Meet the Mint Group’s Chief Financial Officer, Yvonne Dias; an award winner who is proving that loyalty, passion, and a desire to learn is the perfect recipe for success
Yvonne Dias is a self-proclaimed nerd and highlighter enthusiast. She has a flair for the dramatic and is deeply passionate about family—even if she suffers somewhat from Middle Child Syndrome. She loves travel, numbers, reading, and her husband of nearly two decades, while her list of academic achievements is enviable (she clearly loves studying, what with a CA, MBA, and Stanford University qualification to her name!). Her quirky demeanour may not come across as that typical of a Group CFO, but what the Mint Group has is someone deeply loyal and invested in creating something bigger than herself.
With all that and more bubbling inside of her, it is no surprise that Dias was the recipient of the Women in Tech Award at the Sentech Africa Tech Week in May 2023, which, according to the Sentech Africa Tech Week website, ‘goes to a woman who has shown outstanding IT excellence and innovation over the past 18 months… overall responsibility for IT strategy and vision in your organisation… your approach as a leader to leadership and how it influences your actions and activities in your organisation’.
Leadership had the pleasure of sitting down with Dias to find out more about her winning moment, where her passions lie, and what the future holds for this talented award winner.
A worthy award winner
Dias started her journey with what is now known as the Mint Group in 2005. Her responsibility back then was overseeing the financial and operational side of the business. Her hard work, dedication, and passion for her job saw her move into the CFO position in 2017. She is now a shareholder alongside Chairman Trevor Ahier—the man who took a chance on her all those years ago, Group CEO Carel du Toit, and Group COO Wilhelm van Rensburg.
Her loyalty to the business cannot be questioned. She remained dedicated [SS1] through various iterations of the business and has continued to give her all to ensure success. That attitude is one of the main reasons she was nominated for the Women in Tech Award… and it’s ultimately what tipped the scales in her favour to take the coveted prize home.
”Winning this award is a professional and personal highlight. It’s hard to sit here and think, ‘Why did they choose me?’ I mean, I am a nerd, so it is crazy to think that I was actually chosen. It is amazing,” Dias says with pride and a sense of bewilderment.
”The women on the list were all worthy candidates and I must be honest, before the event, I doubted that I would actually win this award because of such commendable nominees. So, to be chosen was just such a surreal and wonderful experience.”
Authenticity is a big thing for Dias. Without it, she believes you are not being true to yourself and those around you. As a result, she feels that the ”award validates all the decisions I have made on my journey and proves that I am on the right track”.
With tech being a largely male-dominated industry, Dias has always been on the lookout for ways to ensure that women are given the chance to shine. While she admits that it took a potential resignation to realise that point, she has not looked back since in the search for equality and inclusion—an aspect which she believes helped her win the award.
”I have really tried to make sure we pave the way for other women to be part of the Group and part of our decision making. Diversity and inclusion at Mint is core to who we are,” Dias reveals.
”Over 40% of our staff is female; and we have senior strategic roles headed by females such as our Head of Sales, Head of Brand, Head of People. It was a significant part of my award submission, not only that I have paved the way for other women, but I have also been actively involved in our strategy and our growth. [SS2] Being an integral part of Mint’s strategic direction and geo-expansion goals is front and centre of my role at the company.
One thing which was quite striking about Dias was her response to being questioned about whether winning an award such as this would change her in any way.
Her humble nature and drive to keep pushing were evident in her answer—and it was quite refreshing to hear.
The Nigel-born CA insists: ”I love what I do. I get up every morning—I know people think I am mad—and ask myself, ‘What am I doing today to take over the world?’ So, I don’t think the award changes my career goals, I think if anything it affirms that I am going in the right direction.
”I love what I do, I love the fact that I am part of a strategy, that I own the strategy and we’re growing our business, that excites me.
Learning with passion
”You have one life. What are you doing with that one life?”
The above quote is one which Dias lives her life by. It is a quote which drives her to push herself on to greater things, and one which opens the door to constant learning—with the importance of having tough conversations and being able to control yourself among those lessons.
”I think one of the most important lessons that I have learnt in my career has to do with the courage to have tough conversations. I have never shied away from if something is not right, standing up, speaking my mind, and as tough as it is, the outcome is usually better. That for me is critical,” she avers.
”The other lesson I have learnt in life is that you can only control yourself. People tend to spend ages trying to control others and control situations, and then you react to a situation because you misread it; it leads to a lot of conflict and issues. You can only control yourself, make sure you have the tough conversations, and that controlling yourself leads you to being more authentic as a leader.”
A passion for what she does has made Dias’ career to date all the more satisfying. She believes that her personality fits in with the tech world perfectly, meaning she is able to love what she does and flourish.
Her advice to those looking into a certain career path is to be certain it complements your passions in life.
She explains: ”I like a fast pace and I like change. I don’t like routine and boring, so IT fits my personality. The IT sector moves and evolves at such a rapid pace, so you’ve got to be agile in your strategies and you’ve got to be agile in your thinking.
”So, I think understanding your personality and what you like plays a role in picking your career. If you like more tried and tested, IT might not exactly be the sector for you. Understanding your passion helps you in your career. You must be excited to get up every day to go to work, as if you are not, then there’s no point, it’s a long day of being miserable.”
Interestingly, the Mint Group culture is ‘passionate, driven, warm, and disruptive’. Dias really was destined to shine in this environment.
An exciting future at Mint
The COVID-19 pandemic, especially in South Africa, brought the tech conversation to the forefront of many entities’ strategic thinking and conversations about where they are headed.
However, the understanding of what is required in this area is lacking within many entities. This is where the Mint Group shines.
”COVID-19 did give us a bit of an advantage in the sense that people realised they needed to embrace technology. Our clients sometimes tend to be nervous about what technology actually means, how it impacts them, and when they should move to the cloud. What it did was it accelerated the clients’ learning and we’ve been on a positive growth trajectory,” Dias reveals.
This growth includes going beyond the borders of South Africa. An operation in the United Kingdom is already up and running, while a move into the Middle East is on the cards. These moves are testament to the hard work of Dias and her colleagues and will no doubt future-proof the operations of the Mint Group.
“Last year we started our UK business. We had one person and almost a year down the line, we have a staff complement of seventeen people. Within a year to have that growth, is incredible. Microsoft were looking for a transformative partner to disrupt the market, so when Microsoft approaches you to get into a market, it’s very exciting. We’ve also spent time within Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi to see how we’re going to enter the market. We’ve found partners and we’re building our go to market strategies with these partners. So there’s this massive expansion that we’re looking at which is really exciting,” Dias explains.
The loyalty of Dias which featured earlier in the article came to the fore once again when asked about her future on a personal level. She did not hesitate to answer from a Mint Group perspective, showing once again that she views her future as firmly entrenched in the operations of the Group.
And we must say, the Mint Group can count themselves extremely lucky to have Dias on their side for the long haul.
“I think this is a stability year for us in that we want to see the returns on our investments. So, it’s about bedding down all our processes in the new regions, bedding down what we are delivering in order to have the same quality as in South Africa, then just expanding our name. For me, it’s about making sure that we’re driving those strategic pillars out, continuing on our journey, and just making sure it’s a stable year for us,” Dias concludes.
Here’s to conquering the world!