CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER | GREENCAPE

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

WHO WAS YOUR ROLE MODEL DURING THE PIVOTAL STAGES OF YOUR LIFE?
I do not have specific role models but I am inspired by individuals who are able to develop simple and elegant solutions to complex problems. I have always naturally been drawn to increased efficiency, which has been the key driver of my career choices.

WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?
To unlock the opportunities in Africa’s green economy, we need visionary leaders who are able to make maximum use of the immense talent available on our continent. A successful leader sees and celebrates the value of the team they’re leading. Great leaders do not measure their success in what they have achieved but rather the achievement of their team members.

WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS?
My problem solving mindset, especially concerning complex issues and problems in the green economy, is my greatest strength.

WHAT ARE YOUR BIGGEST BLIND SPOTS?
As an engineer and scientist, and as someone who enjoys complexity, I find it hard to be attentive and engaged in discussions that have no clear agenda or value. I am working hard on this, and it has served me well in terms of networking and relationship development.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING IN YOUR OPINION THAT PEOPLE COMMONLY MISCONCEIVE ABOUT YOU?
I have strong views and opinions, which may come across as inflexible. The team will tell you, however, that once I have all the information on an issue, I can change my mind. I have a knack for developing simple and elegant solutions to tricky problems.

WHAT TIPS DO YOU HAVE FOR KEEPING A TEAM MOTIVATED?
With our work we are generally taking on large long-term projects where the change we aim to achieve is at the end of a slow, methodical process. Therefore, celebrating the smallest wins and successes is crucial to keep the team engaged and motivated – it is easy to lose people before you achieve that five-year goal.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?
I manage risk on a calculated basis – so if a risk fits the profile I am comfortable with, I will take it. This leads to taking a large number of smaller risks rather than any specifically large ones.

WHEN YOU’RE CONSIDERING A NEW PARTNERSHIP, WHAT FACTORS ARE DEAL-BREAKERS FOR YOU?
The integrity of the person that I am dealing with is probably the most important. If I feel I can’t trust them in terms of what they are doing, then it is very difficult to consider a working partnership. As stated, I take risks fairly often and one of them is being more trusting than most people would be comfortable with. It’s a small risk to take but it is a calculated risk: when I feel I cannot trust at all, then they are people I cannot work with.

WHICH OF YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TO
DEVELOP?

Letting go and trusting my team members to do their jobs, was probably the hardest skill I had to develop.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT LEADERSHIP LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED?
I really do believe that the ability to make mistakes and fail is a key part of growing and learning.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL CAREER?
Definitely the achievements and growth that I have seen in the team over the years.
GreenCape mainly employs new graduates with limited work experience. Their career growth and the awards that they have won –some heading up independent initiatives – is simply fantastic.
It is a great feeling every time I see someone I have worked with doing something amazing somewhere; and celebrating the achievements of the team that I am still working with. The risk that was taken by the company in giving me this same space when I first started out in a management role has encouraged me to do the same for my team.

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE?
I aim to never be the ‘road block’ in getting a task finished. In this industry there is a drive to get everything done at all costs and what often happens is that management puts themselves in the most important position in the project because they are going to be responsible for an outcome and they believe they have the best skills to achieve this. However, often it is their involvement that delays everyone else’s work.
With enough trust and redundancy in the team, I am able to step back and maintain that sense of balance.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR?
American Gods by Neil Gaiman … it is the only book I have read this year [laughs]. I don’t read many books as I prefer to read articles and much shorter media – my attention span for books is limited.

WHAT TREND IN THE GLOBAL ENERGY SPACE DO YOU SEE BECOMING INTRINSIC TO THE OVERALL POWER NETWORK, AND WHAT TREND WILL FADE?
The trend towards decentralisation will continue to grow, globally, as information access and technology improve. Decentralised systems will become a permanent and core part of energy generation.
We will see the outdated term and concept of ‘base load’ disappear, as system operators accept that it is possible to run renewables-heavy power systems using a mix of generators.

For new-builds, renewables have reached cost parity with coal and nuclear, so optimising the power system towards these base load generation technologies no longer makes sense.

This article first appeared in The African Power & Energy Elites, 2019. You can read the magazine's articles here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.