Meet the Team: Jacques Pienaar | Graphic Designer

Witty with only a dash of seriousness, Jacques has managed to make his name as the guy who will get it done. As a small team, we all wear different hats, but thanks to his determination, especially around things he is passionate about, he has managed to adopt the occasional role of internal event organiser, human birthday reminder, and even PowerPoint guru (although he won’t be putting that on his CV). Jacques has been a part of the team since November 2017. He is a perfectionist in his work and is always ready to drop a ‘swamp wobbly’ mid-conversation. We asked him a few questions and this is what he had to say:

What do you do at Quazar?
Alongside my fellow designers I do all things design and creative. From brand conceptualising to funky PowerPoint presentations. But, shhhh, don’t say the latter too loud…

What is your favourite thing about your career?
Being creative and in the process enriching and uplifting the companies we work with. As well as seeing our work come to life and become tangible. Extremely rewarding!

Where do you originally come from and where do you stay now?
I was born in a small town in the Free State called Kroonstad – or as the Englishman would call it, ‘Crown Town’. Soon after my first birthday, we moved down to Bloemfontein, lived there for the majority of my life, and moved to Cape Town exactly three years ago to settle in ‘The Valley’, aka Noordhoek.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I guess anywhere along the coast, right on the beach, where there are proper, consistent waves to surf.

What is your favourite vacation?
Pretty much anywhere if my wife and family are right there with me – I’m happy.

What would you change about yourself if you could?
To be more patient.

What motivates you to work hard?
Reward would probably take first place but not the sole reason. Being able to push my limits motivates me to do better and progress.

Who is your hero?
I don’t really have one specific ‘hero’ but have a few people in my life to whom I look up to that inspire me.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
I think my proudest accomplishment would be that, from a young age, I’ve decided that my past will never define me. It’s something I can’t do on my own, of course, and therefore I hold fast to my Christain faith that still guides me as I go.

What is your favourite book to read?
Well, as a kid I loved reading R.L Stein’s short stories, Goosebumps. But as I grew up my interests shifted and so I pushed reading right to the back of the queue. During the lockdown, I took up reading and I’m loving it again! I’m currently reading the series, “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan. It’s brilliant. And Amazon’s shooting a series on these books as we speak; airing in 2021.

Who is your favourite author?
Since I only started ready again recently, I love the way Robert Jordan writes. Really enjoying the depth and creativity. 

What makes you laugh the most? 

I’m a bit of a masochist – do with it what you want. But what really makes me laugh is wittiness. When someone’s not trying too hard to be funny. It really takes a lot to make me laugh out loud though but if you do, kudos to you. 

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? 

I would want to do all the things I love which would look something like this: a five-hour morning surf; then head out to a recording studio where I’ll smash it out on the drums with whichever band; visit a wine farm afterwards with my wife and friends; and end the day off, as the sun sets, watching a live performance by John Mayer on a boat cruise. Let’s go!

What is your favourite game or sport to watch and play?
I love watching cricket, rugby, UFC, surfing, Olympics, golf, you name it. Playing on the other hand… I’m really getting into surfing now(Can you tell?) It’s loads of fun and not too difficult to ‘find your feet’ inOther than that, I enjoy playing any sort of sports: played cricket and rugby in junior/primary school as well as socially. Also, tackled quite an array of sports post-school years, like rock climbing, skateboarding, squash, touch rugby, ultimate frisbee, golf, ag the list is pretty long. Point is, I love sports!

What would you sing at Karaoke night?
“Dirty Little Secret” from the All American Rejects.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Steak without a doubt. Steak with veggies, salad and baby potatoes. 

We’ve Done It All Before: How We Made Working From Home Work For Us

There’s no traffic. Shelves in most convenient stores are empty. Restaurants and bars have shut their doors. For the first time in modern history, large numbers of people around the world are working together by staying at home in an effort to combat COVID-19.

Oh, the stories we will tell future generations.

But for anyone experiencing the ‘work from home’ scenario for the first time, you will soon realise that it’s no easy feat – or at least it takes some getting used to. It requires a sense of discipline and routine that many of us rely on our office environment to provide us. Unlike those who have flexi hours or who have the option to work from home whenever they want, things tend to get a bit tricky when one doesn’t have an office – or a base, if you will – to go to every day.

Last year while we waited for our new offices to be set up, the Quazar team worked from home for just under two months. Armed with Slack and good WiFi, we each set up our home office and proceeded to continue to deliver on the high quality of work that we promise our clients.

How were we able to do this?

Touch, pause, engage

To get the most out of your team working from home, stick with the processes already implemented in your day-to-day operations. Don’t change things too much just because people aren’t in the same room.

We check in daily to ensure everyone is on the same page, and also to kind of catch up and have a laugh. Our daily scrum sessions start at 9:30 AM, include traffic and project managers and client service, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the projects we are handling at the time. This has been the most important daily routine to stick with. From there, tasks are dished out and any one-on-one communication is conducted over Slack or phone.

But that doesn’t mean we didn’t need to adapt. Because of the seriousness of COVID-19, we have set up an earlier scrum with those who are working on a COVID-specific project. This starts at 8 AM, lasts 20 minutes, and gives us an hour to do some work before we check in again at 9:30 AM with the rest of the team.

The sharpest tools in the toolshed

Adopting digital tools are a great way to ensure that things continue to run the way they have, just with minor, digital tweaks.

However, finding the perfect tool to effortlessly slot into the way you work can be a daunting task. But now’s the time to embark on that task. Pick a problem that needs to be solved, use Google and industry-relevant recommendations to find the best suggestions, sign up for them one by one and play around. Trying them all out all at once by completing an actual task allows you to recognise the slight differences quickly. I promise you now, a simple TAB button shortcut can make all the difference in time saved, making that extra one dollar worth it.

We use Slack to communicate. We have various channels dedicated to different projects and have integrated most of our project management tools to ensure we keep up to date with things we have planned for but that might get lost.

For project management, we use Monday.com which not only sends notifications to a related Slack channel but also allows anyone in the team to get a quick view of what’s in the pipeline or where people are at.

And let me not forget about Zoom! A fantastic tool for meetings or quick discussions – and you don’t always have to use the camera!

No power, no problem

Okay, so we’re working from home and everything is hunky-dory until BAM, the electricity goes off. Thanks, Eskom. At work it’s all good; we have an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) setup which allows a seamless transition into loadshedding. But at home, it’s a different story.

Since our initial work-from-home stint, the Quazar office works from home every Wednesday. One day less to spend hours in traffic wasting petrol. And it’s because of this that I’ve managed to work out how to continue working effectively.

Check this out: Depending on your working hours (ours are 8:30 AM – 5 PM) and loadshedding timetable, you can expect to lose, at max, two and a half hours of production a day. At times, I’ve started work at 10 AM and finished at 4 PM, and at others, I have lost working hours midday – but if you use one hour for lunch, you’re only really losing out on an hour and a half.

To make it work you need to be prepared for the day, not only or your sake, but for your team’s sake, too. Download an app like EskomSePush, inform your team what hours you will be affected, and if you have deadlines shift your personal life to meet them. I either start earlier or work later and always let my team know.

If you’re not working remotely are you even remotely working?

In the beginning, there will no doubt be challenges. It’s lonely, and at times boring; there’s no one to bounce ideas off or to laugh with; no one to give a hard time to or eat lunch with.

But after a few minor adjustments, office banter turns to memes shared on chat groups, you can play whatever music you want at whatever volume, and you start to appreciate the face time you do have with your colleagues, realising just how close you really are and that you might have missed their company.

And trust goes a long way. Not only is it important for you to trust that your team will still work in the same way as they have, but also for you to show and prove that you’re there when they need you. Communicate your fears, let people know about where you are at and if you realise things are getting out of control (like your personal hygiene/work hours/isolation) make a mental note to work on it. Take a shower. Stop working when work is over. Go find a human to talk to. Just no touching!

As veterans in this scenario, I asked my team members for some tips on making it work and here’s what they offered:

  • Set your alarm and get up and get ready as if you are going to work
  • Make sure you have a stock of coffee (running out at 10 AM is not fun)
  • Do exactly what you would do on a normal day – except physically go to work
  • Do not work in your pajamas. But if it’s hot, underwear is acceptable
  • Leave your house. Sure, we’re in a mild sort of shutdown, but going for a short walk/run is necessary to keep your mind active and clear your head
  • Get away from your screen. Working from home can mess up your hours and you find yourself never leaving your screen. When work hours are over, shut down for at least two hours and give your eyes a rest
  • The mute button is your friend in meetings!
  • Make sure your workspace is separate from your living space so you can ‘lock up’ at the end of the day, even if it’s just mentally

It’s at times like these that change the way we work, and with good WiFi and uncompromised discipline, you might never have to work in an office again.

Command. See. Vee.

In a world where everything seems to be driven by tech and the ‘I WANT IT NOW’ culture, it seems fitting to pause, take a breath and tip our hat to a man who passed away last week. A man whom the youth of today probably don’t even give a second thought too. Yet, utilise his genius discovery on a daily basis in the workplace.

Where would we be without Larry Tesler? Let me tell you. You’d be typing. A lot. Or doing double, nay, triple the work you’d have to!

Mr Tesler started working in Silicon Valley in the early 1960s, at a time when computers were inaccessible to the vast majority of people. It was thanks to his innovations – which included the “cut”, “copy” and “paste” commands – that the personal computer became simple to learn and use.*

It was this tool that has made almost every computer-using human a ‘copy and paste’ animal. We all do it. We all need it. But how does duplicity or ‘copying’ affect our creative mind?

I guess I come from a bit of the old school creative approach where I prefer to scribble and doodle my ideas in a strategic way before even touching the magic keyboard or mouse. Make sure the idea makes sense. The concept of originality in the world we live in becomes increasingly more difficult as time goes on, you only have to google your idea or a ‘word’ and you can instantly be bombarded with a global pummelling of visual representations. Which in turn, you can copy and paste. It sometimes feels apparent that there is no such thing as a new idea, but that doesn’t mean you’ve copied it.

I guess the best approach is to keep thinking for ourselves. Keep trying. Keep pushing the creative envelope. Keep creating. I mean, if Larry didn’t do that, we might just be stuck with a whole load of copied stuff and nowhere to paste it!

*P.s. I copied and pasted this part from an article on bbc.com