Dewald vd Heever: The number cruncher

2011-06-10 16:03

“My grandfather and two uncles were pastors, so that was my first choice.

Then I realised I didn’t like people that much.

I’d rather work with numbers,” jokes Dewald van den Heever, an actuary at Liberty.

When I was three or four years old, I would help count the collection money, so it was always going to be something financial.”

Van den Heever was in the news back in 2003 after he got 11 distinctions for matric but still couldn’t get a bursary.

After what he terms “a hoo-hah” in the papers that brought him to the attention of both Tony Leon and Nelson Mandela, Madiba picked up the phone and Van den Heever got his well-deserved bursary.

Eight years later, Van den Heever has one more exam to complete before he’s fully qualified, but he’s passionate about his job – one few people can describe and even fewer know about.

When asked to explain what he does, after a little thought he says: “It’s using mathematical skills to find solutions to unusual problems.”

Asked if you have to be particularly bright to do what he does, he brushes it off, saying that all you need is “attention to detail. I have to look at data and see that it looks funny”.

That’s as specific as he can be given the universe of variables his profession covers.

Which means, Van den Heever says, he’ll never get bored, which was always the plan.

“I have always been blessed that I pursued what I wanted and it worked out. The idea was always to work hard and enjoy doing it.”

As a representative of South Africa’s next generation, Van den Heever says that in some ways, things are much harder.

“I think it’s not as easy as it used to be.

I know that comes from my background and I know for some people it was always hard.

“What I mean is that when my father’s generation left school, you got a job, worked to a certain level and could afford a house and a car.

Now it takes much longer and it’s harder to get to that point.”

The 26-year-old number cruncher is philosophical about the way things are though.

He wonders if perhaps young people sometimes flounder when trying to choose a career because there is so much more out there to choose from.

“You have to be really specialised these days to get anywhere.

But for every positive there’s a negative. Before you could play in the street, now you have 75 TV channels to choose from.”

Whatever the challenge, it seems that Van den Heever and those of his generation who share his attitude to change and hard work will succeed.

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