Rain CTO Gustav Schoeman had a unique path to becoming a high-level telecoms executive.
Instead of working his way up the ranks, he was entrepreneurial – which propelled him to the top.
Schoeman had a keen interest in technology from a young age and was always tinkering on something – from building electronics projects to writing software.
He studied electric and electronic engineering, after which he worked at or founded a variety of tech startups.
Early in his career he invented a new way of recording telephone conversations – which he patented, and which was subsequently licensed to a US company.
“This afforded me the opportunity to spend lots of time in New York and learn how they do things on that side of the world,” he said.
After getting a taste for entrepreneurial endeavours, Schoeman continued on this path worked in his own company.
This made him a logical choice for the CTO position at Rain, a company looking to disrupt the local telecommunications market.
While being a top executive gives you the ability to shape the direction of a new telecoms company, Schoeman said he misses certain aspects of being a lower-level techie.
“I enjoyed the late-night camaraderie of hacking something together for an urgent project and really innovating within serious constraints,” he said.
He recalls how he once went to China for three months to set up a factory to do outsourced manufacturing, with barely enough money to sustain himself.
“I found the experience of operating in a completely unfamiliar environment, buying electronic components from an electronics “flea market”, and building a fantastic product deeply rewarding,” he said.
Schoeman’s biggest tech blunder
Schoeman had many highlights in his career, including seeing the first product which he designed and developed on the shelfs of a large US computer retailer.
There were, however, many technical blunders along the road.
“One which was particularly embarrassing was accidentally deleting the Nigerian pension commission’s database while trying to integrate our system into it,” he said.
“Luckily, they had a recent backup and it just cost a couple of hours of work to fix it.”
Schoeman’s tech and business choices
Linux, Windows, or macOS?
Windows for laptop, Linux for everything embedded.
Which smartphone do you use?
Huawei Mate 10.
Which laptop do you use?
What is the best gadget you have ever bought?
My first smartphone.
What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?
What Internet connection do you have at home?
For gaming: PC, PS4, or Xbox?
What is your favourite game?
I used to be potent at any 3D shooter, but I haven’t played anything in years.
What is the best investment you have ever made?
Always learning something new.
What is the worst investment you have ever made?
What is the best business or IT book you have ever read?
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.