Describe your current job role and the parts that are somewhat challenging?
My current job role is Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa which means I am the Business Unit lead for the entire region. I moved to Africa just over a year-and-a-half ago from a role within Trend Micro in Australia. I am based in South Africa and there are a lot of similarities between Australia and South Africa, culturally and business wise. I haven’t experienced many challenges integrating into the new region; it has been really good. Over the span of my career, I have worked in more than 10 countries on four continents. This has allowed me to understand different cultures and cross-cultural dynamics.
From a business point of view, there are a few challenges we see across the countries in the region. The different countries across Sub-Saharan Africa have different economies, business dynamics and even business flow. As an example, South African business growth has slowed over the last year where others are growing. From our point of view, cybersecurity is still seen as an important business investment and as countries regulate more across the continent it is becoming even more important.
Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria are great places to do business and are territories I really enjoy working in; as are the Indian Ocean Islands where we are seeing a lot of traction and interest as a business. As a whole, Africa is a great place to do business in, even with constant changes in the political and economic landscape.
Business on the continent has been good to us, but to succeed you need to understand that the business flow in each country is very different. The biggest challenge with Africa is that the business mechanics can change at any time, it is not a predictable flow of business like a western economy.
When you look back at your career what has been the most memorable achievement?
Career wise what really drives me is business transformation – this is what I love and keeps me doing what I do. My most memorable achievement in my Trend Micro career to date is moving the needle in the Australian business. I was able to put the mechanics in place to move it from number four in the market back into the number one position for security in the region. I achieved this by growing the staff and the revenue – driving the right behaviours with the right people. I am enjoying building the Trend Micro Sub-Saharan business in the same way.
I am a big supporter of gender balancing in business and by the time I left the Australian office I had transformed the business to a 50-50 split between male and female in the leadership team and over 36% of the overall workforce was female. Looking at our South African office, I have driven the same model and we are making big strides in getting the gender balance right with close to a 50% female workforce in this team. The rest of the industry in Africa is a little different, it is still very much a male dominated industry.
What made you think of a career in technology?
I like gadgets. As a kid, I loved making things. I studied electronics and electrical engineering. I was an engineer for a long time, and it was great. So yes, that’s it, I like gadgets and that is what led me to IT.
What style of management philosophy do you employ at your current position?
Definitely not command and control. I don’t like central command positions where everyone has to report to a single point in a business. I like distributed leadership. I am really not a fan of the ‘boss’ mentality and prefer frameworks over structures and prefer to empower people to think outside of the box. Frameworks allow people to think whereas structures keep people penned in.
Sure, frameworks can be frustrating at times as there aren’t always the structures to adhere to. Frameworks give people the freedom to think, do and create so it’s a trade-off. There are always people who need more structure but it’s a balance.
What is your style as a team leader?
I like to hire people who are better than me in terms of the job role they need to do. I am not selling or doing marketing, I am here to run the business and so I want to have the experts in place that are known for their skills sets and more importantly for their attitude. Skills I can train but attitude I can’t, I always look at the attitude and heart of the person first and then skills.
I don’t always read a resume; I prefer to get to know someone in their first interview (I usually conduct three interviews) and get to understand the fabric of the person. I look to my team to then come in and interview the person for their ability and whether they are a good fit for the position. It might sound strange but I very seldom hire on ‘skills’, because we can get qualifications for people later, successful businesses are built on people with the right attitude and the right heart.
What do you think will be the hot technology talking point of 2019?
There is so much new innovation happening around us. Who would have thought that flying taxis would be a thing? Its already a big thing in Melbourne and they hope to have flying taxis by 2020. Phones are changing all the time and so is the market share between all the phone providers which is definitely something to watch.
Google is emerging as a massive data player, against the likes of AWS and Microsoft, so Google’s Cloud Play is definitely something to watch as that is going to change the landscape again.
Personally, I love cars, the technology in cars is going to continue to change and become more advanced, and while electric cars are incredible, I love the roar of a V8 – there isn’t anything quite like it.
What are your personal interests and where do you like to spend most of your time after work?
I love sport and used to play semi-professional rugby but now I am a couch rugby player. I enjoy cycling and participated in the London to Paris and 94.7 Cycle Challenge in 2018. Being in Africa and being based in South Africa is brilliant as I love spending time in nature, and I get to see a lot of wildlife. I have already been to the Kruger National Park five times. I have been to the Masai Mara, Lamu and Mount Kenya National Parks in Kenya. Skiing is also a passion of mine, as well as scuba diving so I will be doing more of that in 2020.
I enjoy cooking cuisines from around the world and it allows me to be creative, so I cook as much as possible. My team are the lucky beneficiaries of my cooking endeavours or the guinea pigs, I am not sure how they would classify it. I have a nice collection of whiskeys and wines from around the world. Life in Africa is just fantastic, there is so much to do and experience.
How do you cope with stress and demands of your career?
My first thing is that you can only worry about the things you can control – if I can’t control it, I can’t worry about it. That takes away the majority of known stress from people because if you have no influence or control over a situation you shouldn’t be stressing about it. I am also a great believer in a philosophy of ‘action-in-inaction’ where you take the knowledge you have accumulated over the years and use it as a mechanism to self-reflect on certain things. It gives you the ability to forecast some of the things you know will happen in time, and then it gears yourself to respond accordingly. There really is no point in stressing over the things you can’t control.
As an example, I don’t stress over numbers. If you ask my boss, he would say that I don’t stress over the numbers. I am rather focussed on the people I work with and the culture. Once you get the people aspect right, the numbers will happen. I want the team to be aligned to our business goals but importantly that as people they are also happy. I have to create the right environment for them to be happy. They need to have the right skills and goals sets and be happy in their personal environment, which then in turn makes the numbers happen. People’s wellbeing is important to me.
What gives you great job satisfaction?
A happy place. An environment that breeds job satisfaction and where people can be happy. When I have these things in place the numbers happen. Sure, you can do numbers with unhappy people, you can drive metrics and drive people hard to maximise profit and cut costs. But then you will see staff turnover increase, your business will get a bad reputation in the industry and no one will want to work for you. I prefer to start with the positive footing first. Yes, this might slow growth initially, but it is the Trend Micro way – we are here for the long haul and we want to have the right people, right culture, right brand, right image and the right name and do the right thing in business.