the responsibility and accountability for driving business objectives. Give them the space to do their jobs and the latitude to learn from their mistakes.

Don’t be afraid of hiring people who are smarter than you because you will learn from them and ultimately it is the best recipe for a win-win situation.

Always be authentic and commit yourself to develop your teams — because this is important to people.

Always lead from the front — be the leader you would want and make sure that your teams experience you in an authentic way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have been fortunate to have had two people you have guided me throughout my career.

The first being Dawn Nathan-Jones who taught me early on in my career to always be professional, be prepared, expect the unexpected, and plan accordingly. She also taught me about the inner strength of women and how to use that effectively in a business environment.

The second is Amer Hossain who was the VP of the Dell META Region, who believed in me as a leader and opened the door to my career into marketing. He was so confident that I was the right person to head up marketing that he refused to work with anyone else and actively championed my appointment into the role, even though someone else had already been appointed.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I champion for the advancement of women in the workplace. I have a few inspiring women that I mentor, and I am committed to sharing my experiences and knowledge to guide them in their career development. I believe that women have an integral role to play in the workplace and my commitment to the upliftment of these women is aimed at helping them reach success in their careers which I hope will inspire them to do the same for other women.

I am also passionate about developing young talent and guiding them through their career by offering practical advice on how to be successful in the work environment.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Be authentic and don’t compromise

2. Don’t underestimate the value of networking

3. Your team is your success or your failure — so recruit wisely and invest in their development

4. Embrace the unique journey of a woman in the workplace

5. Know the power of choice and be clear on what you do want to do and what you don’t

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have strong views on the advancement of robotics and machine learning and the role of humans amidst all this emerging technology.

I would love to spearhead an investment into education that would better prepare people for the jobs of the future at a grassroots level and even as early as school years.

I would sponsor a movement that actively looks at the role of the human spirit, human intelligence and human emotion in this age of innovation. I would imagine that a movement like this would recognize the value of human creativity which I believe could not be replicated by a machine.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t take yourself too seriously. Take the work seriously.”

Even though I have been successful in my career and I have worked my way up the corporate ladder, I have always tried to remain humble and remember that the role does not define me. Rather, it is my achievements that truly matter.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have lunch with world-famous soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. Having been voted FIFA World Player of the Year five times, I’d like to understand what motivates and drives him on a daily basis. Even today, 18 years later, he is still winning trophies and personal accolades.