Zishaan talks about his career – which had very humble beginnings.
Zishaan Singh’s career in IT started in the early nineties at a start-up IT company. As the youngest person in the company he started out at the very bottom cleaning floors and making coffee. In a career spanning 30 years, Zishaan has grown in every position he has held in the various organisations he has worked in. Today, he is the Director – Digital Workplace, at Bureau Veritas.
He has quite the full plate at Bureau Veritas, often working long hours, navigating different time zones to manage his team that are based both in India and in France as well as customers and vendors that span the globe.
Surviving a cyber-attack
In November 2021, Bureau Veritas suffered a cyber-attack, and Zishaan was at the forefront and part of the tactical team tasked with minimising the risk to the organisation, whilst actively trying to thwart the attack. In as much as Zishaan, acknowledges the anxiety in the organisation around the attack, he believes that the attack presented the organisation with opportunities to realign priorities, work more cohesively and embrace new ways of doing things.
“Never waste a crisis,” he says. “The attack actually brought us out of our individual silos and forced us to band together, working towards a common cause of managing this attack.”
Zishaan acknowledges that in fast-paced business world, speed and agility is responding to business challenges for any IT function to survive.
“I don’t wait for things to happen. I get things done. If my business needs me to get something done, I get it done, and I get it done quickly,” he explains.
As far as his passion for IT goes, Zishaan says that he was made for this job and loves it. “I do what I love and love what I do.”
Humility and empowerment
Zishaan’s leadership approach is simple, he says: “always be humble, you are a human being before you are a leader.” This makes you more approachable.
When he joined Bureau Veritas, Zishaan’s personable and inclusive leadership style was immediately felt, as he built trust in the existing team and sought to diversify the team by opening more opportunities for women to enter the male dominated IT world.
Zishaan is passionate about mentorship and the development of youngsters, especially women. For him, no one else is better suited than IT leaders to show the next generation what leadership should look like. “I’m in a male-dominated environment and as such, it is my duty to give women a voice in this space and play a supportive role to help them grow” he says
In fact Zishaan’s impact on the first team he managed in Bureau Veritas was so great that he faced an uproar from his team when he decided to take up a global opportunity within the organisation.
“At that point, I had a dilemma. If I had left; there would be an uproar, and had I stayed; I’d be staying longer than I had originally intended to, and not making room for the next person,” he notes. “However, an agreement was reached: the members of my team agreed not to raise an objection to my move provided that they could reach out to me at any time. This confirmed to me that I was doing something right,” he adds. “It was a humbling experience to know that you could have such a massive impact on people. If anything it makes one more conscious of one’s interactions both in action and word.
In a career full of highlights, two achievements stand out for Zishaan. The first was when he wrote the employment equity charter at DuPont. The second was when he introduced a concept called remote inspections at Bureau Veritas.
“I wrote the employment equity charter at DuPont, which didn’t exist before I got there, and it was adopted by the rest of the company’s subsidiaries in South Africa,” he says. He was recognised for this effort by being given the opportunity to represent DuPont at the Women's International Networking conference which took place in Rome in 2015. “It was quite an intimidating experience: there were 600 delegates in total, 592 women and 8 men,” he says.
Starting out as a small experiment in the IT/IS department back in late 2019, remote inspections became Zishaan’s second biggest achievement and Bureau Veritas’s greatest opportunity out of a crisis namely, Covid-19. It not only made sense from a safety perspective, it was also cost-effective and increased revenue & productivity.
“When the lockdown happened, we were okay from a desktop perspective: everyone had mobile data capabilities and could work from home. However, as a company that does on-site inspections and looks at a product to provide it with the necessary certification, lockdown was a serious problem,” he explains.
“Through remote inspection, our 2020 revenue targets were achieved. Now, this capability has been adopted globally.”
Under normal circumstances, an inspector would have to go on site to do an inspection and do roughly 3.7 inspections a day. Now they can each do up to eight inspections a day from home using this technology.
“Remote inspections increased safety, eliminated the need to travel, exposure to disease, save costs and our staff is twice as productive,” he explains.
When Zishaan isn’t playing the role of mentor and innovator, he enjoys watching TV and spending time with his family. He plans to take his mentorship endeavours further and host regular workshops for young, up-and-coming IT professionals in the future.