A day in the life of Tsepang Khena, Lead Decision Scientist

Tsepang Khena tells us more about his job as lead decision scientist in the credit decision science division at Capitec.

a day on the life of a lead decision scientist

You’ve only got a few minutes to explain to someone you’ve just met what you do. What do you tell them, including your title and what it means? Think of this as your elevator pitch!

I’m a lead decision scientist in the credit decision science and credit management team. My focus is collections and recovery, and I typically work with clients whose accounts are in arrears and clients we’ve handed over for non-payment.

My role is to optimise our performance metrics. Basically this means that we use historical data to predict certain goal functions.

Let me give you an example: We have a range of clients who go into arrears; some might be good clients and will be able to get out of arrears by themselves. Others we have to follow up with but they will pick up the phone and are willing to cooperate with us. Then there are those who knowingly go into arrears and refuse to speak to us. Modelling helps us to differentiate between the different types of clients. 


How long have you been at Capitec?

I joined Capitec in July 2018. It’s been a great experience from the start. I never feel as if I’m stagnating in my role, which is exactly what I was looking for. I feel like I’ve definitely grown since starting at Capitec.


What’s the first thing you do when you get to the office every morning?

I first check my inbox for urgent requests I couldn’t get to the day before. I’d prioritise them before checking in with my team.


Tell us about a typical day at the office.

I try and check in with my team regularly. Even during lockdown. Checking in is important because it helps me understand how they’re doing, where they’re at or if there are issues or concerns they need my help with. I encourage my team to reach out to me at any time. My days are often filled with meetings – they’ve definitely increased since I first started! In between meetings I catch up on my day-to-day work.


Given that many people are working from home at the moment, what your top tip for working remotely?

It’s important for me to create a space where I can concentrate and work without too many distractions. I’ve also learned to make a point of taking regular breaks, just as if I was at the office. I’ll admit, though, that I struggled with this during the early stages of lockdown; I’d get into the zone and end up working far longer hours than I did at the office. Obviously that’s not a bad thing for the business but on a personal level it can lead to burnout.


Where do you fit in within Capitec? And who do you report to?

My team falls under the credit management department and we report to Jaco Carstens, who is the executive, and Gavin Roman, the head of decision science. I report directly to Nandi Kok, the manager of credit decision science.


What are your go-to tools for getting your job done efficiently and effectively?

My calendar is a definite go-to. I also find writing physical to-do lists useful and setting reminders on my laptop helps me to remember certain things. It’s only human to forget something when you have a lot on the go.


What type of skills do you need to be good at what you do? 

You definitely need good people skills; you’re managing a team of different personalities at different levels and have to be able to relate to them and inspire them on each of those levels.

Presentation skills are also key, as I have to be able to speak in front of large audiences with confidence. My role is also highly technical, so you’d need to have a good grip on mathematics and computer modelling. It’s also important to know computer languages, such as SQL, that are relevant to this field.


What are you most excited about in your role?

Before lockdown, I was pretty excited about moving to the bank’s new building! I was looking forward to being on one campus and part of a much bigger team. But I’m also excited about where Capitec is right now. Our digital drive is becoming much more focused. Although things feel very uncertain right now, it’s exciting to stay in the present as much as possible. Things can change very quickly and you have to learn to live in the moment.


What did you study? 

I studied for a Bachelor of Business Science at the University of Cape Town.


What did you want to be when you grew up? 

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot. I loved flying.

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