This too shall parse! | Jaco Els

A young Candidate Attorney hovers restlessly above her work station as she scrutinises the ‘techie’ furiously troubleshooting a problem on her laptop. Her right hand violently wrings the metal bands on her other wrist and a curious constellation of sweat droplets slowly begin forming on her brow. Her manager is waiting for a document for a consultation that began five minutes ago.

Then, just as the now-pale clerk’s bangles begin clanging like the soundtrack to The Exorcist, our IT hero swivels around and declares loudly, “You know you’re really stressed when you start getting on your own nerves!” It takes a second for the meaning of his statement to sink in – then suddenly the whole office bursts into loud and uncontrolled laughter.

Jaco Els, Barnard Incorporated’s ICT Consultant, is a one-man stress beating machine and undoubtedly the firm’s designated Chief Entertainment Officer! His sense of humour and fun is never flippant though – he has an authentic desire to energise his colleagues and help them contextualise their worries. “I have a service personality and love doing things for people and helping in any way I can,” says Jaco.

The former British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli once said, “Man is only great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination.” High energy environments like those at Barnard Inc brim with passion and deep commitment. Humour and fun is often a key part of this. Nobody understands that better than Jaco.

He was born in Kempton Park and grew up in Pretoria. When Jaco was 12 his parents divorced and he then went to an agricultural boarding school. In 2004, his younger brother tragically passed away. “Life wasn’t always easy growing up, but my mum taught us that laughter and a good work ethic can help us overcome many challenges.” Jaco’s mother has no less than three university degrees in various fields!

Despite some of the issues in his life, Jaco was able to channel his energy into martial arts. His instructors introduced him to discipline, and the ethics of martial arts still influence his life in many respects. “It hurt sometimes, but it was well worth it!” Jaco cackles. His proudest moment is achieving second place at the WTKA World Championships for MMA and third place for Kickboxing.

In turn, Jaco channelled the lessons from martial arts into a successful ICT practice. “IT has always interested me. From a young age I was ripping PCs apart and putting them back together again.” As he advanced in the field he began appreciating how IT can provide a solution for every aspect of a business. “I’m proud to be able to help improve the technology systems at firms like Barnard Inc, help them improve productivity and efficiency but at the same time allow employees to focus on growing the company.”

When Jaco isn’t drinking copious amounts of coffee, solving IT issues or joking with team members, you’ll find him spending time with his family, playing online games like Call of Duty or braaiing. “When I was at agriculture school I wanted to become a chef but landed up in IT. So at home I am always experimenting with food. Me and a braai are extremely close. You can call us brothers!”

People like Jaco remind us that laughter is like a windshield wiper. It doesn’t stop the rain but it allows us to keep going. Troubles pass, laughter is forever!