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My Journey with CDRlive from A to Z

An interview with Gerda Brand, General Manager of Adapt IT Telecoms Australia 

By Katucia Moussongo

From South Africa to Australia, Adapt IT Telecoms empowers the Mobile Network Operator industry with CDRlive.

In this edition, I met a special woman behind Technology. Her name is Gerda Brand, General Manager of Adapt IT Telecoms in Australia.

An interview with Gerda Brand, General Manager of Adapt IT Telecoms Australia 

By Katucia Moussongo

“One of the characteristics of people working in technology is that we are very technical. We neglect to develop our soft skills in favor of our hard skills.”

Please tell us your story, how did you find yourself in the Technology Sector & Telecommunications Industry? 

After graduating from high school, I attended the University of Pretoria (UP) to pursue a BCom in Informatics. The Central Statistics Department was where I landed my first job following graduation. I moved there and worked exclusively on economic matters for a few years, including extensive reporting on the GDP. Then I decided it was time for a change and applied for a job with MTN South Africa. At that time, I had no idea what MTN was all about. 

In 1995, the only individuals who owned mobile phones were the wealthy. To be honest, I assumed I’d never use one. It simply wasn’t even a thing. On the day of my encounter at MTN, I was interviewed at MTN by a tall slender guy with large glasses named Lucky. It’s crucial that I bring up his name since, later, he became known as the “L” of LGR. I can honestly say that I was lucky to meet Lucky and land that position. As a result, Lucky became my manager. He was an excellent programmer who created applications for MTN’s engineering division. Our responsibility was to give the engineering team data, analytics, and insights so they could manage and expand their network.  

There were a few of us in that engineering department who were not engineers. I was quite unfamiliar with this setting. Mobile was the focus. I felt out of my depth sometimes. I was sometimes overwhelmed when these engineers were using all these terminologies. Thankfully, they were willing to patiently impart their knowledge, and I learned a lot from them about mobile networks and mobile data.   

I was hooked because there was so much to learn. However, because we were the founding employees, it was an exciting period learning about this emerging new technology. We were working in a small building with the CEO sitting in a corner. We were exposed to everything. I don’t think we realized how big the mobile world would become in the future. I completed a business object (it was one of the first Business Intelligence tools in the market) roll-out in this role, which gave me my first exposure to business intelligence. It was my first taste of how business intelligence tools might work in the future, and we used them to upgrade and automate reporting. We have worked with a few additional vendors as part of our extended team. Grant and Rory, two unique individuals, provided software to MTN to conduct drive tests while on the road to assess network quality. 

The reason I brought them up is that: Lucky, who had left MTN in 1999, joined forces with these two smart men to form LGR, which stands for “Lucky Grant and Rory.” Lucky spent a year developing a product called CDRlive . MTN was the first company to use it.  

A little later, CDRlive crossed the ocean to Australia. I began as a consultant, guiding the implementation and the use of CDRlive in the Telstra environment. Simultaneously, we as a team moved to Australia and opened our first office. After a period of three years, I was offered the role of General Manager and today, I head up a very strong and talented team, of which many have been with me for 21 years. 

You mention moving over to Australia. What did this big step feel like initially?  

In 2001, when we – my 2-year-old son, my husband, and myself, landed in Australia, more specifically in Melbourne, we never truly intended to relocate permanently. We simply believed it was a wonderful opportunity for adventure and one that should not be rejected. I don’t think we gave it much thought. However, moving to a different nation where we knew no one was quite difficult. 

Yes, life was significantly different in a first-world country. It was complicated not to have a support system. Also, because English was my second language, it was challenging to think in my mother tongue while conversing with English speakers, but I made it through.  

How does it feel to be part of Adapt IT Group since the acquisition of LGR?  

LGR was officially acquired by Adapt IT in 2018. I must admit that it was a significant change for all of us. We had never had more than 30 employees, and then suddenly, we were in a place with hundreds of people. We used to feel like big fish in a small pond, and then suddenly, we were small fish in a big pond. However, we quickly discovered that we have access to a massive product portfolio. We could increase our revenue and gain knowledge from different people. It broadened our horizons beyond CDRlive

Moreover, the time difference can occasionally make it difficult to schedule meetings, but we always attempt to operate around the clock. Most importantly, we always work to offer our consumers a 24-hour service.  

Please tell us more about your passionate Australian team? 

Currently, the Adapt IT Telecoms Australia team consists of eight individuals. I’m extremely fortunate because all of us have worked together for years. We’ve been friends for a long time. They are, in my opinion, more relatives than co-workers. We are divided into three teams: the Development Team, which creates and tests software; the Analysis Team, which provides Telstra with consulting services for many divisions and provides data reporting and insights; and the Support Team, which oversees Telstra and Vodafone Fiji from Melbourne. 

What I admire most about my team is that they will go to any length to complete a task or make others feel at ease. It does not matter what the task is, even the most mundane, such as going to the post office or buying some tea for the crew.  

There are 160 different cultures present in Melbourne, making it one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. This is evident in my team as only two of my team members were born in Australia; the other eighty percent are foreign-born. Working with individuals from different cultures is very interesting, and this diversity has been a major contributing factor to our team’s success.  

What are the reasons for establishing operations in Australia?  

Australia is a big market, but the most important reason is our loyal customer Telstra. One of the agreements we made when we signed the contract with Telstra was that we would open a permanent office in Australia. They do not want assistance from abroad. They need to have individuals on the ground who can communicate with them and who understand them. One part of the South Africa CDRlive team is at the Johannesburg Adapt IT Head Office and we work very closely with them daily.  

Aside from this, my goal remains to find a common project that my team and the South African team can collaborate on so that our teams can get to know each other a little better.  

There is no doubt that Telstra is a big Australian customer. In what ways do you serve them?  

We mostly concentrate on CDRlive. Our system is used today by over 4,000 users within the Telstra environment. Initially, as a Telstra service provider, our primary objective was to implement the CDRlive solution, which was used to address the issue of number portability which first surfaced in 2001 in Australia. However, because of what we were able to accomplish with our software and the type of data we had, we were able to expand the solution far beyond just number portability. Today, we have increased our footprint within Telstra and now collaborate with a number of their divisions. Consequently, there are a few ways that our CDRlive solution helps Telstra. We do this through automated reporting and notifications, as well as a self-service web tool. Telstra can use our database to run their own queries. They connect to our database using interfaces or APIs, and it feeds other data warehouses. We also assist Telstra in identifying various billing mistakes, such as overcharges. We have a strong infrastructure that enables us to perform reporting across all Telstra divisions. 

How does CDRlive empower 5G transition in Australia?

We have a 360-degree view of the customer. And I say that because our mobile service allows us to know what phone you’re using on the network, where you’re using your phone, how much data you’re consuming, how many calls or SMS you received, your network experience, and more. We can give them information on which customers to target for a 5G strategy. If, for instance, the marketing encouraged the potential customer to purchase the new iPhone 14, we can assist them in running and analysing campaigns to determine their effectiveness. 

Another example is the erection of the 5G network, and here we can assist them with technical problems. The whole point of 5G is to have fast speeds, but it is an issue if these users make a call and fall back on the outdated 3G network. 

We come in and inform the engineers about which consumers are having bad network experiences so they may investigate it to see if there is anything wrong.  

How do you protect the confidentiality of people when processing their personal information?  

In Australia, privacy and security are extremely important. Adapt IT does not store any information on its hardware. Everything is contained in a Telstra data centre and secured by their firewalls. Everything is secure within Telstra’s data centres and, more recently, on their private cloud. 

We present the data in such a way that you can’t tell who the customer is. We might simply state that 1000 people purchased the latest iPhone. Without identifying the person or disclosing their identity or location. Even Telstra Customer Service is prohibited from recording information. However, in general, I can state that Telstra does a great job of securing data. The operator is responsible for keeping a customer’s data on-site, backing it up, and other similar tasks; Adapt IT does not take that responsibility.  

What is new on Adapt IT roadmap for the Australian Operator?  

Due to an exclusivity clause, we are not allowed to market CDRlive in Australia. Despite this, we do have an array of high-level solutions within our portfolio for other Mobile Operators, including Corporate Customer Self-Service and APN as-a-Service Data Management platforms. We are currently in discussion with numerous operators in the Australasia region.  

How can you describe “People Behind Technology” and what would you convey to the younger, skilled generation of software architects and engineers today? 

People Behind Technology, in my opinion, are inquisitive and innovative individuals. They have a distinct agile approach to dealing with situations by introducing solutions. However, one of the characteristics of people working in technology is that we are very technical. We neglect to develop our soft skills in favour of our hard skills. We need to be conscious of this. We must strike a balance between the two to make it easier to collaborate with both our customers and our team.  

The new generation should remember that the customer is king. Passion must be shown in each customer engagement. You must ensure that they are satisfied with the offer you introduced them to after a transaction.  

Furthermore, treat everyone with the same respect whether a Senior Manager or a recent graduate. People frequently ask me whether one report is more important than the other, and I respond that each report and each email are significant. Likewise, respect your co-workers, include them, and communicate. Every member of a team can contribute something unique. When I look at my team, I see that they are all different from one another, which is wonderful since everyone adds something unique to the team, which makes everyone feel highly valued.  

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