MASERU – Maphotong, a small village in the heart of the Roma valley where great minds are nurtured, is home to Dr Catherine Lephoto, the Executive Director Sales – Africa for VX Technologies, a US-based company in the business of verified health record company (VHR)
The company designs systems for secure blockchain vaccination records used for COVID-19 and other global vaccination markets.
A former deputy CEO of the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) where she served for a period of 9 months until her contract ended in March 2021, she studied biology and chemistry first.
“My primary post-graduate qualification is a Doctorate in Molecular Biology with a specialization in Microbial Genetics.
My research topic was on cloning the genes responsible for antibiotic resistance in TB-causing bacteria. I chose this topic because TB is a leading cause of death amongst my people; my mother was once diagnosed with it, thankfully she was cured.” says Dr Lephoto.
She says “This became one of the motivators behind my choice of the research topic for my PhD studies. Beyond Molecular Biology, I have also studied and have qualifications in Brewing Science and Process as well as Business Management. Further to these, I have completed courses as an Assessor and a Director,”
Known by many of her peers as Mosebatho, she is the epitome of success, and this is not by chance, as she always came out top of her class, a proud product of St. Mary’s High School, Lekhoali la Sr. Angelina Tšepe.
Like all other girls at her school, she had a taste of Seripe, an annual event held in commemoration of Moshoeshoe’s Day, and the only time when the girls from her school would be allowed to mingle with Makoleche, the boys from Christ the King High School- Ha ‘Mapoho and dance the day away.
This like all the other girls she enjoyed, but always remained focused on her studies.
She scored the second highest marks in the country for the Cambridge O-level examinations of 1990.
And so it was on this basis that she went straight to Armand Hammer United World College of the American West, where she completed her IB and continued to excel.
Thereafter she went to Lawrence University of Wisconsin where she did her First-Degree Honours in Biology and Chemistry and graduated Magna Cum Laude.
In addition to her job with VX technologies, she also serves on the boards of directors of companies in South Africa and the UK.
Throughout her career, she has left a mark wherever she went. Her first official job, apart from the jobs she held whilst in college in the USA, was as a Junior Lecturer in the then Department of Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1999 whilst she was a PhD student.
After she attained her doctorate in 2002, she was then appointed as a Lecturer in the School of Molecular and Cell Biology in the same University.
In May 2003, she was head-hunted by SABMiller as a Senior Research Scientist, and later joined the operations side of the business.
In 2009 Dr. Lephoto left the corporate world and started her own Training & Consulting business, offering a variety of services to the food and beverage manufacturing industry in Southern Africa.
“It was a very bold move to make as I was a mother of a 14-month baby at the time. But it worked out to be the best decision of my life. During this time, I had big clients like Heineken, where I trained their brewing operators, and Lobel’s Bread – Zimbabwe.
She says in 2013 she was head-hunted by Krones AG, a German company that is a leading manufacturer of food and beverage manufacturing equipment where she was appointed sales manager and key accounts manager Heineken, based in South Africa.
“I had a very successful stint and further strengthened my position as a sales professional in the industry. Beyond this I was again head-hunted by an American company called Filtec LLC into the position of key accounts manager – Africa.” says Dr Liphoto.
She says her time at Filtec allowed her to build extensive networks across the continent of Africa and solidified her love for the continent, its people and the potential that resides in it.
But she left that world when she was head-hunted into the role of sales and marketing director for Kevali Chemicals – a black-owned South African company that she believed was doing exciting things in the industrial chemicals space.
“Thereafter, I went back into my own business again where this time I had clients from Italy, Switzerland, USA and South-Africa all of which were trying to establish and/or extend their footprint in the continent of Africa as my clients.
Nothing motivates her more than her own development and the empowerment of others, especially women.
“I believe in lifelong learning and the need to continuously improve myself. In the workplace, I believe in the open sharing of ideas as a way to empower others and to get the most out of the organization.
“I am a results-driven professional and service orientated. When I lead teams, I have an open-door policy and believe in giving everyone, no matter how low their position might be, an opportunity to contribute to discussions,” she narrates.
Over the years, Dr Lephoto has contributed to the education of many children in her hometown, some of whom, notably girls, have even gone on to graduate from university.
“Seeing them succeed is a source of great pride and personal gratification. The development of the African continent is what drives me. I believe that promoting the responsibility to be productive, embracing the latest technologies and allowing the youth to assume leadership positions, are what we need to do to change the prospects of our continent.”
She says embracing digitization is an opportunity for Africa to leapfrog and assume her rightful leadership position on the global stage.
“This is what has drawn me to working with the colleagues at VX Technologies in the role I currently occupy. The Covid-19 pandemic has delivered to Lesotho a rare chance to leapfrog existing technologies and get ahead of her peers in the region. It is really encouraging to see the people of Lesotho embracing this transformative technology – the benefits will be immense for the people of Lesotho, especially the youth.
“It is through embracing each other as Africans, exchanging our skills and knowledge freely, and demanding better of ourselves that we can truly get the most out of our continent for the sake of future generations.”
She says although there are good companies that support women in the career growth, “Sadly, there are still too many places where women still face unnecessary pressures, be it of a sexist, ageist, or other nature. The situation becomes far worse when such undue pressures are piled upon women by other women, and I have noted that the country is still lurking behind in terms of advancement of women and equity in the workplace.”
“Furthermore, a culture of shaming successful women is pervasive, and success of women is often linked with seedy behavior whereby they are accused of attaining their position because of giving sexual favors to powerful men.
“This is regrettable and the impact of such, all too often unfounded, allegations can have a lasting impact not only on the target herself, but also on younger women who are also starting out on their career journeys and might be looking up to such women as role models.
Such behavior needs to be called out, and rooted out, wherever and whenever it occurs by society as a whole,” rolls Dr. Lephoto as she wraps her story.