Meet the CEO is a new, weekly feature on TechCentral. The aim is to introduce our readers to the people behind the news by providing insights into the leaders shaping South Africa’s ICT industry. Our eighth interview in the series is with Schalk Nolte, CEO of Stellenbosch-based transaction authentication specialist Entersekt. We hope you enjoy it. — Duncan McLeod, Editor
What was your first-ever job?
I had a bursary with Telkom, so my first-ever job (holiday work at Telkom during my studies) was driving around in a company vehicle, repairing and installing telephones for three months.
Who is your greatest role model, and why?
It’s a tough question to answer because I don’t have only one. I believe that you can learn something from everybody, even if it’s how not to do something.
Rather than having one role model, I prefer to have coaches in various areas of my life. Depending on the area of business I’m keen to learn more about, or if I need motivation to deal with a matter, I call up a contact who has that relevant experience or wisdom — for example, Hannes van Rensburg, the founder of Fundamo. I’m also fortunate to have a powerful board, and I can call on any one of them to tap into their experience.
On a personal note, my dad always believed that you can find the good in anybody and that you should focus on that. Looking past people’s flaws to see their good qualities is admirable.
What’s your favourite quote?
“87% of all statistics are made up on the spot.” Also, “Don’t confuse effort with results.” The latter I heard from a previous colleague when I worked in Nigeria after working for months on a project, only to be stalled by a diesel delivery to the site.
What phone do you currently use, and why?
iPhone — X and 7 Plus. I enjoy Apple devices because of their simplicity, and they’ve done a great job with the ecosystem. The family sharing option for access to apps is also pretty neat.
What are you currently reading?
The Four by Scott Galloway, and King Shaka by John Laband.
What are your three favourite books?
I can think of two that have stood out for me: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
What’s your favourite movie?
I don’t have one favourite movie, but The Usual Suspects is a good movie, and I like the Godfather series. Also, anything with Will Ferrell in it is usually enjoyable.
What is your most treasured possession?
A family heirloom: a writing desk that came with my family from Germany that’s more than 200 years old.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Every now and again I think, “How did we get here?” Achieving the scale Entersekt is at has been a huge adventure. I enjoy building things and seeing other people proud of what we (the company) have built is a highlight.
What is your greatest regret?
Honestly, I don’t dwell on regrets — there’s really no point. If I feel regret about something, I consider the information I had on hand at the time, and if I realise I would’ve come to the same conclusion, then I move forward.
How do you cope with stress?
I have the ability to remove myself from a situation, to put things into perspective, and to be quite honest with myself regarding what’s going on. It’s not always easy in practice, but if there’s a challenging situation, my goal is to take control and get to the bottom of it. Stressing about something does not affect the outcome.
What skill or talent would you most like to possess that you don’t already?
To be more empathetic when needed — sometimes when making business decisions, I can come across as cold because I don’t always understand the human impact.
What phrase do you most use/overuse in business?
“Have a cup of cement! Harden up!” (Our onsite barista even has “cup of cement” on the menu. It’s four shots of espresso and milk, and is generally reserved for moments of extreme desperation.)
What’s your favourite place in the world, and why?
I feel the most relaxed in places with wide open space — close to the ocean or in the veld (also spelled “veldt”, a type of wide open rural landscape in Southern Africa) like in Namibia, the Karoo, the Kalahari or a tropical island. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media
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