For Anton Jacobsz, CEO of value-added distributor Networks Unlimited Africa, being results-driven drives him on and believes that good leadership and maturity run hand in hand.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
My marriage to my wife of 25 years and our wonderful children. I am truly blessed.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
I was working as a broker and doing a portfolio for the regional manager of a company called Mercedes Information Systems that sold DEC VAX mid-range systems in South Africa. After completing his portfolio, he offered me an internship.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I am a hard taskmaster but if someone sells themselves for a role, they need to deliver. I would say that my style is one of empowerment, accountability and being results-driven, together with a degree of mentorship depending on the level of the individual. If I start micromanaging you, then you know I am not happy with your performance.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
IT skills and the lack thereof.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I work all the time, even the weekend and don’t really feel stressed. I love what I do, so don’t see it as work. I do realise the need for other things as well in terms of a work-life balance. I cycle a lot, I love the bush and do bow hunting during the winter months, and I love spending time with family and friends around a braai. I also read a lot.
If you could go back and change one career decision what would it be?
I have no regrets, only great learning experiences.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Service assurance; network uptime; application uptime; operational uptime; security from the end point to the datacentre, including staff training and process control; cloud; cost reduction and operational efficiency such as SD-WAN solutions and software defined networking; data management; collection of data; storage; backup and recovery; disaster recovery; data management or utilisation of data for business and artificial learning and business intelligence.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Africa?
Skills is a definite consideration. In some instances, the east and west Africa regions are ahead of southern Africa when it comes to adopting new technologies, and vice versa, so we need to understand the markets. Brand awareness and ‘skin in the game’ are important, so having offices and staff in the regions does play an important part in the relationships, trust and sales process, and the adoption of technology. Pricing and exchange rates are also important considerations, together with logistics.
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 can see a clear move from the following: operational involvement to strategic involvement and working through a tiered management structure and managing teams at an operational level to mentoring and managing teams at a management level. That has all resulted in a need for much clearer vision, communication and leadership.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
I believe good leadership and maturity run hand in hand. What I truly see missing in the workplace is ‘accountability’ in many employees across all industries and a general application of skills. If you want to lead, you need the following: know your business as best you can; surround yourself with strong team; do more than what is required of you, not just enough to get by; think about, and understand, the consequences of your decisions and actions; understand the commercials of a business; have a vision, and plan.