|Late 1995||Completed High school with A average (distinction), had applied for bursaries, scholarships:Medicine, Engineering. Could not afford studies, needed financial assistance. Did not have access to bank loans, no one in my family could stand guarantor at the time. Family did not have financial means.||To study medicine, ultimate wish to become an Ophthalmologist||I got a call from Wits University, saying I was successful and could enter Medical school by way of Dentistry in the first year. I needed to confirm acceptance on the spot. I couldn't because the reality was that I did not have the financial means available.||Turned down the placement.|
Decided to figure out how to work and study.
|Continued working for Accounting & IT department at a National retailer, Asmalls clothing company.||Accepted the reality at the time, that things were tough.|
It was more important for me to earn a living first, and if I did end up studying, it should be a course that doesn't take as long as medicine (7 years). I needed to get on the job market, earning money in the shortest time.
|Lessons in reality||Although my family was low-income, I had a very good home & upbringing. Grateful to my parents & siblings for supporting me & encouragement to do great things.|
|Early 1996||Whilst working for the retail company, the owner, Mr. Y.D. Asmal, offered me the opportunity to help fund me through University.||To become a professional, with a fastest time to market to start earning well, breaking free from low-income life.||Choose degree: Computer Science or Engineering.||Chose Electronic Engineering because at the time, the curriculum included topics of Computer Science. I could get the best of both worlds.||Continued working part-time weekends, focused on giving it my best, even though this was my second choice. For the first two years, averaged As. I still sent hundreds of applications to corporates for bursary / scholarships. Nothing materialised until by surprise, Vodacom reached out through the University finance office, were looking for previously disadvantaged South Africans to help out.||First 2 years funded privately. Last 2 years funded by Vodacom. The future was looking bright. Assumed I would naturally get a good engineering role at Vodacom, so I didn't bother applying for jobs in final year. Completed degree on time, majoring in Software Engineering.||Sound discipline, work ethic, self-study||Asmalls & Vodacom for opening up my way|
|Late 1999 / Early 2000||Vodacom did not have placements for graduates, which I wrongly assumed would be a natural progression.|
So I did not apply to companies in my final year. At the end of graduation, I did not have any jobs lined up.
Started job search late, took 3 months.
|To start working in the Electronics Engineering field||After a few interviews:|
1) Motorola Telecoms Austria - Not Successful
2) Vodacom Cape Town - Database Engineer
3) Deloitte Joburg - Actuary Forensics
|I declined all offers because it meant my 4 years of studying Electronics/Software Engineering was not going to be used.|
I also had no means to relocate outside my home town.
I wanted to work as an engineer.
I did not like Radio/Broadcast engineering, I preferred Software.
|The Motorola interview was an interesting one. Set in Johannesburg, I had hitched a lift with a trucker, just to get to the interview (I had no other means of transport).|
Vodacom tried their best to accomodate me, but I took personal ownership and decided not to just take any job, it needed to make sense. I did not study engineering to end up doing monthly reports using Oracle!
Thankfully Vodacom understood, and I didn't have to reimburse the company for my bursary.
Reached out to friends who had placements at UEC, a local electronics manufacturer.
|Ended up getting my first engineering placement at UEC, as|
Opportunity to be close to hardware & software design.
And so started my journey into Digital TV, Set Top Box Application/Driver development.
|Reality Lesson - Always keep options open.|
|2000 - 2001||After a year's experience at UEC writing software for Set Top Boxes, even though I was making good progress, my income was not enough to sustain me.|
I was managing my parents household (father lost his job), graduate salary was not enough. I was also not impressed with the South African landscape
of software development opportunities at the time, I wanted to be in core software, the big Telcos at the time rarely did hardcore software (just used hardware and software from international suppliers).
I actively started searching.
|To get experience in core software development.|
Not interested in SAP/Enterprise, rather wanted to write internal engine code.
To get overseas international experience.
|Leave home town and relocate to Joburg or Cape Town.|
Find a job overseas, where I solve the money problem but also gain on international exposure.
In late 2000, I was successful for a role in Dublin, Ireland - software engineer, digital consumer devices.
Decision - Leave South Africa, get overseas experience. I've never been out of the country, had no idea
what Ireland would be like, and would be kick-starting a new life with just R5000 in savings, one suitcase.
|Embrace the unknown - Accepted the Ireland offer.|
Started at S3, Silicon & Software Systems (was part of Philips at the time).
|I had to find a solution to the money problem even if it meant embracing the unknown, by|
leaving friends & family behind. I took a chance on a tiny job ad in the Sunday newspaper,
kind of winged the interview, made a convincing case for my suitability for the role.
I did not forget about the reality constraints, had a vision that I can solve financial challenges and
get international exposure, to return to South Africa one day and contribute back.
|Ireland counted to being one of the best experiences of my life & work.||Embedded systems, C code, Real time Kernels, Open TV Application Development, Customer on-site engagement, Integration testing, User Application / UX Development, Team work, Multicultural experience, Respect for Customer / Client, Conflict management||UEC Leadership|
|2001 - 2003||Life and work in Ireland was great. Although it took me a while to settle,|
it opened my eyes to many things - especially around the huge gap in my knowledge of software engineering.
I was behind the curve, had to close the gaps quickly, upskill and bolster my competencies. I ended up being on an awesome product initiative, that took my engineering & coding skills to another level.
|To become a competent software engineer||Work hard, upskill, make a difference & join a good project or return to SA.||Learn as much as I can through reading, being mentored, etc.|
Enroll for Masters in Computer Science at University College Dublin.
|On the work side, I attached myself to senior engineers, learnt as much as I could. |
Ended up writing compilers / interpreters, got to appreciate low-level coding for performance optimisation.
Got exposed to software test automation, it was really cool stuff.
Decided I still had gaps especially with internet technologies, so got accepted for a Masters Research, with a team
of PhDs on distributed search engines, enrolled in 2003.
Became part of the team building a new product from scratch, ended up studying protocol specifications, converting the spec into code (became a DVB-spec expert), got to build middleware code from the ground up. I was finally writing core code, under-the-hood stuff. Got to master software architecture, hardware abstractions and the like.
I actively sort out projects and volunteered.
|Things were falling into place nicely.|
I was in a space that was representative of core engineering.
S3 was Europe's top 3 design centres. I got to see microprocessor
design and development in action, silicon fabrication, etc. The company fields were diverse, I saw myself expanding into wider fields.
Life in Dublin was going well. I thought I would say there for a long time.
I got complacent, and did not see the next thing coming...market downturn, retrenchments...
|Be open to learn, humble yourself.|
Professional Software Engineering
C code, Linux, Full Stack embedded systems,
Software architecture, Low-Level real-time core,
kernel code, software automation, compilers, interpreters, DVB-spec & protocol expert, Middleware, Application development, Technical research, Technical writing, Professional services engagement, working across cultures, open source
S3 rockstar engineers
University College Dublin
|2003||Market in Ireland took a bad turn.|
Companies started retrenching.
I naively thought I was protected, given that I was core part of the team, building a new product, and responsible for some key components.
I wasn't expecting my phone to ring....but it did...
|To grow as professional software engineer & capitalize on international experience in the digital TV field||After my job was made redundant, I had these choices:|
Find for another job in Ireland
Look to relocate to UK
Return to South Africa
|Relocate to UK, after a couple of interviews, chose to work for NDS, the world-leader of Digital TV software at the time||I chose to work at NDS, turned down other opportunities (one company was pissed off because |
I declined the interview the last minute because I thought their website sucked).
I also vowed never to be caught off-guard again. Retrenchment leaves a bad taste, I didn't want to
find myself in a position like that again - a life lesson I guess.
Also committed to finishing my Masters in Comp Science, to add international credibility to my qualifications.
|Had to leave a life that I was just starting to enjoy in Ireland,|
and start fresh in another country, UK.
|Life Lesson - develop spider sense.|
Stay ahead of market and trends.
Don't be caught off-guard again.
Redundancies leave a bad taste.
Don't ever assume you're core to team or company, it's all about business / bottom line.
Adapt or Die.
Be grateful for the experience.
Take personal ownership and move on.
|2003 - 2005||Not only because of S3's reputation in Europe, but also because of the experience I gained there,|
I hit the ground running at NDS, later joining a project that was a very big tech stack migration, displacing TiVo for DirecTV. I was on my way to senior engineer, but I felt I did not want to specialise in just embedded software.
Having got a taste of distributed server-side systems,as a result of my Masters project for Search engines, I got to thinking about the next wave.
|To become a well rounded engineer, embedded and server side software.|
To get on to the next wave of TV, Internet/IPTV systems.
|Continue my path to senior engineer/lead promotion|
Switch domains and start as a junior software engineer in
|Chose the unknown, left my experienced embedded engineer path|
and opted to learn backend/server-side networking/streaming core software (this meant no salary increase, a step down, but opportunity to learn and experience something new was of greater value to me)
|I took initiative to learn more about NDS wider business initiatives|
Found a team & product space that was only just emerging
Developed relationships with this team
Tactfully planned my switch after completing the biggest project for the company at the time
Gained internal credibility to make the move possible
Completed my Masters at the same time
Consciously chose to abort the path I was on (senior engineer/tech lead) and start afresh as a junior engineer
|Turned out to be one of the best decisions,|
got to work and learn from an awesome team.
My toolbox exploded.
I was exposed to so many concepts and technologies,
that resurfaced back in the various future roles that I would experience.
It took me a year to bounce back and get promoted to senior engineer, component owner, and secured a decent pay-rise.
My relationships and network across the company increased, and got me aspiring to one day join the advanced innovations technology team, started sowing seeds.
|Expert C programmer.|
Software architecture & design.
Real world technology product development.
Multicultural teams, working with Americans.
Solid engineering principles on tech stack migration,
DirecTV broadcast model and spec.
Working under immense pressure & deadlines.
Helping business win major client.
Networking in large company.
Setting up & leading remote India engineering team.
Being a good team player.
Balancing work and studies.
Internet & Search/Advertising technologies.
Don't be afraid to start over.
|2005 - 2006||Having joined the IPTV Synamedia TV team, bouncing back from starting in a junior role and then being promoted into senior engineer,|
I experienced so much new technology and skills on backend/server-side/networking code, I figured my engineering toolbox was decently filled up.
Principles understood, good projects done, I needed to find the next opportunity.
Reality was that I was a big-picture guy, and I wanted to expand into business and management.
The team was the best team I worked with, but it was time to leave.
|To learn about the business, to get into a space where I could learn the full end-to-end value chain,|
and close the gaps on broadcast headend components.
To work closer to business customers, product management and delivery.
To get into Technical Project Management.
|Stay with an awesome engineering team in a niche market|
Switch to broadcast/IP/encryption headend, server-side product development
as a Development Product Manager
Core: Remain Specialist Technical OR Switch to Management track
|Switched to Technical Project/Product Management|
for broadcast/IP headend components
|Always wanted to stay current|
Had become an expert C++ programmer
Proved I could quickly ramp-up to new toolsets
Taught myself project management through training, prep'd for next transition
and reading as many books as possible
Kept my eyes on the advanced technology team, by collaborating
on research on search/recommendations algorithms
|Switched domains successfully|
Gained new skills and experiences
Set me up for the management track
|Highly available fault tolerant design of systems|
C++, MFC, Windows SDK, Streaming, VOD Encryption, Networking code, Master/Slave, M+N failover, Messaging, Routing, Alarming/Logging, Monitoring, Memory Management & Garbage Collection native, DirectShow, COM, SOA, SOAP, Web Services, Project Management, Technical Writing, Agile, XP, Testing, Deployment, Installers, CDN delivery, Patent applications, Demos & Exhibitions, Self-organising teams
|2006 - 2008||Spent a decent time doing development project & product management, having experienced interactions at business level,|
I felt I was ready to take on bigger projects and teams, whilst still remaining technical.
I was looking for my next move in the management space.
|To become an expert technical project manager, work on business-critical initiatives, join the number one project.|
To learn more about the business.
|Remain with the broadcast/IPTV headend division|
Go back to STB projects, join the biggest initiative the company was embarking on which was a consolidation of a few tech stacks, creating the ultimate TV platform, in partnership with BSkyB
|Made the switch back to Set Top Box Middleware Delivery||I remained current with business trends by keeping in touch with STB department on their new initiative of building|
the ultimate TV platform, got my hands on the code, hardware and built my own POCs, whilst being project manager for headend.
In my spare time, I networked with people, ultimately pioneering text-to-speech and voice software components, for a Talking EPG.
I reached out to potential customers, wrote papers, ran demos & presentations.
Doing this kept me connected to the wider business, instead of being in a silo.
All this played in my favour of landing, what would become the best, but most gruelling work experience of my life.
|Added new tools to my toolbox for project & product management.|
Extended my network within the business.
Paid my school fees as a project manager.
Allowed me to land the best project management learnership.
Product & Project Management
Reporting & Communications
New business development
Broadcast headend knowledge
Working with mature software teams
|2008 - 2011||I worked very hard in the new role as Middleware delivery owner, it was quite the slog.|
Having completed the major BSkyB delivery project which was also part a business-wide tech transformation initiative,
I earned promotion senior project manager, then program manager to run building a single product platform.
With all this work experience, I felt I needed to get back to technology development, that I'd learnt enough of the product & delivery management skills, so I started searching for opportunities to get closer to core software engineering.
Added to this I had tried exploring other opportunities in London & Dublin, I learnt I was a bit too conditioned in the "NDS Way"
|To get back to software engineering, by joining the niche, advanced technology engineering team. In my personal opinion, this was a small team, 50 engineers from 2500 engineers, focused on next wave products.|
It was a daunting aspiration, because these guys were super intelligent, rockstar engineers.
I wanted to be part of this circle of engineers with a great repertoire.
|Join chief architect team|
Join the elite blue-sky team
|Applied for the principal engineer role in elite team|
Decided I needed to get back to code
Didn't need stress in my life
It would be a sideways switch, no increase in pay, but an opportunity to work with and learn from the best engineers
|I believed in the pioneering work I did in my spare time around speech & voice synthesis.|
At the time there was no technology in STBs that could do this, my software even outperformed
the early text-to-speech feature in Amazon kindle.
I had done enough networking and evangelising internally that everyone knew me as the guy who
wants to make a Talking EPG.
I applied for the role along with other architects, tech leads and senior engineers, that I held the greatest respect for.
I took a chance - saw it as the ultimate achievement for me personally, to be able to work with the best and brightest.
Being a foreigner, knowing the gaps I had along the way to upskill to get to this point, I wasn't even sure I would be successful,
but I embraced the unknown again.
|In ten years, I had accumulated enough technical and management knowledge and skills to handle large-scale technology projects.|
I also could dip into technical, gave me confidence, since I did land the job and got a seat at the table of highly technical rockstars.
|Too many to list - suffice to say the experience comes once in a lifetime. |
Linux, Speech Synthesis, GStreamer, Audio Encoding, Flash, Actionscript, TTS, Excel programming.
Biggest project management gig,
2500+ engineers, massive customers, merging tech stacks, building full TV platform product, large-scale Agile development, Hectic execution mindset, C-level engagement, 12-15 hour days for two years non-stop, advanced software stacks, build & release process automation, full stack software integration, multiple vendors, multiple countries, stakeholder management, high pressure meetings and reporting, expert project leadership and program management, highly stressful, reached burnout on a few occasions.
|2010 - 2011||After 10 years of leaving South Africa, I started re-evaluating my life in the UK.|
My marriage & family life was not in the best shape, work always came first, so my personal life wasn't on the best footing.
I also realised that, despite all the good things in my career, life in the UK was tough - I was a cog in a big machine, my salary wasn't the greatest, and then it dawned on me that being a professional engineer in UK was no different to what my father was like "working in a factory" - a factory-worker, I ran the risk of just keeping my head above water financially, which wasn't my plan. I tried to break out to other companies, I didn't want to commute too much, and the progression at NDS would need another extraordinary effort on my part.
Added to this, my kids were missing out on family life in SA, my parents and in-laws growing old, and my brother, after spending time with me in UK, wasn't too impressed by life overseas, and kept pushing that moving back to SA would have more opportunity, country was in need of skilled professionals, and that the life in SA wasn't all that bad. Not to mention, a defining moment was a near nervous breakdown on my part, that triggered the decision to explore opportunities in SA.The difficult choice was that I would have start all over again, from scratch (zero savings and taking junior role).
|To rebuild a life in South Africa,|
focusing on family and leveraging the
wealth of experience I gained from
|Remain in the UK and work in the best technical team as a professional engineer|
Leave it all behind (I had summited the peak) and restart life going back to
a role in product/project management (Scrum Master for EPG application)
|Left it all behind, was going to join Multichoice, team working on a next gen STB not so different to BSkyB/DirecTV projects I was expert at|
Although the decision to move from a senior experienced position to a junior position was a hard pill to swallow
|Decided to take ownership of my life & focus on family|
Willingness to restart and rebound
|I essentially returned to SA starting with zero savings, in debt and a mortgage still active in UK that rental income couldn't cover.|
But it ended up being the right decision.
Family-wise, we adjusted quickly.
Months after relocating back to SA, my father passed away, was fortunate
to spend good quality time with him.
Lifestyle in SA was less stressful than UK.
Multichoice was a great company, with lots of opportunity.
In a short space of time, I ended up resetting & running the entire program,
transformed technical departments, and helped deliver what became the best STB
product for Africa. I got promoted, became recognised across the business
for my unique ability to run big complex projects, and my finances improved nicely.
|Life / Family first|
Career is second
Don't be afraid to restart
Friends & Family are a good support mechanism
It is okay to take a couple step backwards in career to leap forwards
Be open and honest with your company
about your personal situation (did not burn bridges at NDS)
|2011 - 2013||After restarting in Multichoice SA and having climbed the ranks to run the biggest technical program for the business, having|
set-up many changes across the board, from Software Dev, Integration, Auto Testing, Project & Program Management, Agile Release Planning - essentially transformed the technical division for STB/Headend product delivery (thanks to my school fees at NDS), I needed more challenges. Personally, I felt I was expert in Broadcast Headend / STB domain having seen it all at NDS, and I did not see this as a future growth strategy for me (been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, SA has so many years to catch up with the products & tech I experienced in UK), so my eyes were set on the next wave. I also felt my value to the business did not reflect the position I held in the organisation, I wanted to get close to C-level executives and get more closer to the business-side.
I wanted to get into DStv Online or DStv Mobile technologies, as I saw this as the future.
In short, I felt I was going nowhere if I settled for just being on autopilot because the work came naturally to me, without much challenges.
I also had to get my finances in order, clear debts on two houses (one overseas, one local) - and the current salary at the time wasn't going to cut it.
|Wanted to experience big-picture, end-to-end challenges of running a full Pay TV business.|
Wanted to work across all business units.
Wanted to leave Broadcast Headend / STB projects behind.
|Push for org changes to allow me the freedom I needed.|
Become a roaming specialist within the business, so I could flow between business units.
Leave the company and work for a similar industry.
Become an independent consult.
|Left permanent employment to become a consultant,|
embrace the unknown yet again.
|I took the bull by the horns and proposed options to the stakeholders.|
Negotiated an exit deal that allowed me to be retained as a consultant.
Started reaching out to other business units within the group for consulting
Started my own business development and pro-bono consulting for companies
in other industries.
It's liberating & empowering to take charge of your personal roadmap
|From this point on, my learnings and experience switched from my own outputs, but execution and delivery by way of indirect influence. All the softer skills around leadership, communication, negotiating, influencing, stakeholder management, high-level program management.|
The first half of my time in SA was learning about culture, EQ, change management, transformation, mentoring & coaching, mindset development.
The rest of professional artefacts was just re-applying the things that came naturally to me from my exposure to UK, there wasn't a particular project / initiative that wasn't really about just re-applying the patterns in learnt in UK.
Family & Friends Support
|2013 - 2017||On exiting Multichoice permanent employment and going the consulting route, I ended up working with all the major business units focused on consumer products. I also got exposed to Marketing, Customer Care Ops, Finance, Content, Legal, etc - thus giving me full exposure to running a Pay TV business. This was done through various management consulting engagements, coaching senior managers and running the top 2 of the big 5 programs for the business each year. Lots of new relationships & networks created.|
I ran a full business start-up from inception to launch (Showmax SVOD) which was cool. Got to experience shutting down a business (DStv Mobile). Ran big transformation streams...but I was getting bored.
I felt I'd learnt enough and my skills at large-scale program management / delivery was nicely honed, could be added to my toolbox of experiences, and look for something else, getting back to technical.
I failed at running my own company, could not really break out to new industries either (I did not invest my time on new business development), and felt there was still a bright future and many years left for Multichoice.
I needed to find a new challenge.
|To run my own tech company|
Get a chance to run my own division where I can learn the skills needed for running my own company one day
|Stay in project leadership field and run an Enterprise PMO |
Run a technology division
|Decided to go back to Technology even though I'd been out of practice but felt I had T-shaped skills, and related experiences & qualifications to own this challenge. Engineering & Architecture is about principles, not underlying detail of syntax||I looked for opportunities through networking and leveraged relationships, counting on my track record and credibility to influence key stakeholders||Consulting worked well and helped me bring my finance challenges under control.
Life-work balance as a consultant, was the best it had been in a long time.
Secured opportunities in line with my aspirations.
|Rescuing projects & teams in despair, co-ordinating large-scale cross-functional enterprise workstreams, leading through indirect influence, coaching & mentoring managers, simplifying complexity through simple visualisations, roadmapping, agile, negotiation & communication, overall project leadership.|
Consulting is hard work, requires different tactics, humility, patience, and an appreciation for complex business dynamics (cultures, politics, stakeholders).
Finding new business outside your area of speciality can be challenging.
Being skilled at project management is a very useful tool to have in your toolbox, a great fall-back plan to have.
Upgraded my domain toolbox: OTT/SVOD, Internet TV on par with my STB/Headend knowledge
|2017 - Now||Since 2017, I've taken over responsibility for running a full technology division, focused on exciting growth opportunity for Africa OTT / Internet TV space.|
I am quite enjoying the role, and still have much to accomplish. The future is filled with uncertainty from a personal / professional perspective as well dynamic, competitive business landscape.
I'm not that worried because my experiences to date embraced uncertainty, so I can adapt naturally to changes. Right now, I remain focused to giving my team the best shot to make a success of the endeavour.
The role currently:
Helping lead, transform, build and grow awesome world-class engineering teams (100+ people).
Hired primarily to help turnaround a distressed engineering team that lacked: technical leadership, structure, process, discipline, dysfunctional teams, unstable platform, visionary leadership and a clear technology roadmap, objectives and clear KPIs/OKRs.
Ended up restructuring the unit, focused on simple incremental improvements to people and process and in a short space of time built enough credibility back into the engineering team: platform stability improved, delivery projects completed on time, people alignment, business stakeholder confidence renewed (scaled platform ~3X and still growing).
Decided to leave consulting and join as permanent employee because of the CTO challenges that lay ahead, the journey was only just starting (and I needed to see it through).
On the personal-side, I've transformed my work-life balance, the challenges that sparked my leaving UK are no longer present, everything under control.
I still have aspirations though...
|To become a CEO|
A Group CTO/CIO
Leave to Run my own start-up
Become a Tech Exec Leadership Coach
Switch to a new Industry
Be financially independent and work with NGO like Gift of the Givers
|None at the moment|
Giving my current role its due time to soak so I can learn & grow as much as I can
Still working on product startup ideas in my spare time
And looking at scenarios to pitch to carve out my next role
|Left consulting behind in 2018, back into being a corporate employee, but daring to be different|
Remain steady in my current role
|Focus on leadership to grow my team into the best team in the business|
Interest is on big-picture strategy transformation
Continue to self-study by consuming the best tech/leadership material out there
Serious about building a new culture that's open & transparent, focused on people development
Building a team under me - succession planning - that will free me up to solve bigger business strategic initiatives
Balance my work-time so that I can explore my own product startup ideas in my spare time
Looking at new opportunities to craft my next role if I chose to remain an employee for the next 5 years.
|Team is transforming nicely|
My leadership style is still unique to the wider business
Still have much to do in making a step change
|T-shaped skills and experiences|
Enough breadth-and-depth of running a Tech company
Closed the gaps on financial budgeting, business models, strategy, sound experience of business management
Lessons: Never stand still
My new team