Comcorp’s CIO takes the CIO South Africa community on a trip down memory lane, where he reflects on when first the technology bug bit him.
CIO South Africa caught up with Bryan Orsmond, CIO at Comcorp South Africa, who revealed that a career in IT has always been intentional. He says he wouldn’t trade it for another profession, although burning rubber on the racetrack would be a close contender.
Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
A: From an early age I have had an affinity for technology, taking things apart, seeing how they worked and putting them back together again. As a young boy growing up in Johannesburg, I had the joy of lots of space with motorised go-karts, motorbikes and buggies. This fed my thirst for tinkering and constantly improving things. As time went on this passion spread into the realm of electronics and computer engineering.
I completed a BSc and MSc in electronic engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with my speciality being in digital signal processing. From there the progression to computer and software engineering together with computer communication systems and networking, was a natural one.
Q: What does your role as CIO at Comcorp entail?
A: My role at Comcorp is to exercise overall stewardship of our technology, systems and technical teams. Specifically, I provide technical oversight and IT direction for the company including directing infrastructure, security and data engineering.
Q: What is it that you enjoy the most about your job?
A: Besides getting stuff done, I would say that there are two things that I really enjoy the most. The first is guiding people and watching them flourish as they make their contributions. I find this incredibly fulfilling. The second is bringing a degree of innovation and creativity in solving problems and building sustainable solutions.
Q: Where did you work before becoming CIO at Comcorp?
A: Wow, a trip down memory lane. I have been working in the engineering and technology space for over 30 years now. After graduating I worked in the defence industry where I was responsible for high-performance sonar and digital signal processing systems, involving both hardware and software development.
From there I explored my entrepreneurial desires and had a great deal of fun building a wide array of solutions including e-commerce solutions, tourism booking systems and assisting the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa with a national barcoding system for FMCG products. During this time, I also gained exposure to retail by assisting a number of blue-chip retailers with in-store systems as well as product development processes.
In 2007 I joined Blue Label Telecoms as CTO within their mobile division. This too was an exciting time and allowed me to gain significant knowledge of the mobile and MNO spaces and gave me an opportunity to work directly with Microsoft in Redmond as we developed mobile apps and wallet solutions. Before joining Comcorp in 2020 I worked for Touchsides and was involved in developing advanced consumer loyalty and reward solutions targeting retail consumers.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: For me there are a number of key principles here. Firstly, I don't believe that a one-size-fits-all approach is the way to go. Sure, there are general rules and guidelines, however, I believe that it is essential to recognise each person for their uniqueness and do your best to grow them and their aspirations.
Secondly, I believe that it is essential to get out of the way and allow people the space to bring their own interpretations. Naturally this requires that each person has your support, and the comfort and trust of a safety net.
I definitely subscribe to an open-door policy – trust is, after all, a two-way exchange.
Q: What strategies do you use to attract and retain top IT talent?
A: There are a number of factors that are relevant here and, in a way, do have a certain priority or sequence to them.
- Investing in the person and helping them grow their career and aspirations is a key fundamental strategy. Getting this right generally leads to a long-term fruitful relationship.
- Providing the mentoring and leadership structures to support the growth of every person is important.
- Providing opportunities that challenge people is another key element, and where possible providing a flexible working environment.
- Focusing and measuring people based on outcomes and their impact are key elements too.
- Opportunities for internal promotion and growth are also important.
In terms of recruitment at Comcorp we offer competitive remuneration and reward packages, access to employee wellness programmes and the opportunity to work with leading tools and technologies in the fintech and proptech spaces.
Q: If you were not working in IT, what other profession would you be in? Is there a dream career or passion that you wanted to pursue, but had to let go?
A: As mentioned, my passion is technology. IT is pretty broad and changing very rapidly, but I guess outside of IT I would most likely be in some form of robotics.
If we're talking about dreams, on the other hand, I guess some kind of successful racing driver or professional golfer would do it – but let’s be honest, those are pure pipe dreams.
Q: In terms of emerging technologies, which ones are you most excited about in 2024 and how will they help you in your industry or day-to-day job?
A: We are living in exciting times where technology really is changing rapidly. A few standout technologies that are currently on my list include:
- Cloud technologies, cloud native solutions and infrastructure as code. These have matured a great deal and provide flexibility and scalability to solutions.
- Copilots and what I call “Context Aware” services provide the potential for richer experiences.
- Data and data engineering, ultimately bringing business and data closer together.
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning have great potential to further enhance customer identity and verification as well as fraud detection.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring CIOs, who desire to occupy that role one day, and what it takes to become an IT leader?
A: My advice for aspiring CIOs would include:
- Grow and nurture your passion for technology and develop a solid grounding based on knowledge.
- Spend time with business and get to understand its drivers and strategies.
- Broaden your industry experience as much as possible – you will have many opportunities to draw on this experience.
- Connect with like-minded bodies and individuals and don’t be afraid to socialise and test ideas.
- Develop your leadership skills and be as adaptable as possible.
Q: What do you do to unwind? Do you have any interesting hobbies?
A: Aside from technology I make it a priority to spend time with friends and family. I enjoy the outdoors, a good braai and playing recreational sports, my favourite being a round of golf with friends.