Stellenbosch University
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Women pioneers discuss career development
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 03/08/2022

​A panel discussion which helped young alumni to benefit from the advice and experiences of two pioneers in the world of work was hosted yesterday by the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences as part of Stellenbosch University's (SU) annual World of Work Week presentations this week.

​​The young alumni event entitled Career development and career growth: Winning strategies, was presented in collaboration with the Alumni Development and Relations Division and forms part of a week of events focused on the world of work.

The two pioneers in question are women who have been renowned in their respective fields for some time.

Rachel Jafta is a professor of Economics at SU who specialises in Economics of Technological Change. She is a director of companies, Chair of Media24 and NaspersLabs, founder of the Media24 Rachel's Angels Mentorship Programme, the Cape Town Carnival and WeCode24, aimed at helping children in socio-economic hardship gain from digital technologies. Jafta serves on the Governance Committee of the Bureau for Economic Research, Naspers Foundry Advisory Board and the International Advisory Council, Fundação Dom Cabral Business School, Brazil.

​Terry Volkwyn is the former CEO of Primedia Broadcasting and winner of the Woman of the Decade Media Award. Under her leadership, the company integrated Eyewitness News, a relevant and leading news brand that serves all four stations and has an extensive digital footprint across South Africa. PrimeTalent, an internal talent management agency and Crime Line, the anonymous tip-off service, were also founded during her tenure. Volkwyn, who held the CEO position at Primedia for 17 years, currently co-owns a consultancy that helps companies with leadership training and business processes.

The women fielded questions from young graduates and students in attendance. Karabo Mogashoa, chair of the Economics and Management Sciences Student Committee, facilitated the question-and-answer session. The questions included the following:

How important is it to have people notice you and support you in your career development?

Volkwyn: Within Primedia there were two or three individuals who noticed my talent. But I would say my reward came from my performance. Another point is that when you start in a company, no matter what your position or role is, try and give everything, especially if you are passionate about the business and you really want to make your mark there. Being in trenches, learning how everything works will get you to management if that is your aspiration.

It is also important to contribute to the business outside your areas of expertise and to have a business mentor which I had for 15 of my 17 years at the company.

Jafta: People noticed me, I was told, because it seems that I enjoy what I am doing and they were captivated by that. One also has to be ready when opportunities arise. Every time a new door opened it was a new environment for me and I had to learn a lot of new things. For example, in preparation to become the chair of the Media24 board, I went on an executive education programme at Harvard Business School to learn more about what the role would mean and what it would require of me.

I also absolutely agree on having a coach or a mentor, especially if it is someone who is not in your immediate work environment, because they can then be an independent sounding board for you.

How do you foster connections, especially if you are just starting out in the corporate world as a young student?

Volkwyn: I think connections are very important, but to make good connections that you are going to use your whole life is hard work. The connections you are going to make should be genuine and should preferably be acquaintances you developed at school and university. And when you do get introduced to a new connection, you need to take your time building that connection. Doing too much too soon and too fast doesn't work.

Jafta: One should try to have people of all ages in your circle because one can learn something from both the young and the experienced.

How does one stay motivated and positive in the workplace during this turbulent period in the country and our world?

Volkwyn: Firstly, you need a goal. Having a goal gets you through the bad months or the hard times. But part of that goal also has to be where you see yourself in the business. But you need to be patient. You can't do something for six months and then want to be the manager of the department. Sometimes people have a natural ability and they could possibly do that, but most times, if you push people too soon, they end up tumbling off the corporate ladder. If you are focused, have goals, do the right things and you are passionate about what you are doing you will make it.

  • ​Photos (supplied): F.l.t.r. are Ms Terry Volkwyn, Prof Rachel Jafta and ​facilitator Karabo Mogashoa.​​