enX’s Denish Haripal is on a mission to attract young people to the IT sector

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The CIO wants see more youth enter the IT space.

Denish Haripal began his IT career in 1998 as a system support technician for automotive software. A year later, he moved into networks, which he enjoyed, and has held various roles before being promoted to IT Manager. Denish was Eqstra Holdings' chief information officer in 2010, and after enX Group acquired Eqstra in 2016, he became enX's CIO.

In a quest to understand what the business challenges were at the time, and how technology could be used to address some of those issues, Denish put on his CIO hat and got right to work.

“During your formative years of becoming a CIO, you start to move away from the technical knowledge to understanding the business requirements – how the different departments in the organisation function, and what your customers and stakeholders require from you,” he says. “I think this is what I enjoy the most about my job: it allows me to add value to the organisation on a daily basis. On days where I don’t add value, I’m left quite disappointed, because there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to resolve a business challenge,” he says.

Youth empowerment

He is also passionate about youth empowerment and actively bringing young talented people into the IT industry. However, Denish has discovered that while a significant number of young people have a strong desire to work in IT, they have little knowledge of what the industry entails.

“I believe we must first change our school-based curricula and then begin introducing some form of advanced computer studies that encompasses current day technology trends such as Industry 4.0,” he says. “In this way, school leavers will already have a basic understanding of what the industry is about.

“There are some really exciting things happening right now in the world of cybersecurity and securing the environment and the company’s information assets, and that’s where the focus should be. In the coming years, there will be a shortage of cyber skills, which is a position that more young people can fill and grow their knowledge,” he says.

He points out that the majority of South Africans, particularly the youth, come from the public schooling environment. As a result, when they leave high school, many choose a traditional field that they believe will provide a better life for them. “Universities should hold more open days and invite CIOs to speak at public schooling career days as these forums help students choose the right fields,” he suggests.

Denish is also very passionate about mentorship, having received mentorship from senior managers and even colleagues from both a technical and business perspective throughout his career. He explains how the knowledge he has gained from the various CEOs he has worked with, each with their own distinct leadership style, has helped him shape his own.

IT the enabler

Denish says the lockdown caused many organisations to become dependable on IT, and in enX’ s case, IT enabled the business by providing its technology enabled users to work remotely. “I think our IT department did a sterling job in this regard, arranging connectivity, even having technicians go out to customers during lockdown. We even got a shout out in our newsletter as unsung heroes working in the background keeping the system running,” he says.

“In a traditional environment, you understand your office network setups, but now that we’re under lockdown, you’re forced to redirect and assist people in their homes without knowing what kind of setups they have, which makes the task slightly more challenging.”

The crisis also provided an opportunity for the group to accelerate certain projects to benefit the employee, such as the document collaboration solutions together with upgrading our communication platform. It also gave us time to re-evaluate and digitally transform or digitally optimise some of our offerings to customers.

“We also enabled the finance function to make payments to our suppliers for services received as well as ensuring that we received the relevant collections that were owed to the business whilst working remotely,” he added.

Denish has been recognised for his work and received merit awards in his personal capacity during his tenure as infrastructure manager, twice as a runner-up and once as the actual winner. “As a result of winning the merit award, our then-CEO flew out 20 winners across the various businesses, including myself, to Madagascar for a week’s stay,” he says.

He received another award in 2011 as part of a Wits executive business programme sponsored by enX, where he and his team presented an action learning project to the company’s executives, and his team had the best overall action learning presentation.

Denish is a leader who effectively communicates with his team and, in his spare time, walks around the various facilities to engage with employees and management. He takes it a step further by introducing fun activities that encourage teamwork and communication.

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