The Technologist

Hennie Brink, a Technologist at Entelect, reckons …
What does being a technologist at Entelect mean to you?

Being a Technologist at Entelect is really about taking care of the technology and the projects you’re on. But for me it’s slightly more than that. As a Technologist, you have to think bigger than your project. You have to think about Entelect as a whole and the technology we’re using as a company. Specifically what we want to represent to the world. Our responsibility is to always choose the best tools and the best tech for the project that we’re facing.

"Being a technical lead is hard, and a lot of people don’t understand what it means until they are in the role. Before you get to this level, it’s all about the team and the project. Then when you get to technical lead, suddenly you have to think about the whole company."

What was your career path to becoming a Technologist at Entelect?

I started my career as a developer at Pi-lock. During my time there, I met a Solutions Architect who taught me a lot about building frameworks.  When I started at Entelect as a Senior Software Engineer three years ago, I joined the Omnia project. At that time there was just three of us on the team, and we worked on building a relationship with the client. By bringing my experience with me, we were able to build some really nice looking, quality apps in a short space of time, which developed great trust with the client. Since then, Omnia has become so used to the way we work, and the quality of our work, that team has now grown to 16 individuals.

Tell us about some of the current projects you’re working on?

Currently we have 3 projects on the go with Omnia.

The first project is DigiAg. DigiAg is a geospatial application designed to help farmers manage their farms, by providing them with a real world view of their farm. Thereby allowing Omnia to work more closely with their farmers and their farm workers, providing some really smart insights into what is going on at their farm.

The second project, the Omnia Agricultural Program, is designed to assist with production and optimisation. Omnia takes soil samples from all their farms. They then analyse the samples and runs algorithms that generate distribution heat maps. The heat maps get pulled into DigitAg allowing a farmer to see if there are any inconsistencies in the soil chemicals that could be adapted to give them better yields.

The Sales App project is used by the Omnia sales rep’s.  Integrating with Microsoft Dynamics AX, this app helps the sales rep’s when they are on the road visiting the farmers to place orders and ensure deliveries to the right location at the right time.

My role is to manage these three projects. But also to make sure we are introducing enough new technologies and new possibilities to make sure we are keeping the team excited and continuing to drive this learning culture that we have on the team.

Then, mentoring and helping individuals in the team.

What opportunities does Entelect give you to explore new tech and bring it back into the team?

It’s actually an important part of our jobs as Technologists to keep up with what is trending in the industry. So we’re encouraged to look for new technologies that could revolutionise the way we work. But that’s also something I naturally do anyway, because it’s my personal passion. I have an appreciation for learning new stuff and reading up a lot on new ways of doing things – I’m always evolving and looking for new ways to improve the craft.

Have you had many experiences that have really stretched you in your career?

Certainly, when the Omnia team went from two to three to four team members, then suddenly to 15. Until then, it was a small team and I was quite comfortable, but when it suddenly expanded to 15 I had to take on more of the role as team lead as well which really stretch me.

Sometimes this is a common misconception about the role. The idea is sometimes that if you are a tech lead, you just work with the technical stuff. But for me that’s isn’t really true. There are very few teams who have both a team lead and a tech lead, so the key word is Lead. That requires us to evolve beyond just the technical and into taking care of your team.

The term ‘Lead’ also refers to being the key client contact. My client relies a lot on my input when it comes to new projects and introducing new features. Often, my client wants my input before we move forward on anything because he appreciates my thoughts and my thinking. On one occasion he wanted to find out how Entelect are working effectively with the view to implementing it in his team, so we’ll go for a beer and find out the ways we can learn from each other.

Being a Technologist is more than just the software we deliver. I think what clients value most about Entelect is that we always try and push the boundaries. It’s not just a case of ‘requirements in – software out’. Sometimes we even push our clients to aim for even more than they imagined. And this has been a great way to grow the trust element in the client relationship and the work we do.

Is there a day that sticks in your mind? Or a best day kind of day?

For me, it was probably around The Entelect Challenge.  I’ve been involved for two years now. After putting in all that work and then seeing the community participate, and it culminating in a big event, where everyone in the community had a good time was really good fun for me. Probably the best kind of day for me.

What else are you involved in at Entelect?

Since I became a tech lead I’ve gotten more involved in the internal initiatives such as the tech circles, and training and planning, but also maintaining a project guidance role on The Challenge. I’m also involved in the AI meetup and the Android user group.

Is there something that you’re most proud of?

I’d say my team. I’m really proud of the work my team do. Having the client come into the office every two weeks and leave with a smile because of the work we did gives me a real sense of pride. None of that would be possible if it weren’t for the team doing the work.

Tell us more about your team?

We’re almost like a group of friends. We have a lot of fun. We have a work hard play hard attitude. But we also like learning. So we have a show and tell every two weeks where two people from the team share our experiences and knowledge with the rest of the team about something we learnt or found interesting. Those are things for me that make the Omnia team so special.

Also, because of our strong team ethic, I’ve never had to ask anyone to work overtime. We have a tight bond and we all have a sense when something is urgent or important.  There isn’t a boss-worker type relationship with me and the team. We all have respect for each other and so it just kind of works.

Funniest thing you’ve seen?

Gerhard Smit. If there is anyone who can make you laugh it’s that guy.