The Fast track

So, you’re the guy that went from graduate to GM in 5 years… How did you do that?

*Cough* 4 years!

My secret is always looking for the jobs other people didn’t want to do. That, and talking with confidence even if you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Don’t tell anyone!

What was the hardest part of the transition?

I believe the hardest part of any management position is the mindset shift. You need courage and the ability to back yourself, despite fears. As problem-solvers, engineers want to compile thing immediately, and if you don't have full closure of the problem, then you don't want to move forward. I still struggle with that, but you need courage. I learned that courage by seeing our teams succeed over time.

Working with customers also requires tact. I’ve had customers where I’ve had the feeling that they need to change course, or that they overestimated or underestimated on certain things. As a consultant you need to approach conversations with the ability to convey what you know without arrogance. Learning to find that balance between an engineer mindset and dealing with sensitive customer needs can be difficult and takes practice.

The other mindset shift for many leaders is that things take time to know if they're working. You have the responsibility to make decisions but won’t know if they were the right ones straight away. It's not like at the end of the sprint where you do a demo, and your customer is happy or unhappy, or at the end of the day you do a git push and code merges. That part can be hard because there's a lot of stress involved in making a call that takes six months to actualise into success or failure. Understanding that uncertainty is part of the nature of the job helps in managing those feelings as they unfold.

There is also the stress that comes from having visibility of people’s careers, a sales pipeline and the madness that is resource planning. As a problem solver at heart, learning not to try and solve everything all the time is a major challenge for me.


What advice would you give someone looking to progress in their craft or profession?

At some point in your growth in any profession, you need to accept that the blueprint disappears. Craving too much structure is a fallacy. Each one of the projects you undertake will be different in significant ways. As you grow into seniority and leadership, the muscle you have to exercise is diagnosis – that is your ability to identify the problem/s. If you can't do that then you're always reliant on somebody else's muscle to diagnose.

The next step, which takes maturity, is to go and fix the problem, whether it’s part of your job spec or not. You must be willing to do whatever is required to get to the desired outcome.


On the importance of taking ownership and what that looks like

People who take ownership are great because you know they won’t just put their blinkers on and do what they're told and nothing else.

And it's not big things – small differences matter. For example, if you really want to get something across the line, walk across the office and find people in person, chat with them and build the relationship to get the work done. If I can look at somebody and say, ‘this person cares about the outcome just as much as I do’, I feel like they have taken ownership.


What are you currently working on?

This year, Daniel (our new Chief Customer Officer) and his team are geared up to take Entelect business development forward, so I am picking up a new challenge (see the pattern?). I’m going to be driving a transition for the structure and operating model of our management team to better reflect our accounts and customers. We are changing a lot about how we approach about customer and project management due to the scale we operate at now. So mostly, this means supporting all our leadership top to bottom as we introduce or change responsibilities and practice making decisions for each specific environment.

I still spend loads of time doing recruitment, some account management and supporting the rest of the management team in SA and abroad.


What has been your greatest challenge in your role?

Keeping up relationships outside of work. Time has been sacrificed for the passion and energy I’ve poured into Entelect. I’ve never been forced to or not given a choice though, it’s just a case of managing it carefully! More recently, calendar Tetris, I’m used to just saying yes to everyone, and never being that guy who asks to reschedule.


Are you involved in any of our social clubs?

Yup, I climb every so often with the rock-climbing crew, especially when they go outdoors, and you might spot me on the Padel courts. I’ve also been in the winning Entelect Dota 2 team (mostly), but I’m scared of the grads these days.


What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

Being in and among such incredibly talented people. It’s a crazy notion that I could go out and sell borderline anything and we’d be able to do it. I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but really, it’s amazing to watch Entelectuals at work sometimes.


What’s something that happened that can only happen here at Entelect?

I believe our whole management team has written code that is still in production for customers we still have.

A few years ago, the caterer for our year end function said to us “Listen, I cater for festivals, there is no way a bunch of programmers can drink 800 litres of beer in an afternoon”. Needless to say, he had to drive back to his warehouse from the Vaal for another 800 litres.


What’s something you are most proud of? (work and personal)

I’m most proud of the people I’ve worked with and grown alongside, seeing our ideas for engineering, customer management, team and business building work is super cool and motivating.


What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or experienced at Entelect?

Shashi with a tinfoil hat on before year end function was pretty good. I also saw Sheldon give up during a boat race one year and empty most of the bottle on his head when he had to turn it upside down.


So, do you think you can still code?

I’m a cowboy, I can make things work, take things apart and debug anything. I get bored when building things though, so don’t keep me on project for too long!