Speaker Spotlight: Rian van der Merwe

Rian van der Merwe, who will be speaking on building an audience in 743 difficult steps at this year’s WordCamp, tells us a little bit about himself and how he got into this game…

rian-family-treeMy professional story starts in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where I completed degrees in Engineering and Information Science, and caught the Internet bug after seeing a full color photo of a mountain slowly come up on the screen through the dial-up connection in our Engineering lab.

After my initial studies I moved to Perth, Australia to complete a Ph.D in Internet Marketing and pursue this Internet thing all the way. I did my dissertation on Social Network Theory and its implications for Marketing and the Web. I met a girl while I lived in Australia, so after completing my studies there I moved to California to pursue her (no it’s not as creepy as it sounds, and yes we eventually got married).

I spent the next 6 years working in Silicon Valley: first at market research firm Survey.com, followed by 4 ½ years in eBay‘s User Experience Design group where I got infatuated with the theory and practice of all aspects of Design. My last position at eBay was as Senior Manager of Product Strategy, where my responsibilities included leading a team of strategists who worked with various parts of the organisation to develop and guide product roadmaps and requirements that meet user needs.

I then joined South African startup Yola.com in San Francisco as a Senior Product Manager, where I was responsible for the product vision, strategy, design, and development of a variety of areas of the Yola user experience. In March 2010 our family moved back to South Africa permanently where I established and grew the Product and User Experience teams at Yola’s Cape Town office. In December 2010 I moved to build and head up the Product & User Experience Design teams at online retailer kalahari.com, where we built the team from 4 to 14 designers and product managers. I decided to move into full-time consulting with Flow in June 2012.

User experience design and software development is my obsession, and I’m excited about the great opportunities ahead in the South African Internet space. I blog and tweet regularly about these and other topics, and I enjoy the speaking circuit. I also run a Tumblr blog called B-Sides, where I post interesting things that don’t quite fit the focus of Elezea.

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