Carey van Vlaanderen did not follow the usual path to the top.
Instead of working herself up to the position of CEO, she started a company shortly after she left university and never looked back.
Van Vlaanderen studied a BCom in Information Systems at the University of Cape Town and decided to travel across the UK and Asia.
During these travels she started her first real job – a sixth-month PA position to the Director of Sport England in London.
Her big break came after she returned to South Africa, when she joined a few business partners to create 4D Digital Security – now known as 4Di Group.
4D Digital Security was an information security business that focused on security audits, penetration testing, and other security services.
“I had found my place in the chaos and knew that I was home,” said van Vlaanderen.
From 2004 to 2009, she served as the Sales and Operations Manager at ESET Southern Africa, which is owned by 4Di Group, and in October 2009 became Chief Operating Officer at the company.
She was promoted to CEO of ESET Southern Africa in March 2010 and has served in this position since.
Advice to young people
Van Vlaanderen said qualifications are undoubtedly chief credentials, and a necessary tool for career advancement.
However, she pointed out that qualifications only set up the premise for a person to acquire skills – and it is their skill set that will either cripple or enable them.
“So, my advice would be to first align your studies with your areas of passion and interest, because ultimately it will be these areas where you find the most joy,” she said.
“Secondly, give equal weighting to the kinds of hands-on spaces that your chosen qualifications will present to you. This is where you can pick up new skills, and actively leverage and apply them.”
She further advises young professionals to hold themselves to higher standards around commitment, hard work, and attitude, as these will be the real hallmarks for their rate of development in the end.
Van Vlaanderen’s tech and business choices
Which smartphone do you use?
Samsung Galaxy S8.
Which laptop do you use?
What is the worst gadget you have ever bought?
My first Walkman.
What Internet connection do you have at home?
What is the best investment you have ever made?
15 years at ESET.
What is the worst investment you have ever made?
A bad investment could mean a bad decision, and there’s always good in that. One learns to make better decisions – so really, is there such a thing as a bad investment?
What is the best business book you have ever read?
Wolf of Wall Street; Firms of Endearment.