Mecer Inter-Ed (Pty) Ltd, commonly known as MIE, is a Johannesburg-based ICT Training Solutions Provider rapidly becoming synonymous with terms such as solution-seeking, a well-oiled machine, and value realisation amongst the Learning Partner Landscape in Southern Africa. Wholly owned by JSE-listed Mustek Limited, MIE’s priorities are pretty straightforward: Proudly embrace the title of the local flagship Huawei Authorised Learning Provider (HALP) through the provision of world-class and responsive vocational certification training. The cat’s-eye-lit path to achieving this goal is well established.
MIE is a testament to what a determined and united South African team can do in just three short years. MIE has instituted strong vendor relationships and areas of expertise, expanding from Routing & Switching, Cloud Computing, and Cyber Security to Service Management, Virtualisation, and ICT Infrastructure. Strategically oriented, they put their efforts together to seize opportunities with alacrity despite the relentlessly punishing South African (and global) macro-environmental factors. Huawei’s published analysis of the South African ICT Talent White paper in July 2022 draws accurate attention to the realities facing South African businesses today. It highlights the short supply of ICT skills intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic-driven acceleration of 4IR technologies. The issues facing the South African ICT sector are rooted in an economically stagnant state, with an official unemployment rate of 34.5% (Trading Economics: South Africa Unemployment Rate) and a floundering and often ethically questionable political dispensation.
Mecer Inter-Ed is acutely aware of the market opportunities available for seizure and the urgent need to enable the local ecosystem of channel partners and end customers to drive business outcomes for value realisation. The reality, however, is that economic difficulties often place the partner in a position of short-range focus, and training is put on the back burner. Training becomes dispensable when times are tough.
Mustek’s aligned passion with Huawei solidified and supported MIE’s designs to encourage certifications enrolment to enable Huawei ambassadors. Furthermore, to grow the Huawei ecosystem of enabled partners, Mustek has been integral in the materialisation of the distribution of Huawei’s technology into South Africa and is a pivotal partner in boosting and enabling the local partner landscape. “We need that partner to develop the required skills so that they can support their Huawei technology and investment. Technology is only as good as the person that can install, configure, maintain, and troubleshoot it,” explains Sean Evans, MIE’s Executive in Business Transformation Solutions.
The Huawei-MIE relationship has seen the development of a sound ecosystem where both parties benefit. Huawei’s Certified Service Partner (CSP) Certification that confirms and measures the service capabilities of its channel partner allows for a motivated partner to strive towards an elusive but coveted target. The higher the Star grade achieved, the stronger the service capabilities of the channel partner, and of course, the better incentives for qualification too. A key capability requirement for a 5-Star Status in CSP Certification is the requirement for HCIE certified individuals. Local Huawei channel partners and MIE came together to train and empower engineers on the HCIE Datacom certifications. This resulted in a chain reaction of those channel partners advancing themselves to a 5-Star CSP Certification in Data Communication and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. MIE is a proud employer of two HCIE Huawei Certified Systems Instructors (HCSIs).
MIE has continued to grow its training and enterprise development centre through a heavy investment into infrastructure, lab equipment, training, and undoubtedly dexterous people while giving thoughtful attention to a functional, comfortable, and effective learning environment.
MIE quickly learned that the COVID-19 pandemic required a swift and adaptable response to learning. The need for convenient training by the marketplace saw MIE implement state-of-the-art virtual delivery technologies. The provision of virtual training is certainly not novel but offering the option for virtual training to MIE’s customers allows for a balanced work-life scenario. There is no excuse not to excel with the extensive choice of learning mediums to cater to the personal learning style and work schedule of the ICT professional.
Despite this, keeping delegates motivated to see class attendance through to certification has been challenging. MIE’s drive to encourage the learner to obtain the necessary Huawei certification and become Huawei brand ambassadors relies on building authentic relationships with the learning partner. The MIE trusted brand is essential to developing and maintaining rapport between the learning partner, Huawei, and the customer. It is a constant reminder that running the race without the finisher’s medal is like not running the race at all.
Like true coaches, MIE’s employees instruct, develop skills through practice drills and conditioning sessions, encourage, support and problem-solve. MIE positions itself as a one-stop shop with a flexible approach to finding solutions. “We’ve been trying to advocate authorised training meetings of channel partners to discuss the latest and greatest and determine gaps the in the market. But it has been an uphill battle; it is something we’re working on, chipping away at it,” explained Evans. The organisational culture of MIE sees a lesser reliance on factors such as the position and titles within the organisation, but a focus on the required expertise, due diligence, and a sensitivity to mobilise people and motivate them to do their best (Moss Kanter, 1989). MIE has seen 423 delegates trained in 2021 and approximately 118 delegates trained this year to date.
They must be doing something right as winners of the Huawei 2021 HALP award. It is indicative of how quickly MIE has grown its portfolio and the transformative influence they have had within the channel. “It’s a massive feather in our cap when you consider we had only been operational for two years at the time,” delights Evans.
“MIE’s journey has certainly been a long one,” explains Tracy Govender, MIE’s Executive Director of Operations. The allocation and provision of the required equipment saw capability issues. Creating a differentiated offering against competitors saw a massive drive for certifications and value creation. “The certification requirements are incredibly high: for MIE in terms of the kit but more so for the instructors before they can achieve instructor status on a particular certification. Increasing our certifications to increase our portfolio breadth has been challenging,” says Govender. “This is not just about the sales that we achieve; this is about the team. We can have the best strategy as a business, but if we don’t have capable people who are driving this, we would ultimately be unsuccessful.”
Morning huddles, late-night coffees, and a few sporadic serendipitous idea moments have seen this cheerful and dedicated team think bigger, think harder, and think long-term about how they can help others. MIE’s already established, and enabled ecosystem allows them to look outward.
The future sees them further scaling operations to collaborate more with strategic synergies across Africa. On a mission to see others succeed and further develop their skills within the African ICT sector, MIE wants to make its training labs available for those who have the ardour to learn but lack the equipment to do so. It’s all about checking in with the channel frequently and seeing where their needs are. Of course, this can only be done by thoroughly understanding Huawei and their strategic priorities. “We need to continue strengthening our relationships with Huawei, understanding their objectives and challenges so MIE can genuinely make an impact,” says Evans. As the Huawei-MIE relationship continues to flourish, inevitably, their strategic goals will further align.
Huawei, a pioneer in innovative technologies, remains committed to building a strong partner ecosystem in Africa as is evidenced by its comprehensive and technical certification programmes. MIE’s shared perspective with Huawei sees the active promotion of developing relevant and current talent across the continent. As Evans concisely explains, “It doesn’t matter what accolades we have received, or how many awards we have won, eventually people need to connect with people. It is about making ourselves part of their mission and growth.”