Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
My career has taken me across the African continent and allowed me to experience different cultures, people and have a well-rounded expertise of Business on the continent. For a girl who grew up in ghetto Chifubu Township, this is beyond what I dreamt of.
My journey has included Human Resources, Organisational Transformation and Marketing at C-suite levels. I have 25 years of working experience and have worked in my birth country Zambia plus 15 different African markets in West, East, South & Central Africa. I started my career in retail and have worked in 4 other sectors namely Telecoms, Mining, Financial services which includes banking and insurance.
What motivated you to pursue your current career path, and how has it evolved over time?
I tell people I did not choose my career; it chose me. I Love people, I love to see people develop and I love to see how organisations thrive using human capital. Therefore I did not approach HR from a traditional sense, I always looked for how HR interconnects with what Business is delivering and how Talent creates a platform for strategic delivery. I have developed an key of creating successful leadership teams for business performance.
This has created a space where CEOs and EXCOs can trust my judgement and allow me to operate freely as their peer. It was not easy, but while HR professionals were looking for a seat at the take, I brought my chair in and sat at the table knowing I am an equal with business delivery. I therefore don’t view what I do as a support function bur as a critical component of strategic business delivery.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?
Being the only woman in rooms or EXCOs and sometimes being expected to be what my former CEO/Mentor called a board “room wife “ (one who is only called upon when they want stuff that women are expected to do and not business).And sometimes, women take that responsibility in the board room and only speak when it’s a topic they have expertise on; Not really bringing their whole selves to the room.
I learnt the to be a respectable business executive, I would bring my authentic self in the room but more so worked twice as hard to ensure I understood what was required of an executive. Know the entire business operations and competently speak to that. That seat at the table expects a business executive, that is what I gave them.
Lastly I have always leaned on having coaches, mentors and a tribe of human capital executives that I have created as my village; every step of the way, faced with complexity, I know I can call my village for wisdom, experience and guidance. One can’t succeed with a carefully curated village
Are there any South African role models or mentors who have had a significant impact on your career? If so, can you share how they influenced you?
I would name names but would be a long list, but my village has fantastic people. These people have been my bosses, my competition and my friends. I still call on my previous bosses when stuck because the village includes these people – that why when I leave an organisation, I leave well but carry along my village. These have impacted my life.
How do you balance work and personal life, especially in a society that often places high demands on women in both spheres?
I always tell ladies, work life balance is a myth, its all about work life integration for me. To balance you living in the world of I get home and I switch off, I don’t turn on the laptop – what about if rome is burning? Do you turn off? I am deliberate on what I focus on and when; If the demands of work are more than home – I focus on that and explain. If the demands of being a mother or wife are screaming – I also create space to focus on that.
Ladies have a support system, when my daughter was young, I had my elder sister live with us to focus on her and create that balance. We back at building a village. You will need that especially if the family is young, have a system that helps your focus on what makes you thrive.
Gender equality and diversity are important topics globally. What are your thoughts on the state of gender diversity in South African workplaces, and what do you think can be done to improve it?
We still have a long way to go; there are spaces where women are thought of last or they pay lip service to have a truly diversified workforce especially at senior levels. Two things are needed, women being skilled to be able to compete at all levels – this means building women’s ability to see themselves purposefully, allowed to dream and bring themselves whole and equipped; secondly leaders that have a deliberate eye to see beyond one’s gender but one’s skills they bring. There are programs that allow both those levers to be pulled and dealing with unconscious biases that we bring to the workplace
Can you share some of your career goals and aspirations for the future? How do you plan to achieve them?
I am in the best space of my career that combines two whole skills that I love – HR and marketing. I can never ask for anything better! I work across the continent where Hollard International is either a partner or we have a flag. I have a great visionary leader in a guy called PK and EXCO team that allows me to thrive. My goal to help my organisation to grow and ensure that both my functions are core to creating growth, contributing and ensuring we are sharing learnings from one market to another.
I have just finished writing a book “the awakening #looking for Me “ out in March 2024 (women’s month on the continent), which will help people especially women to bring their best version of themselves to the places of expression called work.
I am truly in the best space.
What advice would you give to young South African women who are just starting their careers or considering a career change?
- Who are you and how do you see yourself 5-10years from today – with this question when one sits with it long enough you are answering the question of your purpose
- What are you learning to prepare you for where you are going? This includes reading, classes, skills, competences. This will enable you meet your “lucky place” where opportunity meets preparation. You need to be prepared.
- Who is in your village ? Coaches, mentors and tribe of friends that push you towards that version of you that you see 5-10 years
I often say this is a start to being that person that does not let career changes happen to them but create opportunities not to be ignored. Strap your booths and start working on the journey for your growth.