You can guide on principle, but you cannot guide on detail, says Yunus Scheepers

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The CTO believes the generational gap has changed mentorship as we know it.

It's an exciting time in the technology space for SilverBridge at the moment. With sustainability, growth, and expansion in mind, the company has implemented a number of changes regarding how the business operates. “We've really been on a mission to consolidate the technology that we use, how we use it, and what we're trying to accomplish with it,” says Yunus Scheepers, CTO at SilverBridge. “Nothing groundbreaking at the moment,” he says, "but we're really focused on solidifying the foundation of our operations and settling our technology rather than driving new innovation.”

“Sustainability and scalability are top of mind for us at the moment and we are doing some significant exploration and experimentation in the automation space, especially when it comes to our business processes. We are really focusing on optimising code releases, CI/CD pipelines, automated functional/experience testing, automated performance testing and automated penetration testing; while at the same time growing our customer base” he notes.

“Penetration testing is a very important part of our automation strategy, especially considering the plethora of security risks companies are currently facing. We are in the financial services industry and it is crucial that we focus on security, particularly for our customers; but anything can happen,” he adds.

Reflecting on the past two years and our new hybrid way of working, Yunus says that the experience has been different for different employees. “On one side, you have the introverts, who have enjoyed the solitude of working from home. On the other end, you have the extroverts, who enjoy personal engagement and have experienced varying degrees of cabin fever, cooped up in their homes,” he says.

Yunus describes himself as a bit of both, “I’m an ambivert, although I don’t believe in putting people in boxes like that,” he says. “Even introverts need to get out of the house sometimes – they get value from it, as uncomfortable as it may be for them,” he explains.

“Extroverted people also need a bit of alone time as well, to focus on what they really need to accomplish. Luckily, our business lends itself to working remotely and we have done so successfully.”

However, Yunus does point out that people tend to be nostalgic and refer to the “good old days” of going to the office. However, returning to the office has to make sense for both the employees and the organisation.

“I'll use one of my mentees as an example. He works for a large financial services firm, where they've been told to come to the office twice a week. He often complains that he doesn't see the point, saying, “I'll be sitting in the office in Microsoft Teams meetings the entire day, something I could do from home! “All I can do in response is to remind him that he doesn’t have sight of all the moving parts of the business and therefore has to trust that the leadership has his best interests at heart,” he says.

Mentorship has evolved

Yunus is also passionate about mentoring and has realised that mentorship as we know it, or as people of his generation have come to know it, has changed. He attributes this to a number of factors.

“As much as I have walked this path before and am in a good position to advise, many things have changed. The current dominant generation in the work environment, is not my generation,” he observes. "You can guide on principle, but you cannot guide on detail," he explains. “Thankfully, all my mentees understand my approach, so they understand that I'm trying to guide them from a principle perspective.”

This is also applicable to anybody entering the working environment, he says. “I also mentor Silverbridge people and that’s fundamentally all you can do as an organisational leader – you can provide people with guidance and prompt their own way of thinking based on your experience, keeping in mind that your experience may not be as relevant anymore. It’s difficult to discern what parts are relevant and which parts aren’t ─ only the people receiving the information can determine that. “Also, in my experience, mentorship is unquestionably bidirectional. I enjoy being both the mentor and the mentee.”

“The generation entering the workplace right now, think quite differently, their perspectives and ideals are different, and the landscape has changed,” he observes, “and this has an impact on how they are mentored.” “When I entered the workplace, technology moved much slower than it does now; exponentially so!"

“My generation is now having to guide young people in areas where we have no experience or context." For example, social media didn’t exist when I started working, so how do I advise them on how to use it? “What remains is guidance on fundamental principles,” he adds.

Millennials prefer freedom over a brand name

As far as talent is concerned, Yunus says organisations that insist on, rather than give their people the option to work from the office, “will live to regret it.”

“These talented people can refuse to comply and decide to explore other options at their disposal,” he notes. “You need to think about your technical skills retention strategy quite carefully as an organisation, and remind yourself that people do have the power to leave if they want to and will exercise that power if they do not feel fulfilled,” he notes.

Yunus points out that while older generations often consider the brand that they work for as a reflection of their success, millennials generally value freedom more than the brand. They want to work for an organisation that gives them the freedom to live the life of their choosing and would rather work for a smaller organisation that provides this. “These smaller companies will then offer their services to the bigger companies, who have lost this talent, often at a significantly higher cost,” he explains.

On the future and entrepreneurial ambitions, Yunus says he won’t be hopping on the startup train anytime soon. “I’ve thought about it and do have some ideas in mind, but I don’t have the personality for it; I’m not a startup kind of person ” he says. “I am very risk averse, but I’m very innovative within a stable structure – incubating ideas within the context of an existing and fully functional organisation.”

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