Eugene Moodley’s evolution from the classroom to the C-suite

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The CIO’s passion for teaching and tech has shaped a two-decade IT career.

With over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, Eugene Moodley has advanced from a junior software developer to a technology leader. His journey began in teaching, and even after transitioning into the tech sector, mentorship and learning remained his passions.

Now, as the CIO at Sanlam Collective Investments, he continues to embody the spirit of a teacher. A self-described perpetual learner and eternal optimist, Eugene believes in maintaining the right attitude and making things happen.

Originally from KwaZulu-Natal and now based in Cape Town, Eugene studied education on a bursary, majoring in mathematics and computer science. Despite his initial focus on education, he always intended to move into the IT industry. After qualifying in 1998, he taught at a secondary school for 18 months while pursuing his Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification in Visual Basic 6. This period marked the beginning of his career in IT when he secured a junior programmer role at MWEB.

Mentorship and career growth

While at MWEB, Eugene’s teaching background made him an ideal mentor for young interns, including those from government-sponsored programmes and IT and BCom graduates. At one point, he was mentoring 15 interns simultaneously. “Now, that was intense!” he laughs.

“As I progressed in my career, I had many opportunities to mentor others, and I like to believe that I’ve positively influenced the majority of them,” he adds.

Eugene spent close to five years at MWEB, focusing on .NET capabilities, before moving to Shoprite, DVT and eventually to Sanlam’s Glacier. “Sanlam has been good to me; there have been lots of opportunities for growth,” he says.

“In 2021, I started my MBA to prepare for my next career move. While considering executive IT roles, I learned about the CIO position at Sanlam Collective Investments. I decided to test the waters and was successful.”

Interestingly, Eugene had a chance encounter with a former pupil during a company-wide indoor soccer event. “I was the goalkeeper for Glacier IT and recognised a familiar-looking striker on the opposing team. It turned out to be a former Grade 10 computer science student who had become an end-to-end architect at Sanlam,” Eugene recalls. “He exclaimed, ‘Sir! What are you doing here?’ and I then realised who he was. I haven't been called ‘Sir’ since my teaching days!”

A “glutton for punishment”

Eugene believes that finding the right fit is crucial for talent retention. “Attitude comes first; if someone is willing to learn and grow and fits the culture, I can work with that. Technical acumen is important, but I can always forgo the experience requirement if the individual is willing to be trained and is trainable,” he explains.

Describing himself as a “glutton for punishment,” Eugene has pursued his MBA studies online and after hours. He wanted to enhance his business acumen despite his extensive technical IT experience.

“It’s been an interesting journey,” he says. “Studying online can be challenging, but it has been a significant learning and growth experience. My wife’s support has been invaluable; I never seem to have enough hours for my studies, but I enjoy it!”

As for leadership, “I’m an ambivert; I thrive both independently and in team settings. I prefer collaborative decision-making,” Eugene shares. “As an executive, I’m responsible for making the right technology decisions, and it’s rewarding to see those decisions influence business strategy and come to fruition.”

Eugene has always been fascinated by technology, enjoying AI projects and IoT tinkering in his spare time.

He is also an avid sci-fi and futurism enthusiast. In an alternate universe, he dreams of launching rockets into space and engaging with SpaceTech, although he feels he is “too old” to become an astronaut.

“Closer to home, I’d love to lecture part-time when I retire, giving back to the community. I can’t see myself just sitting at home and gardening!” he concludes.

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