Investec Specialist Bank’s head of IT is passionate about collaboration and promoting tech skills in SA.
“Just be authentic. If you are centred around your purpose and you are passionate about what you do, you’ll be successful,” says Shabhana Thaver, the head of IT for Investec Specialist Bank South Africa. “Technical skills you can learn, but the passion and the purpose have to be there.”
Shabhana fell in love with computer science when it was introduced to her school in grade 10. She then studied it at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and completed her honours in Computer Science (cum laude), and spent the first six years of her career as a software developer. She’s held multiple technical positions at Investec, while completing her Masters of Business Leadership..
As a brilliant tech person – or a “techie at heart”, as she refers to herself – she has had to adjust to becoming a leader of people, a role she has come to excel at with her current team of about 650. “My people are my lifeline, because without them I won’t be anything,” she says. “Our organisation’s energy is driven by our people and our culture.”
Creating a positive difference in the lives of the people around her is one of her purposes in life. Seeing her team develop, grow, prosper and succeed in the organisation creates self-fulfilment, she explains.
“We are in a knowledge economy and we encourage an environment for self-growth through multiple learning opportunities. “Being a true leader is being connected to our people, having compassion and empathy, especially considering it’s been a traumatic time for many of us.”
Shabhana is proud of one of the exceptional pieces of work her team produced around the bank’s new external API channel, which gives clients the ability to access their own accounts and data as part of enabling Investec’s open banking and banking-as-a-Service strategy.
Transitioning to working from home in the past year as a mother of two has also been challenging, but it has given her more flexibility, a quality Investec prides itself on and is centred around.
“It’s given me time with my kids and enabled me to do what I need to as a mother and wife without sacrifice, while still focusing on my career,” she says. Leaving home early to attend meetings at the office and being stuck in traffic are not things she misses.
But she admits that working from home has created a bit of a distance on different levels between team members. She sometimes misses being able to walk up to a colleague to check in with them or feel the energy to keep the momentum going.
The transition has led to a change in the ways team members engage and communicate to remain connected, she says, and being considerate of her team and taking care of them is important to her as a leader. “Work-from-home as a concept is a world of trust, rather than stacked check-in meetings,” she says.
As a CIO in the technology community in South Africa, she would like to encourage creating technology skills and make the country an attraction hub for the world, in particular for women looking for access, opportunities and growth in technology.
“Being a CIO business executive and woman leader in technology is rewarding in that you can shape what the future could potentially look like for other women,” she says.