The CEO who loves his Swiss Army knife

When Ian Russell took the reins at BCX in May 2017, he inherited the lofty mandate to ensure the company is Africa’s premier digital solutions partner.

He was up to the task, and the company has shown a strong performance as an independent business unit in the Telkom stable.

His previous experience as a C-level executive at Telkom – and as an executive at Absa, SAB, and Barclays – helped him to ensure a successful transition for the company.

It was not always boardrooms, suits, and strategy meetings for Russell, however, who grew up in the United Kingdom.

His first job was assembling wooden fruit packaging crates on a factory production line, earning around R1,000 a week.

After completing a BSc Economics degree at Swansea University, he joined Ford as a buyer – and later moved to Barclays as a purchasing manager.

He then spent the next 13 years in the financial field before moving to SAB as the company’s commercial head.

As technology has always been a passion of his, he jumped at the opportunity to join Telkom when the opportunity arose in 2014.

He loved working in the ICT field, and moved from chief procurement officer to chief administration office and then BCX CEO in only three years.

Russell said his career advancements are thanks to 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. “The harder you practice, the luckier you get,” he said.

His advice to people looking to advance their career is to be as clear as you can be on the end goal.

“If you have a guiding long-term goal, building a portfolio of experience and leveraging each and every opportunity that comes along is so much easier,” said Russell.

A bit of humour along the way can also help. “I still ask myself what do I want to be when I grow up?” he said.

Russell’s tech and business choices

Ian Russell

MyBroadband asked Russell about his tech and business choices.

Which smartphone do you use?

iPhone X

Which laptop do you use?

Lenovo X1 Yoga

What is the best gadget you have ever bought?

A Swiss Army knife. I bought it in 1982, and still use it today. I can do just about everything, most importantly it has a very effective corkscrew on it.

What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?

A very fancy, expensive corkscrew with lots of levers and unnecessary engineering. It broke first time round.

What Internet connection do you have at home?

Telkom fibre. Obviously.

What is the best investment you have ever made?

A cup of coffee that created the first sit down moment to talk to the person that I now call my wife.

What is the worst investment you have ever made?

Any car that I have ever owned.

What is the best business book you have ever read?

Getting To Yes, by Bill Ury and Roger Fisher.

Now read: Coding should become South Africa’s 12th official language – BCX CEO

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The CEO who loves his Swiss Army knife