You Don’t Get if You Don’t Ask

At about 10:30pm one night, I came across a post by one of my favourite South African authors and speakers, John Sanei. John had shared a picture of himself preparing to deliver a keynote address the following morning at Singularity University’s (South African) Executive Programme.

(If you’re not familiar with Singularity University, you’ve either been living under a rock for the past few years or you’re going to be the first employee to be replaced by a robot.)

So I decided to take a chance: I direct messaged Shayne Mann (Co-CEO of SingularityU South Africa, standing with me in the above photo) and asked him if he’d allow me to attend John’s talk. I added that I knew it was a long shot and mentioned that I’d recently graduated from university and would really cherish the opportunity to learn.

To my surprise, Shayne replied almost immediately. He told me that “long shots are what the new world is all about.”

So early the next morning, I had the privilege of listening to John Sanei deliver a keynote on his (soon-to-be-released) book, FOREsight, in a room full of executives at the SingularityU South Africa Executive Programme. I had several “aha moments.” John Sanei’s talk was based on his new book FOREsight, and he spoke at lengths about the power of curiosity, and how we as people must value and nurture this trait, particularly in a fast-paced, tech-driven world. In addition, he spoke about how data has become the world’s most valuable commodity—something I found really interesting, seeing as I now work at Google.

Sashin Pillay Gonzalez

To top it all off, I had the opportunity to chat to him and Shayne afterward about my plans going forward (about which they were most encouraging!). I have stayed in contact with Shayne, and he has assured me of his support and time if I ever need it. I plan on reconnecting with him when I visit South Africa later this year. He’s a great guy and really epitomizes what it means to be a leader! John and I have also been in contact since I had the chance to meet him, and he sent me a really nice “good luck” message when I left for Dublin to join Google.

I’m often reminded of my conversation with Shayne at the SingularityU South Africa Executive Programme. Upon saying cheers to him, he told me this: “You don’t get if you don’t ask.” Words to live by!


Sashin Pillay Gonzalez attended the SingularityU South Africa Executive Programme in May 2019. We regularly feature posts from alumni and community members who share their perspectives and experiences. Content in this post originally appeared in Sashin’s article, published at Learning with Sash on May 16, 2019. Learn more about Sashin’s work at https://www.uconnect.africa/.