Ryan Robertson is a co-founder and director at Vert Energy and has been in that position for the past six years. At only 33, he has a lot of responsibility on his young shoulders and is being groomed to take over the family-owned business when his father, Grant Robertson, retires one day.
Dynamic, forward thinking and focused on the future, Ryan is multi-talented – besides his daily work, amongst other things he also has been instrumental in securing new exclusive distributorships, overseeing the sales and marketing function and was responsible for the design and construction of the Vert Energy stand at this year’s Electra Mining.
His passion for life extends into a multifaceted arena beyond work. A passionate food and wine lover he can be found in his kitchen cooking up a storm, travelling around the globe and socialising with friends on the golf course at Dainfern Country Club where he’s a member.
Sparks: Where were you educated?
RR: I matriculated from Dainfern College in 2001 and obtained a B Com from the University of Johannesburg.
Sparks: How long have you been involved in the electrical industry?
RR: I’ve been involved in the industry since 2010 but my family has been involved in the electrical industry for the last 35 years so, by default, I’ve grown up within the industry surrounded by the products we sell today.
Sparks: When and where did you start your career?
RR: My first job was when I was 16-years-old at the Ed Holding Golf Shop where I worked on weekends.
Sparks: What are the greatest changes you have seen over the years?
RR: South Africa in the early 2000s was buoyant on the back of commodity prices and was largely unaffected by the economic crisis in 2009 as a result of the infrastructure and development around the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but the last six years have exposed our vulnerability on natural resources and we need to leverage our infrastructure as the gateway to sub Saharan and East Africa.
Sparks: What major projects have you worked on and what is your greatest accomplishment?
RR: Our current remote monitoring project, NERVE (Networked Energy Reporting in Virtual Environments), is the largest scale project we have undertaken. It is product-agnostic and leverages the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) data from multiple industrial communication protocols, across multiple devices and platforms into a single cloud-based access and control point. We hope to have our final product ready for release in the first quarter of 2017.
Sparks: Who has been your inspiration or have you had a mentor who has influenced your career?
RR: In the field of electric power generation, there are two people who have had a profound impact on my career: Xavier Trenchant, president of Leroy Somer EPG, who granted us the exclusive rights in Southern Africa to sell and support the world’s largest producer of alternators used in electric power generation and he gave us the support and opportunity to grow the business.
Kevin Donaldson, the owner of Diesel Electric Services, has provided mentorship and guidance in the field of electric power generation and has always been supportive and encouraging of our business.
Sparks: What, to your mind, is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry at this time? RR: South Africa has an abundance of potential but we are faced with a massive skills’ shortage of qualified artisans and electro-mechanical technicians. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) used to be a great platform for skills development whereby artisans and technicians would gain experience and move on to their own small to medium enterprise (SME) operation but there is no skills transfer and a stagnant economy does not provide a platform for SMEs to flourish and create additional opportunities.
Sparks: What do you enjoy most about your job?
RR: I enjoy the interaction and relationship building with our clients. As a sales and solution driven organisation the best part is engaging with clients from the outset to help them develop, implement and commission a solution that creates value for the end-user.
Sparks: How do you motivate your staff?
RR: We firstly try to create an environment that is fun. We then seek to understand their immediate financial requirements, long term career aspirations and their personal goals. Based on this, we incentivise them with commercial and personal goals so that they first feel a sense of actualisation and, second, through financial reward on achievement of these targets.
Sparks: If you could ‘do it all again’, would you change anything? If so, what would that be?
RR: I am fortunate enough to say that, as a dynamic company, we are continuously growing, changing and refining and we have experienced great growth with a passionate team where the members are all aligned to a common goal and objective so, for now, we are forward focused.
Sparks: Would you advise a person leaving school to enter the electrical industry? And why?
RR: As the world moves closer to the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), electronics and electrical engineering will form the backbone of this. The second wave that will emerge in the next 10 to 20 years is once we have all this data, new technologies and product refinement will occur and we will need an enormous number of engineers to develop solutions and products to satisfy these findings.
Sparks: What is your advice to electrical contractors and/or electrical engineers?
RR: Southern Africa needs you – it is a territory alive with possibility and running away to Australia or the UK isn’t going to solve Africa’s problems. We need as much experience, passion and commitment from as many skilled professionals as possible to make South Africa a success.
Sparks: What is your favourite quote?
RR: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi.
Sparks: Name three things on your ‘bucket list’.
RR: I would like to travel a little more (outside of business) and attend the following sporting fixtures in the same year: The Monaco Grand Prix; the Hong Kong Sevens; and the four golf majors.