Sunday Read: 'I am proud I did not get an invitation to the Zondo commission' – CEO

Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall'Omo
Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall'Omo

One of the things Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa CEO Sabine Dall'Omo is most proud of achieving in her career is conducting business in a "clean manner".

The CEO has been at the helm in the technology company's African operations over the past five years, though her career at Siemens spans more than 20 years, she told Fin24 in a telephonic interview.

Officer of Siemens Cluster Africa. In 2014 she was appointed to her current CEO role.

After graduating in 1985, Dall'Omo did her vocational training at Siemens Germany. She has lived in various countries, working in several roles including financial analyst at Siemens US and commercial manager at Siemens China.

Dall'Omo joined Siemens South Africa in 2004 as head of risk and controlling, mergers and acquisitions. In 2012 she was appointed Chief Financial 

'A female manner'

"We have done business above board," she told Fin24, responding to a question regarding what she is most proud of achieving during her tenure.

"I am very proud that I did not get an invitation to the Zondo Commission, because there will be nothing ever to find."

Dall'Omo told Fin24 that in her opinion, her role as a female executive helped maintain good governance. "We did our business over the last five years in a female manner, which is normally the clean manner," she said.

Changing operations

As an international company, Siemens has been conscious about the mark it has been leaving in the areas where it operates. The face of Siemens has transformed somewhat in South Africa.

Commonly known for its telecommunications business, the company's technologies are becoming more prevalent in other industries such as energy, mining and manufacturing. Consumers are not necessarily aware of this, as the company's client base has also transformed from private individuals to businesses.

In order to publicise its changing role, Siemens in 2014 launched a Business to Society report to educate consumers and its employees of the impact of the company's work in shaping society.

In short videos, Siemens has communicated, for example, that in the time it takes to brush one's teeth, its technologies have been used to manufacture one car. Or, for example, in the time it takes you to make a slice of toast, Siemens says it has helped 64 people through Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.

The Business to Society report also outlines its role in supporting South Africa's National Development Plan (NDP) which is aimed at building a more inclusive economy and ending poverty, among other things, by the year 2030.

"Business has to support society and government is part of society," Dall'Omo said.

Siemens has considered the goals of the NDP and how best it could assist government in achieving them. It incorporated the goals of the NDP in its business activities in an effort to help transform society, Dall'Omo told Fin24.

The report further measures and quantifies what Siemens has contributed to SA's economic growth, creating jobs created and preserving the environment, among other things. In the year 2018 the value of goods produced by Siemens amounted to R6.1bn. 

Alexandra fire 

In the area of enterprise development, Dall'Omo explained how the unfortunate fire in the Alexandra township near Sandton in 2018 led Siemens to find a small business to partner with in one of its projects.

To assist families affected by the fires, Siemens handed out blankets, Dall'Omo said. It was then that Siemens discovered a 100% black, women-owned textile business – Legae Larona Sewing Cooperative.

Siemens decided to partner with the business to communicate its role through a programme called "Fabric".

"One of the challenges we have is that many people still associate us with the telecommunications business. Not many people understand that our technology, be it in smart infrastructure or digital application of automation products, really makes a difference in the way society performs," Dall'Omo said. For this reason, Siemens decided to make visible the impact of its technology in cities on fabric.

Legae Larona then created the fabric to represent the "digital fabric of the city". The small business now also supplies Siemens with bags and cloths used to by its employees and Siemens' business clients.

"We are proud they work for us and that we have ensured women in a disadvantaged community now have a permanent job," she said.

"It is really something we are extremely proud of to make a difference to a society which normally would not have access to us." Siemens now employs 30 women from the Alexandra township. 

The small business has also produced fabric prints of Ghanaian city Accra and, similarly, Berlin in Germany, where Siemens was founded. "We took the ladies from Alex to Berlin to show them how far their work actually goes," Dall'Omo said.

Dall'Omo believes more companies should consider the value they add to communities. True development is when people are helped to set up their own business and to be successful in their own right, she said.

"I believe it is so important that you do meaningful development," she said. "I encourage companies to do more and think beyond your own personal interest and think rather for society, than only what makes your business successful. If the community is uplifted, you will be uplifted over a period of time; it's natural," she said.

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