From Accountant - to CFO - to MD - to COO - to Eskom Director: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward; Then A Giant Step Forward!
The ANC has just produced a new president in Cyril Ramaphosa, and the Winds of Change started at Eskom, where she has just been appointed a Non-Executive Director of the Board. She is a former CFO and MD of the Black Management Forum (BMF) and, now, COO (and CEO Designate) of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA), an organisation devoted to empowering and enabling South African business leaders to engage civil society and labour through an exchange of ideas, by creating an effective dialogue with government and other key stakeholders. We were honored to catch-up with her, to share her insights and help power the careers of our readers:
Tell us about yourself and career to date?
I was born, bred and schooled in Soweto, White City Jabavu. My dream was to become a Chartered Accountant; unfortunately, my widowed mother could neither school me nor my 3 other siblings beyond matric -so, I had to get a job. I started off my career in the banking industry with an internship in 1995, and in 1996, I registered my BCompt Degree with UNISA.
I found juggling studies and working very challenging. The concept of having to sit with 300 odd pages of a textbook whilst trying to figure out where to start, and what it is that you need to focus on for the exam was rather challenging. It took me 8 years to complete my degree. I then went to do my postgraduate qualification in Management at GIBS and later, my Masters in Business Leadership (MBL) with the UNISA School of Business Leadership (SBL). After a 7 year stint in the banking industry, I moved on to pursue a career in accounting, starting as a bookkeeper, then a financial accountant, then a financial manager, then a CFO, MD and now a COO (and CEO Designate), before learning I have just been appointed to the new Eskom Board.
Wow! Congratulations are in order; how do you feel?
I am very excited for the opportunity, although I cannot reveal much right now, I must say I look forward to what this might have in store for me.
I see! You progressed well from Accountant to CFO and from CFO to MD at BMF, but only 3 months ago, you left BMF and joined BLSA as COO, reporting to the CEO. Don’t you think this is 2 steps forward and a step backward?
No! I don’t think so because my CEO at BLSA was requested to step in as he announced his early retirement from Shell. He was brought in for a fixed term to assist in repositioning the organisation whilst finding and grooming a successor. The BLSA Board appointed me as his successor -so, there is a clear career path ahead of me. And I have the golden opportunity of faltering and stumbling with him there to shield me and provide the necessary guidance. I have hit the ground running and have found it to be a great learning opportunity in getting myself acquainted with the South African business environment.
As MD of BMF, you have been a fierce advocate of transformation, demanding more black executive representation. Do you now have more power to effect change?
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