SVP of Deutsche Telekom ICSS to step down

24 April 2018 | Jason McGee-Abe

Mardia van der Walt (Niehaus) is to step down from her role as SVP of Deutsche Telekom’s International Carrier Sales & Solutions (ICSS) division when her contract expires at the end of August 2018.

Van der Walt (Niehaus) will become SVP of Transformation at the International Wholesale Business Unit (IBU) from May, driving strategy and culture transformation. She will hold this position until the end of August at which time the executive will move into a new role, the details of which the company said will be announced at a later date.

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Reflecting on her time at ICSS, van der Walt (Niehaus) said to Capacity today: "I am happy to have been a part of an ICSS unit which has led to a customer-centric international wholesale business. ICSS has come up with many innovative solutions, positioned as a market leader with its 360° defense strategy and looks forward to a sustainable future. For me, what was most exciting was to create a culture of trust and empowerment – one that challenges people to think in a new way. I’m glad to see that we’ve succeeded in unlocking people’s potential and creating an environment that enables creativity.” She also shared a message on LinkedIn.

Van der Walt (Niehaus) also sent the following email to industry colleagues:

As you know, we are going through rapid changes in the telco industry. One in which it is more necessary than ever before to be able to quickly react to new technologies. As part of IBU’s leadership team, I have been driving the execution of the ICSS strategy to foster customer centricity, innovation and simplicity as well as establishing a sustainable future for ICSS in the market. 

I am happy to have been a part of this journey which has led to many solutions that have driven ICSS to a position of profitable growth and success. It was really a pleasure to be running the international ICSS wholesale business with such a great intercultural team. I also enjoyed very much to meet so many diverse and inspiring people from our customers and partners around the globe in meetings, conferences and forums.

Related to this, I will leave ICSS at the expiration of my contract by the end of August 2018 to pursue a new role. From May until the end of August, I will take on the position of SVP Transformation to drive strategy and culture transformation for the entire IBU. It was not an easy decision to make but I believe it is the right time and it gives me the opportunity to make IBU even more future-proof.

I wish to let you know personally that Dr. Rolf Nafziger, currently SVP of the International Wholesale Business Unit (IBU) of Deutsche Telekom, will take on the responsibilities of the SVP International Carrier Sales & Solutions (ICSS) in May 2018, a business area which has been an integral part of the IBU for many years.

I would like to thank you for these exciting and joyful years that make me leave the community with many wonderful memories. I wish you the best in the future and hope that our paths will cross again sometime somewhere in our universe.

Best regards,


Back in October 2017, van der Walt (Niehaus) told Capacity that embracing changes is key to unlocking wholesale’s future potential, explaining how she saw her role as involving “transformational” leadership to handle change. In the ‘a transformational mindset for growth’ article, van der Walt (Niehaus) said: “I believe it is my role to create the environment of a culture where everyone feels they have a purpose in the organisation. Everybody needs to know how to individually contribute to make our strategy a reality." In another Capacity piece that month, the ICSS SVP gave her insights into the state of security on a business, personal and societal level.

Rolf Nafziger 150x100The management change will also see Rolf Nafziger, SVP of the IBU at Deutsche Telekom, taking over her responsibilities from May 2018. “We took this step to cope with the challenges of today’s telco market, where severe competition, higher customer expectations and new technologies have fundamentally changed our business. Coinciding with this, we have adopted a new, long-term strategy that allows us to more quickly launch innovations, adapt to change and streamline our processes,” said Nafziger.

Van der Walt (Niehaus) joined ICSS in September 2015 when she replaced Martin Schlieker. On joining, she said at the time: "International wholesale is a very dynamic business and it’s wonderful to be entering this role during such challenging times. I am very excited to be working with my team in this industry environment to help prepare and position Deutsche Telekom’s ICSS for the future.” In October 2015, Capacity interviewed her about her career and the challenge of moving to wholesale.

She started her Deutsche Telekom career in 1998 and held several positions at T‑Systems South Africa, including CEO. At the start of 2015 she moved to Europe to oversee the post-merger integration of GTS Central Europe. During this time she drove the wholesale division to a position of profitable growth and success. She has held several key positions within Deutsche Telekom since 1998, including that of CEO at T-Systems South Africa. She has been familiar with the company and the telecommunication industry for years and has a strategic understanding of the market and a proven track record in operational experience.

Nafziger added: “I would like to recognise Mardia, who has been a role model for successful strategy execution, thanks to her vast transformational leadership expertise. I highly value Mardia as an inspirational leader with great understanding for business and people.”  

And she certainly has been, a big contributing factor why Capacity recognised and named van der Walt (Niehaus) as one of the 20 women to watch in our industry within our Wholesale World 2018 annual magazine. 

Inclusive transformation

Although details of her new role from August have not been divulged by the company, her impending position from May to August, as SVP of Transformation at the IBU, will certainly include enhancing a culture of inclusiveness at ICSS.

As a female leader who strongly believes in a transformational approach for moving with the times, van der Walt (Niehaus) is keen to see more women come up through the ranks in the industry. "Personally, I have taken the initiative to mentor and coach as many young managers as time will allow me," van der Walt (Niehaus) previously said to Capacity. "I’m hoping through doing this that I can help guide these talented young women into the next step of their careers."

She said there had been many positive changes in this respect in recent times, although noting that telecoms remains a male-dominated industry for now. Van der Walt (Niehaus) pointed out that there are many young women coming up through the ranks at Deutsche Telekom and females working in "classic" areas such as HR, finance and marketing, but still few in IT, network and technology. She said back in October the company was making significant progress in narrowing the gender gap. With 40% of its supervisory board now made up of women, Deutsche Telekom currently exceeds the requirement of a German law passed a couple of years ago that this proportion must be at least 30%. 

Her own support for the entry of more women into IT ties back in with her efforts to ensure a culture of inclusiveness at ICSS, which underpins the rest of the company’s activities. By bringing everyone together and getting them to move in the same direction, van der Walt (Niehaus) has previously told Capacity, the organisation can become even greater than the sum of its parts: "It’s about getting ordinary people to do extraordinary things."