Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bidding Adieu To My South African Family

It is 6pm on the first day of 2017 and I am here on my laptop writing this one final goodbye letter with a heavy heart to one of the most amazing teams I have had the privilege of working with. I am going to take this to a personal level and mention each individual person on the team and how they have impacted my life at a person and a professional level.

First off, a little bit about the journey to South Africa. It was the year 2014 when I was first began working on the MTN (The second largest telecommunications prodder in South Africa) South Africa project as a contractor via CSG (Cable Service Group) International through my company in Sri Lanka, Virtusa Polaris. It was a challenging few months as we worked tirelessly to get through the knowledge transfer sessions successfully on the systems we were taking over. Some valuable lessons learned here which I would take forward with me for life.

South Africa then became my second home on the 11th of July 2015 when I finally arrived permanently in South Africa to work on the MTN project. I am not going to bore you with the details of the work as this is not about the work but about the people I am going to be saying goodbye to. So let us take this show on the road shall we?

Starting off with the person who was the reason I got the opportunity to travel to South Africa, Peter Hebden (a.k.a Pete). Pete is the lead architect for the MTN engagement. I first spoke to Pete during the initiation of the project while I was in Sri Lanka. He and I got off to a great start from that first call we ever had. A very gregarious person by nature which made it an absolute pleasure to work with him. When it comes to work, he is 100% committed and there is no slipping pass mediocre work with Pete. He expects a level of quality from his team and nothing less will get you his approval. This was just fabulous as I now had someone who was passionate about quality as I was which meant I had to be on my “A” game always if I were to get his approval on the work we carried out as part of the MTN engagement. Pete comes from a civil engineering background which I must say kept us on our toes at times. One specific moment which I remember like it was yesterday. My team and I were working on the architecture and detailed technical design documents for the systems we were taking over. When the time came to review those documents with Pete, I remember him asking, “Why are those boxes in the diagrams not aligned and of different sizes?”. Sadly we did not have a plausible answer to provide and we got back to working on those diagrams until they were perfect. That moment right there, I realized how important even the minuscule details are to the overall success of the project. Integrity and honesty are two traits that Pete expects from each member of his team and he is the kind of person who will go out his way to help out anyone on his team even if the consequences are detrimental to his own career. That I must say is the kind of leader I admire and respect. He personally stood up for me when I had a few issues along the way, at moments when I was flustered and down. Although you will not see us giving high fives around at office, I consider Pete to be a very good friend rather than a boss I report to on a daily basis. He was always there for me professionally and personally. Showing me around South Africa and helping me out on apartment hunting, inviting myself and my wife to his house for Christmas are just a few moments I would like to mention. It was not something he had to do though he was thoughtful enough to do all of those things. For me, Pete is the epitome of a great leader.

Moving on, the next person I know I am going to miss dearly is my partner in crime, 006(long story to this name, which I will skip for now) and my sister from another mother, Nkateko Makhuvele(a.k.a Kat). Kat currently serves as a business analyst for the MTN engagement as part of CSGI. Oh my, where do I even start to describe this beautiful soul.  I first met Kat when I arrived in South Africa in July 2015. She and I just hit it off from the first day we ever met. Became even better friends with my wife. A very religious and God fearing person who is always lending a helpful hand to the poor and the needy. My dance partner for our year end functions where we would simply bring the house down ;). You will never see her being acrimonious to anyone even if you caught her on her worst day. Always has a smile on her face and was and still is there for me whenever I needed her. Took me and my wife on our very first game drive in South Africa. I see Kat as a very strong minded person who is independent, career driven, kind hearted and just a pure blessing to this world we live in. I will miss you so dearly Kat, though this is surely not a goodbye as I am sure our paths will cross one day.

My geek counter-part Yeshkal Nanhoo(a.k.a Yesh). He serves as a Solutions Architect as part of CSGI for the MTN engagement. When you first see him, the thought that comes to your mind is “You should not pick a fight with this guy”. But when you actually get to know him, that statement just invalidates it by itself. He is such a kind and good hearted guy and you will never see him being hostile to anyone no matter how much people get on his nerves. A very calm and collected person. Both of us are DC comics fanboys and that was the common ground from which we built our friendship. The only other person who loved the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice just as much as I did for the artistic value in that masterpiece. Hacking is his passion and you can see his eyes light up when he is presented with a new challenge which most times he would have resolved with a few days. Professionally, he is a person who is always approachable. Even if he is inundated with work, he will just stop what he is doing and help you out. I will surely miss our fruitful conversations about the multi-verse J. Thank you Yesh for being such an amazing friend and lending a helping hand whenever I needed. I am sure you will do even greater things in the time to come.

Rupin Mehta(a.k.a Rupz) is the equivalent of the “road runner” J. Serves as a Solutions Architect for CSGI as part of the MTN engagement. An Architect by day and a professional marathon runner by well early morning. Persistence is something that I admire about Rupin. If he sets his heart on something, he will work towards that through the obstacles. Can you imagine that this guy ran almost 160km? And this too while being a father of two daughters. Next time you have a reason to back out of achieving your goals, remember this guy. A very calm person in nature and never takes anything said to him personally. Willing to help anyone who needs his assistance any time you approach him. Was an absolute pleasure working with you Rupin and I am sure you will achieve even bigger and better things in the future.

Gareth Hall, the youngest lad and the only Jew in the team. Serves as a business analyst for CSGI as part of the MTN engagement. I must say this guy is quite sharp and is one of the best performers in the CSGI team. The go to guy when issues arise. His approach to solving problems is impeccable. Another very gregarious person who is always approachable. Being the youngest in the team is no barrier to this guy as he effortlessly leads off-shore teams with amazing results. The passion to learn is one very admirable and commendable quality. You will see him tirelessly work with people who need his help until the issue is resolved. For his age, what he has achieved is simply amazing and I am sure Gareth, that you will reach the pinnacle of your career in the time to come with ease. Oh and congratulations once again on the engagement and I wish you both a blessed wedded life ahead of you,

Justin Serra, the football fanatic. Served as the test manager as part of CSGI for the MTN engagement before he left us for greener pastures J. Justin and I became the friends right after our very first and last heated argument with regards to a change my team had just done. What I love about Justin is his relentless tenacity to always achieve the best. He will never compromise quality of a deliverable even if the Devil himself ordered it. That in essence raised the quality of each deliverable which in the end pleased the client. Always there to crack a joke during difficult times to boost the morale of the team. Building relationships was more important to him than simply just getting the work done and that inadvertently gained the respect and the trust from his team members. Thank you Justin for everything and I wish you nothing but the best in the time to come.

A few others that I wanted to mention but did not in detail just to maintain the brevity of this goodbye are Simon Dobbin, Renita Govendar, Chris Wakeman, Tony Ballard, Maesi Mpeko, Tristan Hannaford, Keressa Jeevarathanam, Ridwaan Catterall, Itumeleng Ntshoe, Mawabo Nkewana and Hugo Meyer. Thank you all of you for the immense support and guidance provided during my stay here in South Africa.

As I leave this wonderful set of people, will always cherish the amazing moments we all shared and if I ever annoyed, irritated or even offended you in anyway unintentionally, please accept my sincere apologies and wish all of you the very best with God’s blessings being showered upon you all always.

 Although my stint at CSGI has come to an end, I am sure we will remain friends, quoting Buzz lightyear from Toy Story “till infinity and beyond”.

The fondest memories that I shared with each and every one of you are the moments that I will cherish for the rest of my life and until we meet again this is Dinuka (a.ka. Dinu) signing off from CSGI.