The Sage

We spoke with Rishal Hurbans, A Sage at Entelect, (also known as a Solutions Architect). What follows is what you’d expect from a Sage, ‘really good answers’ albeit mostly delivered in riddles, but deciphered here for readers…
Tell us about one of the projects you’re currently working on?

I guess the real questions is, ‘what is a project’?

The work we do as Solutions Architects at Entelect (read: Sage) is split into 3 areas: external, internal and personal.

In the external space, we consult with clients and help workshop solutions with the teams for tenders. In the instance that we win a project (which is more often than not!), we sit with the team for a couple of sprints to offload the initial thinking, then we step away as the team start to implement.

The Internal role requires us to conduct training, public speaking, community involvement, as well as gathering and centralising our IP.

The third part of my role is R&D, which we class as ‘personal’ because it’s a time investment to improve my skills, so that I can feed it into the other areas of my job. This part of the role is really about exploring new tech’ and figuring out how new technologies can be leveraged by our teams for different projects and different purposes.

What I’m saying is that we don’t really work on a project in the classic sense. In our world, a project may be a very short engagement where we go in and ideate with the client, understand their business needs, and then figure out from both the technology and business perspective how technology can help – it might be a piece of software or adopting a process, perhaps by improving the digital interface, or facilitating internal operations.

We then help a client flesh out that idea and materialise that into something that can be built and help the development team to execute. So, it’s very much a consultative role.

We may also sit with a team who are at an existing client but struggling with a new or complex issue.

So, are you saying that Solutions Architects at Entelect are not the same as Solutions Architects everywhere else?

Yes. One thing we do not do is prescribe our own opinions. We work with the team to help optimise the technology they’re using. Rather than the typical Architect that hands down instructions without getting their hands dirty. Within the industry, Architects are often frowned upon by developers because they lose touch with technology and coding.

For instance, Solutions Architects at other software businesses often read about the new technology but rarely get chance to play with it. This is something we try to avoid.

Here, it’s a specific line item in our job role, which is pretty cool. We take time to look at the latest and greatest, write about it, do training sessions on it with other people in the company so that we can be informed when we go into client and consult on it.  We might even go to a Commando’s desk and participate in pair programming.

"We see our roles as empowering the technical skills here at Entelect as well as further afield into the community and clients."

Hence, the title The Sage. IT’S BASICALLY ALL wisdom? 

Yes! The part of the job that’s classified as Internal requires us to pool the knowledge from around the business so that we can all benefit, but also so there is transparency. So, if someone encounters a problem, they know who to talk to. Or if they are tackling a new technology, they can find people who can help them.

This basically means we are involved in just about everything that goes on at Entelect in some way or form. In fact, I am involved in probably too much here at Entelect.
One of our big drivers is community involvement; enriching the community for the sake of the country’s technology community as a whole. I run the AI user group, internal training sessions, refine training content, collating the IP and knowledge base.

And you run the bootcamp…?

Yeah, my colleague and I refine the learnings year-on-year and the technologies. We are responsible for creating the syllabus and the structure of the bootcamp. In the first year we had 9 grads, and this year we had 42 people which is a massive jump but essentially, we help the grads with coaching, mentorship, technical and soft skills.

What is something that you’re most proud of?

For a lot of years, I’ve tried to empower other people, whether it’s through tech or mentorship. What I personally find really rewarding is when I host an event and I’m teaching people something and they get it. Being able to influence and coach other people in, or outside, Entelect for their growth - that’s probably the best feeling.

Internally, with the consulting side of my job I get to collaborate a lot, to conduct brainstorming and workshops sessions to create a solution for a new client. When we land the project based on the solution we helped design, that’s also hugely rewarding. And then when we’ve executed a project and its made a real difference in that company’s business. That’s awesome. We haven’t just coded something, we’ve changed the way that business operates, for the better.

And beer helps! Its helps that we have a lot of social activities too.

So, at these social activities, what’s the funniest thing you’ve seen?

The funniest thing I saw was the code at Grad bootcamp!

You spoke at San Fran Dev Week recently. What did you see there that has given you more insight/ things to bring back here?

It was the first time I’d been to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. I expected everyone to be these amazing well-rounded software engineers. Sure, I did meet some awesome people, but a lot of the people I met were actually pretty average and that gave me an appreciation for developers here in South Africa. Especially the work we do here at Entelect. I strongly think the quality of people we have here at Entelect is probably way better than most successful start-ups in San Francisco.

We definitely have awesome talent here in South Africa and if we cultivate that as a development community, we can do something great from a tech perspective.
Also, the events in San Francisco such as Hackathons and conferences, were produced on a totally different scale. A ‘next level’ kind of thing. I did pick up on some things that I want to bring back to Entelect though.

Any last bits of Sage-like wisdom you want to share?

Step out of your comfort zone. If you’re feeling comfortable for weeks on end something’s wrong. You need to feel uncomfortable in something, whether it’s your work or your personal life, because it’s through new experiences that you learn things.

Take me for example, I might have a special set of skills like mobile and UX, but it’s only because I took the time to teach myself. And I still feel like an imposter sometimes, wondering to myself, ‘maybe I don’t know enough’. But that’s the whole point, you have to keep learning new things. That’s the way you grow.

That’s what makes bootcamp so awesome. The grads are taken completely out of their comfort zone and by the end of it they are the equivalent to someone with a year or two of work experience because of the intense learning experience that’ve had.

Try and look for things that make you uncomfortable; that’s what will make you grow.