How did Mr. Rishan Barat from South Africa become a business leader at Microsoft Canada today?

He finished his schooling life in a public school in Phoenix, South Africa. Not one of the best areas to live in. Was it luck, design or by default?
Rishan Barat of Microsoft Canada

It’s very easy to fall in a place of comfort. You feel you have done the necessary and now you can just take a step back, relax and continue doing the same repetitive tasks every day. You wake up a certain time, complete your to do list for the day (many times unable to and moving it to the next day to-do list), have dinner with the family, sleep and repeat the same cycle every day.

With technology always been the driving force in many businesses, the pandemic has fast forwarded many ideas and many new products/tools were implemented to get us through the hurdles of the logistics of the pandemic.

In this article we see how difficult it is for companies to find the correct tech staff to come on board. Most people have the accreditations but lack the skill required to complete digital and automation projects.

Rishan Barat, Business Leader at Microsoft Canada, had a quick chat with SFL on how a South African boy got to work for Microsoft Canada. He is a normal guy from South Africa, who is now a great leader at Microsoft. How did he do it?

Read below to find out how Rishan never stopped learning or working towards upskilling himself. He ceased every opportunity and learnt to do the job and do it well.

The aim of this interview was to enlighten the youth, current and future business leaders to think big and change your mindset. It’s never too late to start something new or upskill yourself.

Q: When you finished high school in 2003? Did it ever cross your mind that you will be working for Microsoft one day?

“You know, this is an interesting one. I didn’t think of anything. I just knew I needed to find a job, and that I had to make money. If you asked me about Microsoft one day – I would have probably had the confidence to say yes but wouldn’t have had the path defined in any way”.

Rishan discussed about his struggles after school, his need to now having to make money and build a life. He had his side hustles like most people do because a full-time job was hard to find and even then, it was not enough to pay the bills.

We asked him a bit of his journey on how he got to Microsoft and this is a summary of what he had to say – What a journey!!!

Q: With wanting to a policeman at 10years old to now Microsoft, How did that journey begin?

  • Side hustle of selling shoes, toys, CD’s when he finished school in 2003.
  • His need to always ask questions and when was awarded an opportunity in Sage, JHB, South Africa that was his first eyes through a tech space. From an Admin boy to a salesperson and then a leadership position at Sage.
  • His constant observation on how people work, the business processes and his need to know more is why Hewlett Packard, South Africa approached him to head the sales team in South and East Africa.
  • And then, Oracle’s rapid growth and domineering presence in the industry caught his attention.
  • In 2015, he was eager to move to North America and met a VP that asked him to travel to New York City and perform a presentation to the sales team – which is where I was awarded the role in the U.S.

“In 2020 my family and I decided to move to Toronto, Canada and had a few different opportunities to consider – however, the role at Microsoft was a no-brainer for me. The culture, the values, the strategy and the vision were all aligned to who I am as a leader and where I am headed; hence I decided to join Microsoft”.

It’s clear to say that it is because of Mr. Barat’s hard work, need to learn and understand and his consistent work ethic that has made him the person that people want on the team.

But how did he do it? Well, he shared some of his secrets with SFL so that many other people will be inspired and encouraged to go out there and think big. Also, with so many people scared of the technology sector, this article is for you to understand that it is never to early or late to start learning and exploring different avenues.

Q: Did you have mentor that guided you through your transition from out of school to a career driven individual?

Yes. I have had multiple mentors – but this I achieved more around asking questions to everyone that i knew did something I had an interest for. this is the reason a run a leadership podcast today- I am always curious about others and I continue to learn, ask questions, and receive an element of mentorship that way.

Q: What was some of the activities/skills learning that you did growing up that equipped you to become the business leader that you have become today?

As a former U-15 soccer coach, I know the importance of focusing on goals, executing plans to attain them, and benchmarking your progress. I’ve structured and delivered internal training
guides on how to best perform territory management that are being used across several countries and different business units. A significant entry on my personal bucket list.

Q: Do you have any skills or talents that most people don’t know about?

Yes, in addition to my professional role – I can video edit

Q: What publications do you regularly read?

Harvard Business Review, Deloitte Executive Insights and Impact Theory (my favorite on YouTube).

Q: What career mistake has taught you the greatest lesson?

Too many mistakes. One biggest one is – shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Growth vs Fixed Mindset

Q: What advice would you give someone who would want to explore a career in this field?

#1 Work Hard
#2 Be Curious
#3 Believe in yourself

Q: What are your thoughts on STEM and Robotics learning for the younger generation?

Our world is a technology dependent world, and with a continuous evolution – STEM is a vital focus of our growth and learning journey.

Kids between the ages of 5-8 spend almost 3 hours each day with screen-based technologies. 98% of children live in a home which owns at least one mobile device.

Turning those screen time hours into doing some of the stem activities you can find online can prepare the next generation to think out of the box, solve real-life problems and relieve anxiety and stress when kids are faced with difficulties.


Next step will be do get those gifted kids from Africa and other 3rd world countries who are not exposed to STEM and Robotics. Now that will be a game changer for the future. The gifts of the youth are not being unleashed due to the lack of resources and their lack of exposure.

What has SFL done to empower the next generation?

Our COO, Raja Ratandeep, recently was invited by the Delhi Government to encourage the future leaders of tomorrow on how to become entrepreneurs.

SFL understands the need to encourage our next generation so that they too can receive high paying, stable jobs, or become entrepreneurs and slowly remove the poverty in some parts the world. The need to make the youth believe in more and value their opinions.

Click on the link to view.

SFL is passionate about encouraging, re-skilling and up-skilling our new staff and current staff.

Richard White, Founder and CEO of Wisetech Global

Richard White – Founder and CEO of Wisetech Global

CEO and Founder of Wisetech Global, Richard White, holds a nett worth of USD5.8 B.

A man that was not always rich. He was a former musician, refrigeration engineer and computer wholesaler, White has repaired guitars for top Australian rock bands like AC/DC and The Angels. With no tech background. All he had was a vision, purpose and a mindset to be unique.

Take a listen to Mr. White speaking on Money News

He speaks on how the Tech council intends on employing almost 1 million workers by 2025 and about bringing more women into the technology sector.

With so many videos online and LinkedIn learning etc, these are the types of courses that can upskill and re-skill you to take the next step in your career path.

Many people believe that working in the technology sector means you need to be a qualified Information Technology Technician (I.T. Technician) but in fact there is non-technical jobs in the technology sector also available.

Below is some of the non-tech jobs needed in a tech environment. People need to be made aware of this also, so they are not afraid to enter the technology sector.

Non-Tech jobs needed in a tech environment

Non tech jobs in a tech space

STEM learning and Robotics is crucial in our day to day lives. Exposure to these kind of skills to the next generation can change the world tomorrow.

Wendy Chetty