Joining DB Schenker in May 2013 was a dream come true for me. I had 15 years’ experience in finance area and I got a great opportunity to join this multinational company and become part of the Schenker family. It gave me a wealth of insight and experience in operational finance which I needed. I joined Schenker as an Operational finance manager and shortly after that, I was requested to also be the branch HR representative. Whilst, I had both roles, in June 2015, the country centralized ocean freight registration and administration functions and I was then appointed the manager of this centralized ocean team based in Durban for all South African branches.
When I accepted this role, the department was brand new and there were many people from diverse company cultures joining the team. This posed many new challenges. I had to balance personalities and expectations which in many instances clashed with the culture and expectations of the company. I have 16 people in my team now. As a manager, it is sometimes tough to handle a diverse team with mixed genders, religions, ethnic groups and cultures. Each of their needs and personalities are different. In such a bouquet of diversity, what matters is the way one manages and handles their team, gender should never affect how a team is lead. I have aligned with many women leaders through history and their teachings. In South Africa, the support of the Leadership team has been a big factor to my success and it also helped other women to grow and succeed.
During my career, I have often had male colleagues in my team reporting to me. This has never deterred me or made me uncomfortable as gender was irrelevant. I still took the decisions I needed and made the changes that were required at any given juncture. Sometimes women do need to worker harder to prove themselves, especially in male dominated industries, like transport and logistics. I have never tried to prove anything beyond who I really am and have always taken my career and tasks at hand in my stride. Being confident and knowing my capabilities and my job, helped both men and women reporting to me, see the strength in me and thus, they aligned to my leadership style, rather than challenged it. People need to trust you and they subconsciously look for compliance and honesty from their Leaders. This, I believe, was my key strength, developing trust and honesty in all the situations. Your team become witnesses to your fair play and lend support more easily when you are promoted.
In my life, my biggest role models were my parents. My dad was a manager and my mum was a bank finance officer. My family gave me a natural passion for finance and accountancy and I studied finance inevitably. I am in the finance sector for 15 years now and all my previous experiences contributed to who I am today. My previous job was in a smaller firm where I was involved in all aspects of the business. This multifaceted job, gave me an opportunity to gain a exposure to different business units and activities. It was not an easy path but my choices at intricate crossroads and higher intervention made it possible for me to build my career to this point.
I am now married for 14 years with 2 young children. I do not consider being married or having children, a barrier for a woman to achieve her career goals and milestones. I made many sacrifices and the road was not always smooth. I spent time with my children until they slept and spent long hours working late into the night afterwards. Ultimately, we need to balance our careers and family life and understand our responsibilities to each of these institutions and find a way to make it work. Never look back with regret and never give up.
I never regretted the decisions I made and working hard all these years. I would not change anything or do anything differently because I learnt successfully from my experiences. We must move forward with the choices we make; life is all about learning. Destiny can find you on paths you sometimes choose to avoid.
I would like to advise ladies out there that it is important to learn to “walk the talk” and understand all dimensions of the business very well. I believe that women today are much more ambitious than before and this is so promising and motivating. We should never stop growing and we should always aim higher. Maybe, as a woman, we need to put in a bit more effort because we may have more obstacles poised at us. For this, we need an overcoming spirit, rather than excuses that hold us back from being and doing what we want to.
Never let fear govern you because anything is possible if you believe. Change your mindset from historically preconceived notions and beat your fears; you can reach your goals.
I would like to leave you with a Quote that intrigues me, by the President of Walt Disney, Anne Sweeney :
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”