Prior to me becoming the managing director of Altron Arrow, I attended Saint Davids Marist Brothers Inanda school, before obtaining my B.Comm at Wits University, my LLB (also at Wits), concluding the Management Advancement Programme at Wits Business School and finally becoming an Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa.
I therefore started my working life as an attorney, working at one of the big Johannesburg law firms, Webber Wentzel. I realised early on in my career, however, that I wanted to get more commercial and corporate experience.
I joined Altron in 2003 – in a commercial management and legal role. From this role, I have been extremely fortunate, having held several management positions over the years:
• Under two years in SA working for Altron’s Bytes IT Division.
• Nearly eight years working in Altron’s UK operations based in London.
• After returning to SA in late 2012, I took up the role as sales director for Altron’s Document Solutions division.
• I was then appointed as MD of Altron Arrow in February 2020.
Professional and personal high points
Professionally, my high points include:
• Having the opportunity to work in the UK for eight years and experience life in another country, but equally positive was returning to Johannesburg and reconnecting with the incredibly rich and diverse people and business across South Africa.
• Working in roles where I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time engaging with customers and helping them solve business problems that added value to their businesses.
• Contributing to successfully growing businesses and achieving market beating results, while supporting staff to advance their careers and achieve their personal goals.
• Ongoing learning, developing my own knowledge and skills. The older I get, the more I realise that life provides an ongoing opportunity to continuously gain knowledge and improve oneself.
• Making a difference – having the opportunity to look back on roles where I know that I have left the business and my staff in a better place than they were when I joined.
Personally, my high points include marrying my wife Estee, and my two young sons: David (3) and new-born Michael.
What keeps me going
I’m an extremely competitive person and I’ve always believed that a person’s true character is revealed in tough times and difficult situations. Therefore, I believe that resilience is a key characteristic of my personality. When I have found myself or my business in really difficult situations, I do four things:
• First, I take the time to breathe, then think and then I write down what the challenges are and the difficulties we are facing. I call this process the ‘accepting reality’ phase.
• Second, I separate the challenges into what I and the management of the business can directly influence and those things we can’t influence or change.
• Third, I stop worrying about the things I can’t change and I focus all of my and our staff’s energy, creativity and ideas into developing plans directed towards actioning the things we can influence or change to improve our difficult situation or challenge.
• Finally, and this is the most important stage, the team and I will work at least twice as hard (or harder) than we did previously to over compensate for the challenges we need to overcome.
This is best summed up by the below quote, which I was given as advice to always remember, by the chairman of the Bytes Technology Group when I joined in 2003: “The heights by great people reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight. But they, while their companions slept, were upward toiling through the night.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Why the tech industry?
I believe that the electronics industry is the foundation for all the incredible tech advancements that are revolutionising the world.
Innovation that matters has always fascinated me, from space travel to smartphones, from robotics to apps, IoT, IIoT, AIoT, big data, cloud solutions and services, autonomous vehicles, 5G,
nanotechnology and the incredible advancements in medical treatments.
Electronics and our industry lie at the heart of all these developments and contribute massively to the advancement of the human race. I love being a part of this industry and I hope that in some small way,
I can contribute to making our world a better place.
Dealing with the ‘C’ word
Pre-COVID-19, I think it’s fair to say that the SA electronics industry and the manufacturing sector as a whole, has been under sustained pressure from the importation of a wide range of goods, including electronic devices. This challenge, combined with the overall economic challenges SA and other developing market economies have faced, is the reason we have seen the SA electronics industry negatively impacted.
The further impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic is truly momentous. I’ve been so incredibly saddened by the health consequences and deaths, as well as the economic impact brought about by the lockdowns – which have certainly slowed the spread of the virus.
Notwithstanding these market shocks, I do believe that there is a silver lining and I am confident that the SA electronics market can rally and emerge stronger. Close alignment and dialogue with government, particularly the DTI, is required.
As an industry, we need to partner with government to find solutions to the specific challenges of lost jobs and manufacturing capacity. Our industry and government need to collaborate in order to agree on a broad-based plan to onshore manufacturing and bring jobs back to SA.
With the significant projections of a massive increase in IoT connected devices, as well as edge computing and the adoption of 5G technology, I believe that the future of the electronics industry is bright!
Advice to youngsters
Culture is critical! In fact, it is said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
Look to join companies whose culture fits your personal belief system.
My advice to youngsters is that success is determined by your attitude and resilience. You need to find out what you are passionate about! If you have passion and a positive can-do attitude; and if you’re prepared to work hard, in fact harder than your competition, then you will absolutely achieve success in this industry. Of course, STEM subjects are important both in school and at tertiary education level.
Altron Arrow’s purpose is to deliver innovation that matters. We challenge ourselves to ensure that our staff are enabled to transform our customers’ experience with our company, by embracing diversity and inclusion at all levels and allowing our employees to put customers at the centre of everything that we do.
Interests outside of work
At the moment, with a 3-week old and a 3-year old, leisure time is a bit limited. By nature, I am a sociable person and I enjoy sports where I have the chance to engage with people. Golf used to be one of my favourite leisure activities and I am looking forward to getting back into the game when my boys are big enough to come with me!
I enjoy entertaining with friends and family. Travel is also a passion: I love visiting new countries and exploring new places. I find it incredibly enriching to have the opportunity to tune into new cultures, experience different ways of living and understand the history behind what has shaped the countries in our modern world.
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