Getting to know extreme sports enthusiast Willem Deyzel

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CIO South Africa recently had the opportunity to connect with Willem Deyzel, the chief technology officer (CTO) at Numeral, whose diverse interests extend far beyond the confines of his professional role.

Q:Please tell us about yourself
A: I am a Johannesburg South boy through and through, born and raised. After completing high school, I enrolled into a generic IT course for basic IT components, but found it to be mundane and never completed it. 

However, my interest in IT stems from my father, who worked at Standard Bank, and ever since I could remember, in the telephony game. I spent many days at my dad’s office in the 5 Simmonds Standard Bank building and was intrigued by the diverse, structured nature of the “system”. 

I wondered how so many people know what to do. Each person delivers a small component daily that becomes an enormous living, breathing machine! Brilliant! 

Q: What does your role as CTO at Numeral entail?

A: As I am sure you already know, there is no black and white set description of what needs to be done daily. It does involve mostly finding innovative technology-driven solutions to experienced problems – ‘experienced problems’ being the operative words here. In terms of technology, now that’s a different beast altogether. Tech for the sake of ‘new’ doesn’t deliver value, I believe. 

Being able to remedy the experienced problems, or business needs, by using the best tools available is valuable. 

The general objectives apply: IT policies, underpinned by the SOP, planning, strategising, implementing, and maintaining all pillars of tech are paramount. Cultivating an efficient, agile, accurate development team. Implementing and maintaining processes. The list goes on.  

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your job?

A: Solving problems. My career is built on the ability to solve problems.  Understanding a problem, describing a problem, clarifying the “what is experienced” into what the problem actually is. Understanding the context, and then finding that silver bullet solution: that’s what I live for.  

Q: What was that one obstacle you had to overcome in your career, and how did you do it?

A: The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome in my journey is understanding influence. Every person has some level of it, and mostly it stems from being successful in whatever your endeavour might be. Once you reach a certain amount of success, you win trust in your leaders, managers, peers and the like. This then grants you some level of influence, which you can use to better execute your next objective. Being able to get people to trust and believe in your objectives or vision is fundamental to succeeding. 

Q: Where did you work before becoming CTO at Numeral?

A: I worked as an executive consultant at a Cloud/RPA company, focusing on sales, project management, client management, driving the respective teams, etc. My first ever job was being a waiter. Funny how being able to serve people well has served me well when working with people. 

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: Dynamic: I don’t think there is a hard and fast style that gets you there. The components of leadership, I think, have been defined well enough. But the ability to apply the skills in real time is a different story. 

You know what they say: theory and practice are the same in theory, but not in practice! Not every person you meet will respond to your specific flavour of leadership, but again, understanding influence, and what drives people will get you close. In general, I find that serving the needs of your employees (to a degree) will cultivate a culture of trust. Keeping your word, and taking the time to hear what needs to be heard will get you a long way. Being genuine, trustworthy, fair, and open, I have found, are key. 

Q: What are your views on mentorship?

A: I have had several mentors during my career. Mentorship to me is a tricky subject. I need to have the utmost respect for what that person has achieved before they become credible to me. Doing, and not just saying, is the determining factor. If a person has walked the walk, then the talk is immensely valuable. I have mentored a few people directly and indirectly. Each circumstance vastly differs from the next. 

Q: If you were not working in IT, what other profession would you be in?

A: Engineering or science. I did not have a dream job as a child, I only wanted to be successful, only later learning there are vastly different successes in life. 

Q: In terms of the latest technology trends, which ones are you most excited about, and how do you think they’ll help you in your day-to-day work?

A: Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Although not being an entirely new tech trend, the application and benefit thereof have not yet been exploited to the fullest degree possible. Combining bespoke development with RPA can lead to incredible benefits for nearly any line of business, and close to any role. In addition, separating the admin and focusing on what drives value for your business is what RPA is all about. 

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring CTOs who desire to occupy that role one day?

A: Understand the machine. It has similar traits to a factory line. Each part plays a role, no less important to the previous or the next.  What does each part do? What makes that part good or bad? Understand influence, a potentially potent weapon in your war chest. 

Most importantly, IT as a line of business, is there to serve the business or client. Be a waiter, understand what your client/business wants, deliver with excellence.  

Q: What books are you currently reading, and who is your favourite author?

A: My favourite book is A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson. It’s a comedic yet insightful journey on how, well, nearly everything has evolved to what we know it to be today.  

Q: What do you do to unwind?

A: I have nearly too many hobbies to mention, but top of mind are paragliding, sailing, mountain-biking, adventure: overland and enduro motorcycling, chess, golf, competitive shooting in multiple disciplines, and playing the guitar. I’m a firm believer in escapism. 

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