za_women in business

Women in Leadership

"In the future there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders."

- Sheryl Sandberg

Tell us a little bit about your background (briefly). How did you climb the ladder to your current role?

I am one of three siblings and a mother to a 15 year old soccer star aspiring to be a cardiothoracic surgeon and a 12 year old fashion designer and aspiring entrepreneur daughter. I was born and raised in a small town of Kokstad in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. I currently drive strategy, new business development and sustainability for Siemens Healthineers Southern Africa.

I hold a qualification in business communications and advertising, majoring in marketing, economics, advertising and communications and started my career in the advertising industry then later as communications consultant at one of the leading business schools in South Africa, The Gordon Institute of Business Science.

The healthcare bug bit when I joined one of South Africa’s largest private hospital groups as a marketing manager in the Tshwane region. Part of the excitement of my job at this healthcare institute was turning around some of their non-performing hospitals in the region. This involved changing the patient and doctor mix profiles, building referral relations, establishing business relations between the hospitals and government hospitals. I also supported in improving their Public Private Partnerships strategies with Government and developed business growth strategies for the hospitals.

I have developed working strategies on how to increase access to healthcare as well as business development within the healthcare sector in South Africa and the bigger African continent including Benin, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

One of my successes include facilitating the purchase of over five private hospitals ranging from day hospitals to acute hospitals, as well as having contributed in the World Economic Forum paper published by WHO on “The Future of Healthcare in Africa” in 2019.

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

The decisions I have taken in directing my career to where it is has been the best decision. I would say the worst has been not prioritizing a good life and work balance, something I aim to improving on this year.

What was your dream job as a child and why?

I was a dreamer as a child. In my junior years of schooling I saw myself as a political activist and soldier, as I reached senior school years, that dream turned to acting. However, studying advertising was the closest I could get in my creative dreamer mind.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

There is still the perception of male dominance and that women have not gained a strong enough voice in the boardroom. We as females are still fighting for a seat at a table that is sometimes dominated by male patriarchy. We are always striving to create a more diverse and inclusive corporate platform across all sectors.

Which women inspires you and why?

I am inspired by women who regardless of their humble beginnings and obstacles in their careers, they beat all odds to attain success while uplifting and empowering other women. These women include Zanele Mbeki, Dr Rebecca Malope, Oprah Winfrey, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dr Donna Y. Ford, Thabiso Moyo, my late mother Thandi Marubelela has to be on that list too.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

I think remarkable work has already been done by women in generations before us, the likes of Mme Lilliam Ngoyi, Mme Winnie Mandela, Mme Maya Angelou. Our generation has taken a step forward in ensuring that we start moving away from the patriarchal shadow and start being bold and heard. I think the coming generations have the challenge of steering the direction of the globe as country leaders, policy makers, economy drivers, without losing their calm, strong voices.

What are your success habits?

  • Understanding that it all starts with a vision
  • Understanding that if it cannot be measured, it cannot be done
  • Research, Research, Research
  • Taking best practices from colleagues / past experiences
  • Teamwork will take you far, we are all interdependent

How do you handle diversity and doubt?

Communication is key (communicate to be understood and not just heard)

There should always be clarity of what people are accountable for and everyone being treated equally across all levels in the work scale. (rights come with responsibilities)

An appreciation of different cultures and backgrounds, allows for a broader team thinking, creating more sustainable solutions.

Respect, tolerance and compassion should be at the core of a well-oiled working team. Maintaining respect of people, their time and resources has also been an asset.

When in doubt, ask, research, request clarity, my motto is “we learn every day”. It is up to us to show (not tell) that we are proactive in embracing all kinds of people who will bring value to the business and that it’s healthy and beneficial to learn from one another.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have gained more confidence at a much earlier stage of my career. I would have let my hair down more, exercised more, allow more time with my loved ones.

What is the best advice you can give to youth who are forging a path in the corporate world?

It all starts with a vision, then a plan and focus on action delivery. Don’t be too hard on yourself, its all part of a training process for a better you. Invest time on things and people that inspire you to be better.

Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you climb the ladder to your current role?

I qualified as a homeopath before going into medical equipment sales many moons ago. Studying a medical practice stood me in good stead from a clinical point of view and I value and appreciate that time in my career journey.

The corporate world is an exciting place to be now. I enjoy the structure but also knowing that there is always scope for change and development when part of a global leader such as Siemens Healthineers. The key to my growth within such a large, diverse and dynamic industry is to always be ready to put my hand up, push to go above and beyond in all areas, take the initiative and have a never say die attitude. Hard work and perseverance are pillars to success in any career progression. Challenges and new opportunities were snapped up when presented to me, and with learning around new roles I have endeavored to take every new position and run with it at full steam.

What is the best and worst decision you've ever made?

Embracing imperfection as a gift is something I wish I had learnt sooner in life. The best decision I’ve made was to embrace vulnerability in both personal and professional arenas. Vulnerability promotes connection and growth.

What was your dream job as a kid and why?

I have always been fascinated by the wonder of the human body, how it works, understanding illness and what can be done to alleviate suffering. I have always wanted to do something in medicine and while as a child I dreamed of being a doctor, I am truly grateful and proud to have worked for many incredible companies along the way who develop ground-breaking technologies to support patient care and clinical decision making, including Siemens Healthineers today!

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Not advocating on their own behalf and not trusting their own voices – be fearless in promoting what you uniquely bring to the table

Which women inspires you and why?

Sheryl Sandberg has been an inspiration for many years.

Her book “Lean In” was one of the very first leadership books I bought and has resonated with me ever since. The lessons she has learnt throughout her journey are relatable, real and continue to inspire me to push through barriers and trust my instincts and my own voice.

A few favourite quotes:

  • “In the future there will be no female leaders, there will just be leaders” – Sheryl Sandberg
  • Women need to shift from thinking “I am not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that - and I’ll learn by doing it” - Sheryl Sandberg

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

Imposter Syndrome is a real phenomenon – the instinct in women to not believe in their innate capabilities and strengths in a male dominated world is seen far to often. Forging ahead into unknowns means you’re pushing yourself, trying new things, exploring new territory and while you may feel threatened by the possibility of not knowing what you’re doing or whether you may fail, the key is to stop the negative self-talk.

What are your success habits?

An ethos of learning and being hungry to grow and lean into new challenges drives me personally. Reading, digesting, incorporating new knowledge and skills in day to day actions, promotes confidence, and learning from every person that we meet is what unites us, drives a team, and supports a company to succeed. I personally also thrive in a structured, organized existence, and this also supports that valuable work-life harmony that is crucial particularly as a woman in business.

How do you handle diversity and doubt?

Open and honest communication is pivotal to dealing with diversity. Respect is paramount as our differences are in the end what makes us human. Creation of an inclusive and supportive environment within your teams allows for any diversity to be valued and celebrated.

Build your knowledge base and share insights, despite fear of failure or perceptions, often these are self-manifested doubts.

Particularly as we traverse the uncertainty of the pandemic, doubt continues to creep into areas we took for granted as known and easy. Diversity here is in fact the driver for growth as we learn from each other’s unique strengths and experiences and unite even more in a world that no one had anticipated or could have planned for.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would not change a thing. Every stumble, every mistake, every path taken has created in me the person and woman I am today. I feel we need to embrace the fear, use the challenges, and always grow out of them. Every setback should be viewed as a setup for your future successes. The key is to fail fast and learn from it!

What is the best advice you can give to youth who are forging a path in the corporate world?

Confidence is key – know your worth and what you as a woman bring to the corporate round table. Women bring a different perspective, innovation, balance, empowerment, creativity and passion and we need to ensure we raise our fellow women up at every step of the way. Read all you can, find out who your inspirational leaders in business and in life are and learn from their trials and successes.

Stop apologizing for who you are (or what you want to do) – often women feel that being the strong, driven type is viewed negatively. But you can be a goal driven, focused, determined career women AND a loving, caring, supportive wife, mother, daughter and friend. The perceptions that you need to embrace one or the other are no longer relevant. We have the power to be both and be both WELL. Harmony is key and self-care is also critical.