Hugo Timmerman

Head of IT,
IT, South Africa

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Hugo Timmerman

“I studied International Business and Administration at university, and one of the lecturers got me interested in the ‘sweet spot’ that can occur when a business operates within a multicultural environment in a way that benefits both. In fact, the main reason I joined the company five and a half years ago was for the international exposure, which I’d never have experienced had I stayed at the SME where I was a consultant.

“After stints in the Netherlands and the UK, I now work in Stellenbosch, outside of Cape Town, where I moved 15 months ago to take up my role as Head of IT. International relocations are always complex, with lots of red tape, and my own relocation to South Africa was no exception. But the physical move itself was very smooth. The company looked after it all; it even arranged for my wife and I to have a ‘look and see’ visit in the months before to check out the area, its houses and its schools.

“We’re a very progressive company – if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here any longer. We operate in a threatened industry, and as the playing field gets smaller, the competition gets more intense. The battle for us is not just with the consumer, it’s with our competitors. We have to be very innovative when it comes to new products, new packaging, new ways of going to market. And while in many instances we’re not allowed to do traditional marketing, I still think of us as being one of the world’s top marketing companies.

“Being Dutch, I’m typically direct in how I communicate with people. But I know that when I’m in other countries – the UK, for instance – I have to behave differently from the way I do here in South Africa. I’m not always keen on doing this, but I know that it’s in sync with my life philosophy, which is to keep learning and having fun. How I interact with people from other cultures is obviously a big part of this.

“I have a motto that I’ve used throughout my working life: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.’  Essentially, it means that your destiny is in your own hands. There are lots of opportunities here, but they won’t just be handed to you. You have to work incredibly hard – but more importantly, you have to do things the right way. When I joined, I kept moving up the ladder by telling myself that I would achieve this next goal. I would lead the battle on behalf of my team. I wouldn’t be the one who let anyone down. It definitely wouldn’t be me.”