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Get To Know: Collin Govender, Managing Director, Altron Karabina

Get To Know: Collin Govender, Managing Director, Altron Karabina

Digital TransformationGet To KnowSouth AfricaTop Stories
Collin Govender, Managing Director, Altron Karabina

On the lighter side of things we ask Collin Govender, Managing Director, Altron Karabina, what makes him tick.

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

Although I’ve spent the bulk of my career as a technical professional, my most memorable achievement came during my time as VP of Human Resources at T-Systems South Africa. At the time, the HR team that I took over was rated in the bottom 10% of Deutsche Telekom’s worldwide subsidiaries. Within a three-year period, I travelled to Germany where I was recognised for transforming this team into one of the top three HR Departments within Deutsche Telekom’s global network. This role and experience really underscored that leadership matters. Instead of replacing people, I learned to work with them and to make sure that I was enhancing their individual strengths – along with implementing solid stakeholder management across the rest of the business.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

I’ve always been interested in computers and I set out to study computer science at university. However, I ran out of funding in year two and joined a logistics company instead – where I worked in the warehouse as a forklift driver. With my interest in computers still very much intact, I was soon co-opted to join the ‘computer room guys’ in the IT department at this company…and began to learn about everything from running network cables to coding and solving highly technical IT problems. I was forced to learn everything from scratch, which for me, provided a better education than attending university. This experience definitely laid the foundation for the highly pragmatic and get-the-job-done approach that I have embodied ever since!

What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

The core of my leadership style is a pragmatic and no-nonsense attitude. I wear my heart on my sleeve and always look to empower people and provide them with opportunities rather than replacing them. My task as a leader is to drive outcomes and remove obstacles for teams and individuals, instead of trying to make everyone ‘perfect’, I strive to cater to individual strengths and talent. I believe this is where the energy comes from: identifying and enhancing existing strengths (instead of putting energy where there is likely to be little return).

What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?

Most businesses will be looking to ‘survive to thrive’ in a highly constrained economy, with COVID-19 still very much dominating the landscape. This will place increasing emphasis on cost reductions and cost optimisation – and leaders will be looking to technology as an enabler to drive tangible cost reduction. I believe the other major theme for this year will be ‘hyper automation’ – and the ability to use automation to become more cost effective and efficient in delivering services. This is a theme that every leader should be taking seriously and looking to investigate this year.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?

My son and I are avid golfers, and I play competitively at a club level (which regularly takes me out of the work zone). From a spiritual perspective, my faith and Christianity keep me centred and balanced. I believe that we all need to find something that’s bigger than ourselves and which gives us an external source of energy and strength to see us through the difficult times.

If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?

I did have the opportunity to work abroad, but at the time I thought it would be too difficult to relocate with my family. Looking back, I would have loved to work in a different territory and bring that experience back to South Africa.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?

We need to invest in the development of skills and expertise, and enable people to become productive far more quickly. As mentioned earlier, hyper automation should also be in focus, using automation to bring simplicity into the overly complex landscape of enterprise IT. Simplicity will be the secret sauce!

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?

In South Africa and indeed across the region, leaders are looking for two things: cost effectiveness and the ability to deliver high quality solutions remotely. A major question is, ‘how do you enable that strong customer partnership component to deliver solutions according to spec, in a remote working environment?’ This is going to require that we really understand and hear the voice of the customer to deliver according to expectations. Service providers and teams which can master this and remain in tune when working remotely will have a major competitive advantage in the years to come.

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?

I’ve had to find and adopt various different channels to communicate with colleagues and stakeholders, and within this, I’ve had to find new ways of communicating purpose and keeping people engaged while working remotely. In addition, I’ve had to become a lot more technical (and impactful) in discussions with clients and potential customers. Meetings have been shortened and there is a far smaller window of time in order to make your point and demonstrate value.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?

Firstly, there’s no substitute for experience – and it’s critical that you put yourself out there and into situations in which you will be challenged and stretched. Then, resilience is key and if you lack resilience, the C-suite is not for you. Leadership requires that you bounce back from challenges very quickly and know how to keep yourself motivated (and at peace) amidst hardship.

I am also a firm believer in life-long learning and setting weekly challenges that expand your knowledge and skills (both in your sector and in other areas). The generalist will rule and successful professionals will need to have a certain depth and diversity of knowledge in the years to come.

Finally, this is really the time to demonstrate and embody courage. Any form of tentativeness will kill us! We have to take strategic risks and move boldly in order to get out of this current malaise – whether it be venturing into new markets, mastering a new skill or driving the innovation agenda. Courage will be paramount to success!

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