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Pursuing my dream of professional independence through lifelong learning – Dr Ferdie Lochner

  • Oct 30 2019
  • Tags Alumni, Dream, Journey, Lifelong learning

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Being brought up close to nature, Dr Ferdie Lochner had always thought geography would be his chosen path – until he decided to pursue his lifelong dream of studying law. After being awarded a PhD in Business Management and Administration at USB, he embarked on a BA LLB degree. He is currently completing this qualification via UNISA, studying environmental law, medical law, and the evolving ethics of artificial intelligence.

Here he shares his journey from rural Namibia to the boardroom:

I was born in Moorreesburg, about 100 kilometers north of Cape Town, and was privileged to spend my childhood years in Okahandja, Namibia.  Having matriculated during 1982 from Jan Möhr High School in Windhoek, I returned to Namibia from Stellenbosch University with political sciences and an Honours degree in Geography and completed my military duty during 1989 and 1990.  However, I wanted to further my studies and subsequently accepted a position as university lecturer at the Faculty of Military Sciences at Stellenbosch University, where I presented Military Geography for the next six years.

During this period I completed a Master’s degree in Geography focusing on Geographical Information Systems, and this led to an appointment by the Town Engineer at the Paarl Municipality during 1997.   From here, I moved on to first become the IT Manager for the former Helderberg Municipality, and eventually I became the Finance & Commerce Head for the IT Department at the City of Cape Town.  At the end of December 2018 I took early retirement from the City of Cape Town.   

Post 1997, though, I continued my part-time studies and during 2011 was awarded a PhD in Business Management and Administration by the USB, focusing on the subject field of Management of Technology.  Following on the PhD, I took on additional responsibilities at the City of Cape Town, among which was that of technology innovation lead for the IT Department at the City of Cape Town, and that of research associate at the Institute for Futures Research (IFR) at the USB.  In the latter capacity I had the privilege of contributing on a wide range of technology topics, among which were the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), macro experiments, space-derived technologies, mechatronics, data economics, robotics, artificial intelligence, the Circular Economy and so-called appropriate technologies. 

I also became a public speaker on a range of topics, including innovation, Public Cloud, IT in Africa, technology cost optimisation, technological literacy, sustainability, and space politics. Simultaneously I had five articles published in academic or professional journals, two of which were peer-reviewed. 

With an ongoing interest in sustainability, my most recent contributions in this regard deal with, respectively, birds as eco-markers of climate change, a paper published by the IFR, and edible plants and insects, a presentation delivered at a farming congress in Windhoek.  I am strongly in favour of the Circular Economy movement, an emerging economic paradigm.*

After my early retirement from the City of Cape Town at the end of 2018, I became a freelancing Chief Technology Officer under the Independent CTO brand introduced at https://independent-cto.webnode.com/ focusing on a spectrum of technology advisory services aimed at technology-intensive businesses and industries. 

Given an interest in law, I am busy on the side with a BA LLB degree via UNISA, and recently became an accredited mediator in the field of medical negligence, also with an interest in environmental and political disputes for which I am registered in South Africa, in Namibia under a local brand known as Mediation Namibia, as well as with the Africa Institute of Mediation and Arbitration, operating from Harare, Zimbabwe. 

I am, furthermore, senate member for a tertiary institution in the IT industry, study supervisor, and the designated presenter for the subject field of Technology Ventures forming part of a new Master’s degree in Management at the Namibian University of Science and Technology, kicking off in 2020.

I have many interests, but enjoying priority is reading, birding, insects, indigenous plants, bacterial and plant intelligence, indigenous cultures, San rock art, Namibian landscapes, fitness, and cooking.  I have, in closing, served twice on the Western Cape branch of the USB Alumni Association committee and during my first term successfully launched the Coffee Shoptalk series of events, which served as the predecessor of the exciting new USB Alumni initiative known as The USB Business Breakfast.  During my second term on the alumni committee, I focused on and actively promoted a single event branded as The Conference: Listening to the Marginalised.  Not succeeding in finding sponsorship, I must admit initial failure at the end of my second term during 2018.  

I am not giving up on this worthy endeavor, though, because it remains one of my primary social innovation objectives and aims to offer representatives of marginalized and poor communities, and also rehabilitated criminals, a stage to speak freely of their experiences on the fringes of a broken society. 

My purpose with this idea is to allow more prosperous and fortunate South Africans a peek into the daily suffering and struggle for survival of these communities, insights into how this struggle for survival influences the perceptions of these communities about the rest of our society, with the objective to indeed encourage “uncommon” conversations between the speakers on the stage and the audience, led by a prominent and wise facilitator. 

The art of failing successfully, though, has always been an integral part of my professional life, and I have been mentoring young prospects since 2011 about lessons of my professional journey so far, and am welcoming new mentees! 


*Dr Ferdie Lochner is presenting a Circular Economy workshop on 20 November 2019 at the Zevenwacht Wine Estate, located in Kuils River, Cape Town, and would like to extend a warm welcome to our USB alumni in this regard. 

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