IT Leadership Series: XLink’s Craig Lefkowitz on retaining talent – and flying planes

Craig Lefkowitz

Craig Lefkowitz has been active in the ICT industry for more than 20 years, the last 11 years of which have been in telecommunications, managing and supporting the network for one of the primary connectivity service providers in the retail payments space in South Africa, XLink Communications.

He oversees a team of highly focused and specialised engineers, fulfilling both a managerial and technical role. Having had exposure to a wide range of products and technologies, including designing and building specialised solutions for the major banks and some of the leading retailers in South Africa.

  • Name: Craig Lefkowitz
  • Company: XLink Communications
  • Title: Executive head of division: transaction network and innovation
  • Education: Electrical engineering (Wits Tech), Programme for Management Development (Gibs Business School)

We posed a few questions to Lefkowitz.

What does your company do?

Established in 2004, XLink pioneered GPRS-based EFT data communication solutions in South Africa, where national banks quickly came to rely on XLink’s point-of-sale, cash and payment connectivity solutions. Today, XLink is a payments technology company providing end-to-end managed payment services.

What do you see as the CIO’s top priorities in 2022?

In our business, legacy processes have hampered our efficiencies. I feel the number one priority is digital transformation and automation to improve administrative processes. Furthermore, talent recruitment and retention are a key challenge for any business, and certainly a top priority for XLink to achieve its goals.

Who do you most admire in business and why?

Elon Musk. Besides his business accomplishments, which as we know are incredible, I admire his innovative spirit and desire to make a difference in the world. His ambitions in the space and exploration industry are ground breaking to say the least. This really fascinates me due to my own personal interest in space exploration.

How do you attract and retain talent?

We are learning every day to understand how to manage resources more efficiently and ensure that both the business and the individual are considered. To attract excellent talent, one needs to be transparent on the business goals and strategy and ensure that the business is constant striving to evolve and innovate. Secondly, it’s imperative to invest further in top talent and ensure that they are productive and efficient to retain this talent and allow them to grow with the business dynamically.

If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Invest in cryptocurrency like bitcoin. On a serious note, I would ensure that I would study more. Knowledge is power and, combined with experience, becomes a game changer in whatever one chooses to do in life, both in a personal and business capacity.

What’s your favourite productivity hack?

Avoiding procrastination. Personally, I have seen that no matter what you want to do, whether its exercise or completing an important presentation, it’s important to start. Once committed and the brain starts working, the flow of neurons creates a chain reaction that fuels creativity and motivation.

What occupation (other than your own) would you like to try?

Commercial pilot. Aviation has always been a big part of my life and I would love to experience the ability to command a commercial jet.

Where do you see the technology industry heading in the next three to five years?

Having been heavily involved in infrastructure design and implementation, I firmly believe that cloud and edge technology will explode even further and become the de facto method for building networks and providing access to data platforms. Also, blockchain technologies will evolve even further and play a huge part in the facilitation of trusted transactions across the globe.

What is one book you’d recommend to our audience and why?

Surrounded by Idiots, by Thomas Erikson. Communication is a critical component to successfully navigating our everyday lives, whether it is with family and friends, or with business partners, call centre agents or high-powered business executives. It is essential to be able to communicate effectively across many different personalities and dynamics. Communication is one of the fundamental keys to being successful in all aspects of our lives, especially in a business environment.