The great coastal semigration: Arno Olivier makes the journey from the city of gold to the seaside

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The head of IT at TB HIV Care made two significant transitions in his career, from switching industries to changing locations.

It’s been an interesting six months for Arno Olivier, head of IT at TB HIV Care. He recently made a huge career move from the mining industry, having previously worked for Salungano (formerly Wescoal), a leading coal distributor, to TB HIV Care, a registered non-profit organisation that supports TB, HIV and other major diseases with care.

“It’s been quite interesting,” Arno says, “because this is essentially my first stint in senior management in my new role as IT head at TB HIV Care, but a challenge I was willing to accept with both arms. As such, my wife and I, and our three-year-old son moved to Cape Town. In fact, it was my brother-in-law who was the first to come down, then my sister made the trip down, and then my mother followed suit – all of which happened in a span of a year. I’ve coined it ‘The great Olivier family migration’,” he jokes.

Although Arno now lives in Cape Town, he is a Joburger through and through. He grew up in Springs, east of Johannesburg. His IT journey started at Cosira Group, a steel manufacturing company in Vulcania, also located east of Johannesburg. Arno then moved to MacPhail Distributors, which was then acquired by Wescoal, and rebranded to Salungano), a company he later joined.

“One of the biggest things that I really appreciated about working at Salungalo was that the company gave IT free rein when it came to testing out new technologies. The budgets were available to see if indeed the tech was feasible.” he notes.

The biggest difference Arno has observed between Salungalo and TB HIV Care is that Salungalo has a relatively small IT operation: the user base there was in the hundreds and this is because they mainly specialise in contract coal mining. In contrast, he says, TB HIV Care has roughly between 2,000 and 3,000 users. “In fact, this is one of the reasons that I took the opportunity at TB HIV Care,” Arno says.

“TB HIV Care has gained a lot within the Microsoft 365 space: power apps, AI and all of the other technologies available in the market, especially what they have already managed to build from a technology platform,” he adds.

Another difference, Arno notes, is that it is a little bit harder to get IT budget working for an NPO versus at a listed company – you need to be able to sell your idea quite well.

“Luckily, I spend a lot of time and research on the ideas that I want to implement at TB HIV Care. As a result, based on all of the work I put in before pitching – my ideas have sound motivation or rather a business case behind them and are funded despite the price,” he explains.

“I also take a try-before-you-buy approach: this way technologies are tested before even more money is invested in them.”

Arno says moving from one organisation to another was a huge culture shock and it takes time to adjust. However, he sees it as an opportunity to introduce some of his learnings and create his own culture as senior leadership at the non-profit.

“Cape Town is also quite different from a social perspective,” he says. “If I were to compare it to Pretoria: if you were to spend a month, you probably would have seen the city in its entirety within three weeks or so. In comparison, I’ve been in Cape Town for six months now and can’t even say I’ve seen half of the city – I still have a lot of ground to cover.

“A funny or weird aspect that I’ve had to get used to is wrapping my mind around knowing that I’m at the beach for the last week of my holiday, but I don’t necessarily have to go home (i.e., Johannesburg). I can go back to the beach the following weekend.”

From a technology perspective, Arno is dedicated to ensuring that the IT service offering to the business follows the principles and guidelines of the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework, ensuring efficiency and effectiveness.

While Arno highlights the importance of getting the basics right, he also recognises the need to adapt and innovatively meet the needs of the organisation. The IT team is focused on implementing strategies and processes guided by ITIL best practices, aimed at improving the quality of support frameworks and enhancing overall operational performance.

Arno adds that the technology doesn’t come cheap, but his team can already see the results it’s bringing in for them, and how they've improved from a support framework within the organisation.

Tech aside, Arno does have some hidden talents. He started playing provincial cricket from as early as primary school, and played for the Easterns cricket team throughout high school.

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