My full name is Christopher Nicholas Rault, but I generally only get called Christopher when I'm in trouble. Good ol Chris will do fine. I live off grid in the Garden Route of South Africa.
I've been alive for 41 years and have worked on the web for 21 of them. Gosh how time flies! Despite being a veteran of the web, I still wake up every morning excited about the days work ahead. There aren’t many jobs that give you the same satisfaction as with working on the ever changing landscape that is the web.
I am South African born, but have lived in London, Argentina, Brazil and visited the US, Malaysia, Paraguay, Sweden, Scotland and Zimbabwe.
Outside of work I'm interested in permaculture / sustainable food farming, free energy systems, primitive technology and working on my various side-projects.
I also speak at tech conferences from time to time and post the occasional youtube video.
The early years
My fascination with technology started when I got my first computer (an XT) and only grew with each new iteration. From XT to 286, where I could play California Games, to the 386 when we got our first glimpse at Windows 3.1, to the big daddy 486, which would run pretty much anything I threw at it (though truth be told that was still the day of floppy disks, so there wasn't much to throw).
I finished high school in 1999 and started my first out-of-school job the next day, working for a mega store chain called Game Stores, initially in the warehouse, then later in tech sales.
Into the wild
Roughly six months later, I heard about a job managing the training camp on a Game Reserve called Phinda in Kwa-Zulu Natal. I called in to enquire about the job and ended up hitting it off with Graham Vercuil, who was in charge of the ranger recruitment program. We concluded the call with the understanding that if I could get up to the reserve within two weeks, he'd grant me an interview. The only catch was that I needed to have a valid drivers license. This would be all well and good except for the fact that I'd never driven a car before. My dad never let me drive his car and I spent my formative years in boarding school and had not yet had the chance to learn.
Two weeks later I was on the bus, drivers in hand and full of excitment. I managed to land the job and ended up staying for a year and a half. In that time I got to experience the real african bush, saw some amazing wildlife and made a bunch of awesome new friends.
My path to tech
Around the middle of 2001 I heard about a company in George that was recruiting a team of young eager individuals who were interested in a career in tech to take part of a 6 month bootcamp, with the possibility of a full-time job at the end.
The course was structured to give us a high level introduction to hardware, software, networking and the Oracle suite of products. Safe to say we all learned a ton and gained valuable experience working along a team of seasoned engineers. This was my first taste of startup life and I was instantly hooked. Our final project was building a point-of-sale system for the company games room / bar.
At the end of the six months, seven of us where hired full-time as Technical Sales Consultants, which as the name implies was to assist the sales team with product demo's, developing proof-of-concepts and championing one or more of the Oracles core products. I'd always had a fascination with the web and strangely forms, so naturally I went with Forms and Reports (building interfaces to collect and report on data from the database) and 9iAS, Oracles enterprise application server and portal suite.
Once settled in our roles we were sent for a further three months of product training at Oracle University in Harare, Zimbabwe and I later got to do an advanced web design course at the University of Cape Town. I'd already self-taught myself most of the topics covered in the course, but the one thing that made it infinitely valuable was that it opened my eyes to the powers of CSS.
Adventures over the pond
In 2003 RPC pivoted under a new brand and though I was offered a position within the new company, I decided to rather take the opportunity to travel (which had been a life long ambition). A month later I was on a plane to London and ended up staying for two years. In the first year I had a slew of odd jobs - from barman, to door-to-door energy salesman, to driving a veggie truck cross country and sky satellite installer.
At the beginning of my second year I decided to start my own business, selling fulltime on eBay. I'd met a guy one day while door knocking who sold stuff on eBay full time and after picking his brain (while he filled out the contract) I felt like a.) The satellite install gig was a cool way to explore the Oxford country side, but the down side was that it was three hours drive from St-Albans, where I was living at the time. This meant I had to leave at 4am to get there by 7am and would often only get home after 10pm. Not ideal to say the least.
Around six months later I partnered up with Andrew Neale, a former colleague at RPC and we shifted focus from b2c to b2b, selling to other eBay traders under the brand NuVue Trading.
Adventures down south
In 2005 my UK visa ran out and being that all the work we were doing at the time was online, Andrew and I decided to keep on travelling. After researching a bunch of different locations, we decided on South America. Our adventures started in Buenos Aires, Argentina where we found an apartment and ended up staying for six months.
About the name
So you may be wondering what's up with my selected handle, SmokeyFro. Well, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, it is in part due to the obvious fact that I have an afro. Ones selected hairstyle hardly warrants including it in my your personal brand, however there is more to the story that needs to be told before you can truly understand it's significance.
I always had wild unruly hair growing up, but it was only in middle school that I started getting teased about it. I brushed it off at first, but kids can be pretty relentless. Frustrated, I saved up for a pair of clippers and taught myself how to cut my hair and pretty much had it shaved down to a number two ever since.
In 2015 I made a conscious choice to shed my material positions and moved out to our family farm, where I finally came to embrace my inner cave man and let my inner freak fly. Life is just too short to worry about what other people think about you.
As for the Smokey part, I'm borderline obsessed with the art of smoking, curing and grilling all manners of food. I also secretly dream about taking part in South Africa's Ultimate Braai Master show.