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In memoriam: Zalman Orlianski
10 October 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, News

The South African electronics industry reacted with shock and deep sadness to the passing of Zalman Orlianski, founder of Zetech, last month.

In a testament to the esteem in which he was held, by both the industry and his community, his funeral on 18 September at Johannesburg’s West Park Jewish Cemetery was attended by a host of people from all walks of life, including Supreme Court judges, friends and rabbis. Particularly poignant is the fact that many of his company’s customers, and even competitors, also attended to pay their final respects to one of the longest serving members of the industry.

Zalman was born in Lithuania shortly after the Second World War, from where he graduated with an engineering qualification at a time when the computer sciences were still in their infancy. After marrying his first wife he moved to Israel in 1973 and had his first child, a son, where he worked at Motorola, an experience that he would later describe as having been very highly valuable in terms of his professional development.

He was also a folk dancer by hobby – a passion that he carried with him from his homeland to Israel, and later to South Africa. After visiting South Africa with his dance troupe to give a concert performance (and having by this time been divorced) he made enquiries into getting a job in this country. He received two job offers and ultimately moved to South Africa to work for a subsidiary of Altech.

It was in South Africa that Zalman met Inna, who he married in 1985, and went on to share the rest of his life. In 1986 he finished studying for his MBA, and later that same year the couple started Zetech together, initially representing a company specialising in laser equipment, and later securing a contract with Universal Instruments. Over the course of the next 32 years, the company went on to represent many leading companies from all over the world in SMT technology and robotics machines, and serviced countless customers across the South African electronics manufacturing landscape.

Although he is sorely missed by many, his business legacy will be continued by his wife Inna, who will take the reins of Zetech as per his wishes. In her the company lies in highly capable hands, as she is herself a computer programmer who has worked at Anglo American, as well as in the electronics industry working on CAD/CAM systems through her own personal knowledge and skillset.

She is also an MBA graduate and has for the past six years been coaching business owners on how to run their businesses, in addition to coaching MBA students at the Wits Business School. Her successful executive coaching business will now take a backseat to the day-to-day running of Zetech, which she is already well familiar with, having stepped in to help run things from time to time over the years, as circumstances required.

In a personal message, Inna said: “Zalman was a man of integrity, a brilliant engineer, a loyal husband and a dedicated father. He will always be remembered by me and by others for his laughter and his sense of humour. I am grateful for the insights I learned from him and feel empowered to continue his legacy as one of the few female business owners in this male-dominated industry. I would like to thank all those, including our customers and principals, from whom well wishes and flowers have poured in since his untimely death.”

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