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Lerato Sithole

Partner, Operate Services Leader, Deloitte Africa

As an enthusiastic leader with experience working in industry, managed services, and outsourcing—Lerato knows how to harness opportunities that come her way and create them. Read how she works with passion and dedication to unlock new value for clients through Operate services.

Briefly explain what you do at Deloitte. 

I lead Deloitte Africa’s multidisciplinary portfolio of Operate services across Tax, Consulting, Risk Advisory, Financial Advisory, and Assurance. I have a specific focus on our Risk and Financial Advisory Operate services, working with our local Delivery Center. I’m also the Lead Client Service Partner for a global pharmaceutical organization, working with their leadership team to help deliver strategic transformation programs.

How would you explain what you do to someone who knows nothing about Operate services?

Operate services are strategy and transformation in action. We advise clients on their strategy, provide recommendations, and implement processes that we then manage on a continued basis. We don’t just give clients the facts or a theory of what needs to be done—we work with them as an extension of their organization to provide services that help drive continuous advantage. 

Tell us about an Operate services project you're most proud of working on in your career.

My current role as Lead Client Partner has been the most exciting. We historically had no traction with this client, and I had no experience within that sector when I first started working with them. But I raised my hand because I knew I’d be able to bring Deloitte’s Operate leading service capabilities. Within four months they chose Deloitte as their preferred provider for a large Application Management Services project. Now, we’ve set out on a multi-year and multi-geography journey together to transform how they operate. 

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

I like to spend Mondays thinking about what I want to achieve as a leader in the week ahead, particularly what efforts I’m pioneering with my clients and across Deloitte. The rest of the week I’m laser-focused on client projects and how to best support my teams. I love to spend a lot of time with my clients in person so will often visit them on-site.

How did you end up in Operate services? 

I started working outside of professional services in the Energy, Resources & Industrials industry and then moved into other industries like Financial Services and Government & Public Services. In 2011, I was recruited by Deloitte Africa, first working with clients on business process outsourcing services. As the business grew, so did my responsibilities, and I led our Africa managed services business, which then evolved into next-generation managed services, also known as Operate services, where I am today.

What excites you most about your role? Why do you do what you do?

I love experiencing new things every day. Driven by our multi-disciplinary model for serving clients, I have experienced and am comfortable conversing with clients across different business functions and sectors. This keeps things interesting.

What's a common misconception about working in Operate services?

One of the biggest misconceptions is the association with traditional outsourcing—teams managing narrow and static processes with less scope to deliver value. If you look at the bigger picture, Operate projects can last many years, so you get to experience a host of opportunities to drive greater value within the same client organization. You gain a deeper understanding of their business and learn about the intricacies of their specific industry. 

There can also be greater career predictability and stability. In typical professional services roles, you often move from one short-term project to another. Within Operate projects you can build a solid foundation in one client that helps you really engage with your client and build strong, lasting relationships. 

What aspects of your career journey have taken you by surprise?

When I first moved into professional services from a background working in industry, my biggest surprise was how I adapted to driving business development as part of my role. I figured out my strengths around active listening and engaging with people to close that gap in experience. Today, I love interacting with clients, understanding their difficulties, and working out solutions to help solve their complex problems while driving profitable growth for my Deloitte firm. 

What advice would you give your younger self about working in Operate services?

I would tell anyone who is starting out and new to working in Operate services that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important focus on your individual goals. Everyone’s journey is their own. If you focus yours, you will get there with the recognition, acknowledgement, and results you want. 

What do you like to do outside of work? And why is it so special to you?

It's quite surprising, but outside of work, most recently, I’ve taken part in a documentary film about how mothers succeed in the workplace. It’s called Moms Rising. I had the opportunity to film in Hollywood, which was exciting. The topic of working mothers is one that I am extremely passionate about as a mother of five. So much so that I’m now also planning a podcast and may even try my hand at writing a book in the future. 

Note: The services and experiences described herein are intended to demonstrate Deloitte's experience and capabilities in these areas, however, due to independence restrictions that apply to audit clients (including affiliates), Deloitte is unable to provide certain services based on individual facts and circumstances. Therefore, the experiences and descriptions would not apply to services to audit clients.