On the lighter side of things, we ask the industry experts what makes them tick.
Our latest ‘Get to Know’ feature is Ryan Barlow, CEO of innovative technology company e4.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement? In 2009, I started a new subsidiary within the e4 group (known as L@W at the time) together with a colleague. After four years, we managed to grow the business significantly before we merged four of the subsidiaries together to form e4, where I was appointed as Group Chief Information Officer.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
After completing a B Comm in Economics at UCT, I opted to do a programming diploma rather than continue with an honours degree. I had always been drawn to IT however I had not selected to study it at university, mainly due to it being a relatively new field of study. After my first week of the diploma I knew that it was the right profession for me.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I recently read a quote that states that the more alignment there is, the more autonomy can be granted. I subscribe to this philosophy whole heartedly. I employ a philosophy of leadership over management and expect people to self-manage in an environment where it is understood what the strategic objectives are. However, it is understood that I am available at all times for guidance, support and help when required.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
It’s obviously difficult to narrow it down to one point, but I would list Blockchain as a current hot topic. Although there has been a tremendous amount of hype and creativity when it comes to potential applications of the technology, I would say that at this point there have been very few success stories around actual beneficial implementations (other than Cryptocurrencies).
In terms of trends affecting our organisation specifically – public cloud, digital transformation, big data and AI, robotics, Regtech, Fintech and Proptech.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Mostly stress can be reduced by actioning a series of tasks that will resolve the underlying issue. An acknowledgment upfront that there is an issue and then a plan to remediate goes a long way in settling stressful situations. That said, I unwind by reading, watching movies, travelling, exercising and socialising with friends and family.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
When I returned from the UK I was consulting at a large insurance company and they kept offering me a permanent position. Eventually I accepted the permanent offer, even though I knew at the time that it wasn’t quite right for what I wanted for my career path. Ultimately, I lasted only eight months at the company before moving on. In hindsight I should never have accepted the offer.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Digital transformation and all that that encompasses. Many large corporates are investing heavily in digital channels in response to customers’ expectations as well as threats posed by digital start-ups.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?
I would say that the top three challenges are as follows:
- Unfortunately, Africa is still desperate for adequate technology skill sets across the board. Lack of skills leads to significant delays, including a huge amount of rework of systems implemented by personnel without the pre-requisite level of skill required
- There are pieces of legislation that are antiquated for the new digital realm, as well pieces of legislation that are not aligned to each other which creates confusion in the market
- Data costs. They are still way too high in Africa in Africa compared to the rest of the world and this restricts businesses from accessing their target market
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Personally, there hasn’t been any significant changes in my role over the last year. My focus going forward will be mostly on R&D, strategic initiatives and strategic partnerships.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
Don’t be afraid to take the initiative when it comes to doing more outside of your day-to-day role. Don’t be afraid to have the tough conversations. Focus on leading and empowering people, rather than managing them.