Meet the team: Jaques Barnard

What’s your earliest tech-related memory?

There were these small games that I used to play – they’re cult classics now, but when I was younger, you bought this one game, such as Donkey Kong, on a dedicated device. That, and there was also this handheld camera roll, and it had a roll that you could put in to watch a video, like a comic strip. It was brilliant, but obviously you could only see the movie so many times, and then you had to buy a new one when you got bored. 

I also remember my brother bringing home the first computer – it had games on it, too, and there was this game where you could play golf. There was no visualisation, but it was a text-based adventure which I got obsessed with and I suspect it’s what led me to start playing golf at 14. 

Describe your day-to-day routine, if you have one.

I am quite a morning person, but I take a couple of minutes to wake up. I’ll start with a cup of hot water with lemon and I’ll try to go outside and read the news. I take a shower – which, honestly, is where I feel my day actually starts.

Most of my day is actually spent running with business tasks, constantly looking for new leads, connecting with current ones and our customers.  The most creative part is working with the marketing agency planning and implementing our marketing plan – I actually studied as an architect and even though I miss architecture, all the principles I’ve learnt during my studies I still apply in IT today.  

People who work with tech can be superstitious. Do you have a favourite computer superstition or ritual that probably doesn’t work – but you still do it anyway?

I never thought about it that way, and now I think you’ve jinxed it for me. I see the machine as a machine, and whatever I do to it will happen. 

Who is your professional hero?

When I was four or five years old, there was this golfing tournament called the Nedbank Million Dollars challenge; they played at incredible golf courses in South Africa, and I would sit in front of the TV and watch this religiously. There was this one golfer [Gary Player]; unfortunately I never got to meet him, but he played all over the world and he’s actually been labelled as one of the biggest ambassadors for South Africa. 

How did you end up working at Cleverbit?

I’m married to a Polish/German citizen, and we’d been in a long-distance relationship for a very long time – then COVID-19 hit. I was always working in Cape Town, South Africa, and we were trying to decide what the next step in our lives would be. After getting married, about a year before COVID-19, we’d bought a small house in Sicily, and we decided to make our move. We moved to Sicily, started renovations on our house, and once we settled in, we were looking forward to trying something different. 

There was always this idea in the back of my mind to work in Malta – I think part of it is that, as a South African, you tend to gravitate towards other colonies (ex-British colonies that is). You understand the culture and it is much easier to adapt.  There’s so many things I like about Malta. 

Is there a project that you’ve worked on at Cleverbit that really stood out to you for whatever reason?

I haven’t been at Cleverbit for a year yet, so this is a bit of a difficult question to answer. One thing I can tell you is as a business developer, we have a very long sales cycle, and when you sell software and services, it’s a very different experience to most sales cycles. The highlights for me are the small achievements, getting a response from a cold call e-mail, building up the relationships with the clients and then landing the deal.

What’s the office culture like at Cleverbit?

It feels so different from other places that I’ve worked at because of the Cleverbit persona: it’s trusting, it’s friendly. The way that the developers at Cleverbit trust and work together is so refreshing to work with, especially in today’s world with remote working where you need to trust people. They give you your space to take ownership of what you do without looking over your shoulder. They respect each other, they care for each other, and they encourage growth. 

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Well, I was an architect before I was an IT developer, and I’ve liked golfing for a long time – so probably I think I’d like to become a professional golfer. 

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