When Unathi Mtya started the Columbia SPS Executive Master of Science in Technology Management program, she was already a successful executive. But after receiving her degree in 2018, her career skyrocketed into the C-suite. Now CIO at African Bank, she was recently named a Most Influential African Women Banker in 2022.
What led you to pursue the Technology Management degree? Why from Columbia, specifically?
It had always been a dream of mine to study at one of the Ivy League schools and Columbia University was in my top three. I was approaching forty and had been in the tech industry for over eighteen years. I wanted to enrich my executive level experience in business leadership, as well as in technology. I also wanted to get international experience, as well as to learn from colleagues around the globe. That’s exactly what the Executive Master of Science in Technology Management program at Columbia afforded me and so much more. This remains one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Tell us about your career journey and your role as CIO at African Bank. How did you advance to the C-Suite?
My career journey spans over a period of twenty-four years when First National Bank recruited me from university at the age of twenty-one. My career was fast-tracked by landing very key positions along the way, which led to overseeing several portfolios across a wide spectrum of IT disciplines, leading multidisciplinary teams across the IT spectrum at senior management, general management, and C-suite levels, both in the public and the private sector.
My role at African Bank follows a two-year stint at Grindrod Bank as Chief Technology Officer. African Bank is on an audacious growth path, supported by an exciting strategy which gives direction to the new IT strategy as we cement “strengthening the core,” as well as “expanding the core” of the bank. At African Bank, we are building a scalable, sustainable, and diversified business, and at the heart of all this is tech enablement and digital transformation. I’m honored to lead the team, and have a responsibility to make this possible everyday, and [ensure that] we are on the right track.
Has the program helped you to define your career journey? Have your aspirations or professional goals changed in any way due to the program?
I believe the program has really given me a competitive advantage by expanding my view of the world, the tech, and the business leadership landscape locally and globally. After completing the program, I re-entered the banking sector, this time at the C-suite level after spending time in other sectors. This year, I was recognized as one of the leading CIOs under Global CIO 100 for 2022. I was also recently awarded as a Most Influential African Women Banker of the Year (Digital Transformation) under the category of Banking and Leadership Awards, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya on May 26, 2022.
Have any courses or faculty members helped you to hone key skills?
I was blown away and very impressed. All the faculty members were very good. They made the whole experience worth the time and effort. To date, I still refer to some of the program content and material. The additional blessing for me was the relationships and friendships I forged, which have proved to benefit me far beyond the time I spent at Columbia.
What advice do you have for future students who want to succeed in leadership roles in finance or tech?
My advice would be not to postpone taking charge of your career journey. Start creating your own story and narrative. Columbia University and this program in particular are one for the books. At the end of this program, you will realize you’ve grown in leaps and bounds and are ready for any role in technology and business leadership.
Learn more about the Executive M.S. in Technology Management.