South Africans understand diversity and are relatable, which makes us unique, he says.
When Hendus Venter, group CIO at Jubaili Bros, left South Africa to work abroad, he didn’t do it out of protest. Hendus had more compelling reasons to leave the country and work in the UAE. “Working as a global CIO in a multinational organisation can be a rewarding opportunity to learn and grow, but it’s not without its challenges,” he says.
Jubaili Bros is a family-owned organisation, operating in 45+ markets, across 11 countries with three major hubs in Dubai, Lebanon and Nigeria, that pioneers services in energy, technology and data. And yes, there is a South African office too, situated in Johannesburg.
Hendus has been a business technology leader for nearly 20 years across the banking, engineering and energy sectors, and has been working overseas for the past four years.
“I’ve always wanted to work abroad, not just for myself, but also for my family,” he says. “The plan was to wait until my twin son and daughter were a little older. But it also had to do with a step of faith, because I didn’t bring myself here. Rather it was a calling to grow where we are planted,” he continues , “and to have experienced this journey to date with my wife, Marnelle, and family, has been priceless indeed.”
Hendus is a proud South African, and his dream was simple: make the most of the opportunity, make an impact, travel the world, and eventually return to South Africa, because, as he puts it, “There’s no place like home.”
True to his roots, Hendus has taken some of his distinctively South African characteristics and applied them abroad in society and workplace. “We laugh loudly, we work hard, we love unconditionally, we are expert ‘braaiers’, and we have made it our mission to share our hospitable and welcoming nature, as well as to spread that spirit of ubuntu overseas – something inherently South African that does not exist elsewhere,” he explains.
According to Hendus, the country is bleeding and losing IT talent. “Many young people are leaving or avoiding IT because they are not inspired or attracted to it,” he says. “These young people believe there is insufficient career guidance as well as opportunities in the industry and seek opportunities elsewhere.
“We’re sitting with a talented group of young people who want coaching and mentoring, reasons to join the industry, and success stories to energise them. And it is our responsibility as IT leaders to figure out how to keep them. CIOs wear three hats: a country hat with the communities we serve, an African hat because this is the continent that distinguishes us, and a global hat because we are a powerhouse of change, but if we do not use our powerhouse of change, our voices will be drowned out quickly.”
Hendus also points out that as a country, South Africa is poorly structured when it comes to retaining talent, particularly for those business technology leaders over the age of 40. “As a collective, I don’t think we’ve honestly and adequately addressed the ability to retain the talent of experienced and diversified technology leaders at this level to inspire and mature the talent of tomorrow. There is much more to be done,” he says.
Unique selling point
According to Hendus, what distinguishes South Africans abroad is our understanding of diversity and our relatability as people. “South Africans are distinctive because of who we are and the leaders we produce,” he says. “Because we are very community-driven in what we do, a CIO is excited not only about the technologies, but also about the impact of those technologies in communities. Be a family, be a team.
“South African CIOs recognise that we are in the people business, dealing with technology, not the other way around. And that our actions will speak louder than our words.”
Hendus is excited about what he refers to as the “exponential customer and employee shift,” in which both groups are becoming more than just technologically aware, but also technology-demanding as digital natives. “Green or sustainable technology is also no longer something we only say, but something we are expected to embed in our DNA and ways of working when transforming companies and communities we serve,” he says. “As CIOs and technology leaders, we are privileged to lead, participate, and shape this journey of change in an era of digital, data and a connected society.”
He also has some advice for those looking to pursue a career abroad, saying that being resilient is something that can help you become successful overseas, which is a quality that South Africans possess.
“Dream big, accept your calling and purpose, and strive for more,” he advises. “When we stop dreaming, we begin to attract mediocrity into our lives. Working abroad is not the only solution: you must contribute and participate where you are called to do so and take some time to reflect on that calling in your own life and why it is important to you to serve.”