Capetonian Lyn Grobler (45) is making her mark in the international business world as IT Manager for BP in London. The former Cape Technikon student reveals the steps she took to reach her current position where she heads up a staff of 100 people, dispersed across Europe, the US and Singapore…and what she’s learned along the way.

1. You moved to London 19 years ago. What was your first job in the UK?

lyn-grobler-2
Lyn Grobler, IT Manager at BP in London

I became an IT contractor – doing Network and Desktop support – for an American offshore engineering company.


2. And now you head up Strategy, Architecture and Planning in the IT Division of the trading organisation within BP.  What’s the best part of what you do?

Planning and then delivering IT solutions in partnership with a dynamic and growing business.

and the worst part?

Keeping track of headcount and seatcount.

3. So how did you move up the corporate ladder to the position you’re now in?

I completed a Higher National Diploma in IT at the Cape Technicon in the early 80’s. Through the technicon I was placed at Wooltru in their IT department where I worked as a junior programmer. My husband’s job then took us to Durban where I worked firstly for a computer bureau (IDS) as a computer programmer and then I joined a company called Computer Concepts, a consulting firm, where I designed and installed networks and ran IT training courses for businesses. In London I did a couple of contracting jobs in the energy and banking industries before I joined BP in a permanent role. I work in the trading arm of BP based in Canary Wharf where I have held various roles as I have been prom0ted through the IT organisation.

4. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about yourself during your professional journey?

My inner strength – to just get on with it and to see the funny side of even the toughest situations.

5. Was there any life-changing moment in your  youth?

I got a holiday job that involved working in an office environment using computers – and being exposed to that at a young age influenced my decision to study and then have a career in IT.

6. Why do you think so many South Africans are successful abroad?

I think it is possible to generalise in saying the South Africans have a solid work ethic and that helps. It’s tough to change countries so I think anyone who manages to stick out those first two years has it in them to be successful in a tough business environment.

Lyn with her daughters Emma and Alexandra
Lyn with her daughters Emma and Alexandra

7. What’s  your professional motto?

If you are not having fun, change jobs.

8. Your most useful character trait?

An upbeat, positive attitude.

9. What’s your 5-year work plan?

To gain further experience in larger roles within IT in Trading.

10. Bravest thing you’ve done to date?

Moving to London on my own with no job to come to.

11. Proudest achievement?

Managing to have it all – family, friends and a rewarding career.

12. Top holiday destination?

Currently Dubai.

13. What’s your favourite way to spend Sunday?

Get up early, do some yoga and clear out the inbox before the kids (Emma,12, and Alexandra, 9) wake up. Go out for breakfast with kids. Lie in the sun (okay, that happens about six times a year in London but I still love it!), meet up with friends/walk in Richmond Park/end the day with my husband Hannes and kids watching TV with a nice bottle of red wine.

14. What’s the most challenging part of your life in the UK and what do you miss about South Africa?

I miss the easy life – my perception is that we work a LOT harder and longer hours in London than in South Africa (if you are in a City job, like I am, with the long commute). I’d love to still be living with a 15-minute commute and able to come home and walk straight out onto the beach and into the warmth.

15. One day, I plan to…

spend more time on a beach

16. if you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Being able to spend more time in the sun with family and friends.

17. Do you ever consider moving back to South Africa in the future?

No. As much as I do miss the sunshine, the easy lifestyle, and friends and family still there; the two things that stop me are (a) I don’t see an education system or job market that would keep my kids near to me if I were there; and (b) living in fear of personal attack.

Lyn and the girls in Seapoint
Lyn and the girls in Seapoint

18. Please finish these sentences:

a) life is…

yours to define.

b) success means…

being proud of yourself.

c) South Africans are so…

loud!

d) I wish new South Africans to the UK would not….

keep complaining about how awful it is in London compared to back home.

e) If I hadn’t moved to the UK, I’d never have learnt how to…

enjoy a long run in freezing temperatures at 6am!

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