Sizwe Ndlovu is chief technology officer at digital insurance start-up Pineapple. A computer scientist and a tech enthusiast/leader by profession, he has worked across various industries.
Past employers include digital marketing agency Quirk (now Mirum, acquired by WPP) and Pernod Ricard’s Breakthrough Innovation Group in Paris.
Ndlovu has consulted for various start-ups in South Africa, Europe and the US. In 2018, he bumped into the three co-founders of Pineapple while on the Gautrain. He joined the start-up soon after.
TechCentral asked Ndlovu a few questions for its regular IT Leadership Series.
What does your company do?
Pineapple is a digital insurance provider that offers short-term insurance (all-risk and vehicle) via mobile app and Web offerings.
What do you see as the IT leader’s top priorities in 2023?
A universal priority for every IT leader is knowing full well that the businesses and products they lead are crafting the future of technology and its standards in this country. This importance is even more magnified when looking at it from an industry-specific level. For me, in the insurance industry, it is ensuring that we develop technology that benefits the customer from a security, convenience and fairness point of view. That puts South Africa’s insurance requirements and preferences at the forefront, while maintaining the safety and security of their information.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
I passionately follow the well-known US tech billionaires, especially those part of the “space race” as I am passionate about the cosmos in general. Still, a businessperson I admire a lot is Naspers’s Phuti Mahanyele. I think her story is very inspiring. She fought hard to get to where she is now, a struggle I’m positive many will never truly understand (including myself). Mahanyele is genuinely self-made, and I greatly respect her.
How do you attract and retain talent?
One key aspect we look for in the hiring process, which facilitates attraction and retention, is ensuring we hire people with personal visions for themselves.
This conviction aligns with the company’s objectives: we’re all moving towards a long-term goal and need to keep pushing to get there. You must have a personal plan for yourself, so we can keep motivating each other as a team to keep working on ourselves to get there through our work at Pineapple.
This is how we establish a culture of competence and high performance and a sense of purpose, which, from the outside, is very attractive.
If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I never used to believe in myself much. I always thought I was alone, but I realised I was one of many as I grew older. I wish I had realised this earlier, as I believe I would have got to where I am a lot sooner. That way I would have had a more significant impact on the South African tech industry sooner rather than later.
That said, I’d tell my 18-year-old self that things are not as impossible as they seem and believe in yourself and your talent. I genuinely believe that talent and hard work lead to success.
What’s your favourite productivity hack?
A 4am rise. There are simply not enough hours in a day, and a lot can be done while the rest of the world sleeps.
What occupation (other than your own) would you like to try?
I would say a lawyer. I have always loved debating and still do to this day. Now that I think about it, I’d probably be in the commercial space dealing with lawsuits, etc.
Where do you see the technology industry heading in the next three to five years?
I am confident that we will see increased commercialisation of AI solutions (we’re starting to see that now with ChatGPT). This will enhance the automation of our lives in general.
From a local standpoint, we generally like playing catch up with the rest of the world. I think app culture has shot up over the past 10 years, and the next 10 will go even deeper in that direction. But I don’t think we will let go of Web applications anytime soon.
What is one book you’d recommend to our audience and why?
I’m actually going to pick a podcast: Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett. If there is one episode I would recommend, it’s the one with Whitney Wolfe Herd (Bumble founder) – an inspiring and informative story. — (c) 2023 NewsCentral Media