On the lighter side of things, we ask Darren Menezes, Sales Director for Manufacturing in Middle East, IFS, about what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
My most memorable achievement was when my team won the award for most outstanding achievement in a quarter. We scored highly in customer satisfaction, we exponentially exceeded our sales targets and most importantly ensured that all our customers had successful projects seeing value and ROI from their investments.
Other proud moments were celebrating customers going live with their software projects and getting their return on investment. This fills me with an immense sense of achievement.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
When I was in school during the early eighties, computers were the latest technology and they fascinated me. I graduated with an engineering degree in computer science in the early nineties and it came naturally for me to start a career in technology.
My father was a mathematics lecturer, so I initially gravitated towards teaching computer science at the engineering college. I longed to code and create programs so after a couple of years I moved to a programming job coding commercial applications. But something was missing, realising I enjoyed spending time interacting with people rather than being behind a desk I took up a job selling business software and have never looked back since.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
My management philosophy is collaboration and teamwork above all. It is important to empower your team and delegate responsibility to get the best performance from each individual, also ensuring you have one vision and goal as a team.
On the customer side, I believe customer satisfaction is the most important goal and this can only happen through meticulous planning and attention to detail.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
There are several but AI for me is the hottest talking point by far. It is one of the most transformative technology evolutions today. Many companies are exploring how AI can improve customer service and streamline business operations and IFS is embedding AI into its ERP software to help customers achieve this.
There is an abundance of applications where AI is affecting the daily lives of people for the better, including material science, medicine, drug discovery and robotics but to name a few.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
Several different activities help me to unwind from the daily stress of work life. I enjoy long walks on Kite Beach in the evenings; chatting with friends while enjoying the sound of waves and beautiful sunsets. In the mornings, I start my day with a few yoga asanas and meditation.
It boosts my energy and gives me the perfect start to the day. Weekends are for the family; we relax and enjoy going to the movies or for long drives. I have two young boys so the three of us enjoy an occasional game of football or cricket.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
Fresh out of college, I spent several years coding before I realised my passion was interacting with people and helping them succeed. In hindsight, I would have entered a field that involved a focus on people interaction earlier. However, I did learn a couple of useful habits during my days of coding such as paying attention to detail which helped me get to where I am today.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
AI and Machine Learning are both important areas to consider when looking at investment, companies need to ensure that their ERP software becomes increasingly intelligent and automated. Ensuring your software has a friendly, adaptive user interface and can be easily integrated is another important area.
Finally offering choice, having a software runs both on the cloud or on-premise without impacting the users is important, as the choice should be down to the customer and what fits their business.
IFS has already made significant investments in these areas and as a result is ahead of the game among its peers.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in the Middle East?
Lack of skilled resources is a huge challenge in the region. The UAE government has already taken measures to attract highly skilled workers to the country.
Another challenge is the slow adoption of new technologies by the population. People in our region tend to be a bit more conservative when using new technologies. Government can play a role to speed up businesses implementing new technologies by offering incentives.
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?
In the recent past, our customers expect us to be an advisor to their business, giving them insights into their issues and new ideas that deliver value. This has been the trend in the last few quarters.
It means we’ve had to spend more time educating ourselves about the customer’s business and new technologies in our industry. In the future, customers are going to be more cost-conscious thus expecting us to offer innovative ways to save money.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
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You need to have a clear vision that your team fully supports. Make sure you have the best team available and empower them. Having a team that bonds together and is empowered leads to high performance. Never stop being obsessed with attention to detail and customer satisfaction.
Never stop learning; continuously educate yourself so you grow professionally and personally. Finally, understand the cultural intricacies of the region as it will help you become even more successful.