The Big Interview

A life in the day of... Ryan Sher, COO, WIOCC

Laura Hedges

20 Nov 2014

Five years ago, nobody had heard of WIOCC, and Sher says that the company’s position now as “the de facto wholesaler of capacity and subsea capacity in Africa” is a great achievement.

WIOCC began as a special investment vehicle on the EASSy cable on the east coast of Africa, and Sher oversaw its expansion and investment into other cable systems – such as the EIG and WACS cables, as well as several in Europe and South Africa – to create the high-capacity network ring around Africa it has today.

But a more recent milestone for WIOCC was the development of its African IP network, in which Sher played an instrumental role. In projects like these, Sher says that initial steps involve strategising with the company’s CEO, Chis Wood, to define the specifics of the launch.

“Once we then get approval from the board and from the bank for the budget, the next phase is then to establish the buying relationship with our different partners and shareholders,” Sher says.

“A lot of our shareholders are carriers around Africa and we are putting a presence in their markets, so we need to make sure we build trust and a good partnership with them so that we have that support on the ground,” he adds.

Sher is also responsible for deciding which vendor is used for network deployment and this – paired with the widespread nature of WIOCC’s shareholders – means he spends a significant amount of time travelling to meet these partners and vendors; presenting concepts, gathering ideas and cementing relationships.

Despite the high-flying nature of his position, Sher works from his home in Cape Town, South Africa, in what he describes as a company that is fast becoming virtualised.

WIOCC has a network team based in Nairobi, Kenya, a sales team in Johannesburg, South Africa, offices in London, UK and shareholders in nearly every country neighbouring South Africa, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“We are pretty dispersed and in that sense we are almost a virtual company, because we do a lot of video conferencing to manage processes,” he says. “Equally, all of the people that report in to me are senior people who can think on their feet and don’t need as much face-time as more junior people, and given that they’re based all over the world, video conferencing works very well.”