Meet Thivagaran Tandree: certified rescue diver, website developer and CIO at Transaction Capital Recoveries (TRC).
Thivagaran Tandree studied law at UKZN, formerly the University of Durban-Westville, with plans to become an advocate. Unfortunately, his dreams were cut short due to extenuating circumstances, forcing Thivagaran to put his studies on hold, find work and take up more financial responsibilities.
“After working for a couple of years, I honestly didn’t find it feasible to go back to university and complete my degree – plus I had other financial commitments,” Thivagaran says.
Thivagaran eventually left Durban and moved to Johannesburg, just around the time of the dotcom boom and was introduced to websites. “Back then, almost every advertisement would have a web address right at the bottom and that’s how I was introduced to websites, which made me realise that I could potentially earn a decent living building them,” he explains.
He then went on to do a short course in website development and in the process of learning how to develop these websites, quickly realised that he was quite imaginative, but not so creative. “It’s very difficult for me to make something look pretty, but I can make it work 110 percent. As a result, I then by default drifted into back-end database development,” he says.
Thivagaran continued to sharpen his skills, doing multiple Microsoft certified courses and eventually became a Microsoft certified IT specialist as well as a Microsoft certified DBA. This was followed by a BCom in Business Informatics, a Post Graduate Diploma in General Management and an MBA through the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).
Small IT talent pool
He says most of the challenges that exist in IT are industry specific, however, the biggest one to date is the current skills shortage. “We struggle to find a great calibre of developers. Most of them are hard to find and when you do find one, he’s quickly poached,” he says.
Today’s gig economy and the flexibility of working remotely hasn’t done much to remedy the situation either: “These developers can work for firms overseas without even moving overseas. And in the event that you do find a really good developer, he or she happens to be working for two other companies, and doesn’t disclose that information,” Thivagaran explains. And then, good as they are, at some point the workloads will catch up with them and the quality of that work will suffer.
According to Thivagaran, not all hope is lost – the solution is recently qualified IT graduates. He recommends offering them a holistic introduction into the IT industry and allowing them to experience different departments so they can decide exactly what they like. “It’s important to get them while they are still young, in order for them to learn about the organisation and grow with it,” he says.
The great migration
Although enabling more agile and flexible ways to work with the tools that employees use every day was one of the most exciting projects Thivagaran has worked on in the recent past, it was also one that gave him sleepless nights. “When the country moved into lockdown in March 2020, we had to pivot to working from home, and as a call centre, this posed a serious challenge for us,” he says.
TCR has in excess of 1,500 call centre agents who predominantly work on desktops and had to become mobilised in just two weeks. “At the end of those two weeks, we had 400 agents working from home and we were only capped at 400 due to hardware limitations. We managed to acquire more hardware once the president eased regulations, and within a month and a half later, managed to have 1,000 call centre agents in total working from home.”
Thivagaran maintains that digital dexterity in terms of re-engineering processes to leverage data, information and technology in unique and innovative ways is of paramount importance in supporting the vision and strategy of his organisation’s. This includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), distributed cloud, multi-experience platforms, as well as the appropriate digital workplace technologies required to support remote and hybrid workforce models.
Thivagaran is not only talented where IT is concerned, he’s also comfortable in the water, and is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) level rescue diver. However, as the CIO of both Transaction Capital Recoveries (TCR) and Transaction Capital Transactional Services (TCTS), which keeps him very busy, he has very little time to unwind.