I AM a township girl.
Our home was in Bosmont (very close to Sophiatown) but my
parents worked in family businesses in Newclare (Sophiatown) and Kliptown
(Soweto). Despite growing up in previously disadvantaged communities, I had big
dreams and ambitions for my life.
Unfortunately, after school things didn't quite work out as
planned. I fell in love and fell pregnant, and my life changed completely. I
was a single mother, working full-time and studying part-time.
For many months, I
juggled a demanding job that included frequent international travel, motherhood
and my studies. It was a crazy time in my life but fortunately, I was always
able to lean on my spirituality and with a bit of perseverance, I did it.
I completed a number of courses and graduated.
I have always been a worker bee. Throughout my career, I
worked tirelessly to gain the respect of my colleagues and to earn my place on
the corporate ladder. I believe that everyone has a place in this world and I
claimed mine – unapologetically.
The knowledge gained through my studies and subsequent work
experience afforded me employment at companies such as African Technology
Holdings Group of Companies, South African Post Office, Siemens, BP Southern
Africa, Mutual & Federal and Rentworks.
I held positions in marketing as well as business
development and strategy. These corporate progressions were followed by tenure
at Sentech, heading up the company's advertising, events and sponsorships
During October 2007, I was appointed as CEO of the
Association for Communication and Advertising (ACA). The role, among other
fulfilments, enabled me to make a meaningful contribution to the advertising
and communications sector of South Africa which I am very passionate
From the very first day in the position of CEO of the ACA, I
set out to play a part in alleviating the most pressing challenges of the
profession, from both corporate and transformation perspectives.
Through my job, I am able to ensure that the way the
business of advertising and communications is conducted is ethical and
Throughout my career, remaining true to who I am, standing
firm on my values, principles and ethics and remembering my roots has always
been fundamental to my achievements.
I firmly believe that the difference between success and
poverty is not wealth, but opportunity - the fact that I am able to get the
industry to join forces and raise funds to present such opportunities to the
previously disadvantaged is very humbling.
I am very lucky – blessed actually, to do what I am
passionate about, what I enjoy doing and with people I have a great admiration
and respect for. I don't really work. I merely get paid for doing what I love
I love that my work is meaningful and makes a real and
significant difference, and that I get to work with and advance young talent
from the AAA School of Advertising.
When I'm not managing the affairs of the advertising and
communications sector, I get involved in outreach programmes and projects.
I am a proud custodian of the Take a girl child to work
initiative, mentor to a number of APEX awards bursary recipients and AAA School
students and assist the Lapeng HIV/Aids and Poverty Centre.
At the end of the day, giving back is far more rewarding and
fulfilling than receiving. I believe
that the best way to safeguard the future against its biggest challenges is to
ensure a brighter future for the latent talent in our society.
If I said finding a balance between career and family is
easy, I would be lying. It is very difficult to be all things – a superwoman -
but I do try by paying attention to the needs of those around me.
I make a concerted effort to pay attention to the smaller
things because more often than not, that's what counts most. I dedicate every
weekend and public holiday to my family. On Sundays, after church, I cook a big
family lunch for my husband and kids.
Having a family of my own and spending quality time with my
loved ones is invaluable - it keeps me sane, grounded and eternally grateful
for my many blessings.
It may sound clichéd but I honestly believe that great
things can be achieved through hard work and determination. It is all about
sowing and reaping – what you put in is what you will harvest.
Sow good and good will come your way, bless others and
you'll be blessed. Most importantly,
never be afraid – even to make mistakes. They are life's greatest learning
There is a beautiful quote that really embodies this power
of the human potential. It goes like this: "Come to the edge," she
said. They said: "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," she said. They came. She
pushed them... and they flew. (Guillaume Apollinaire)
* Odette van der Haar is CEO of the Association of
Communication & Advertising. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's
Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.
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- Kate van Niekerk, marketing manager of Norcros SASeducer or slavemaster
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- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance
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- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of
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- Lulu Letlape
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- Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing +
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- Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam
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- Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media WorksFine balancing act
- Managing director of MUA
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