THE first sound that squeaked over my dry lips, bursting the
tense bubble that doubled as the space between us, launched my shakes into an
audible reality, confirming my first discovery of a woman in a leading role.
Standing in front of her, armed with a paper-thin, albeit
typewritten, Tipp-Ex-stained CV, eyes brimming with stars for the future, I
managed a blue-eyed, sincere "Dankie Mevrou" (for the audience she
With "You can call me by my first name. And let's keep
this in English", she welcomed me not only into her office, but also into
a corporate journey featuring a string of powerful women.
I noticed a bullet hole in the window next to her and
drowned my imagination with a sip of water as the blur of the new world I
entered slowly readjusted its picture.
My metamorphosis from radical student into tax-paying
citizen kicked off. A world dotted by strong female minds, their fairness and
firm belief in principles unfolding.
Years later, and deeper in the trenches, I learnt to dodge
the spears of corporate warriors from a boss who hailed from KwaZulu-Natal.
Sharing her truths and observations that were so far removed from my protected
early life leaped me into an even fuller life.
The tricks she taught me - to feel the pain of the bullets,
but to bounce back more resilient and determined - became the mantra for a
friendship that will see us both into a very healthy old age, as we stare into
her favourite Merlot to relive the shields we built.
For over 15 years of running in and out of corporate
chambers, my steps have been nurtured, nudged, discovered and more than often,
improved by a woman who offered wisdom and strength to kickstart an idea they
were assured I could complete to my own style.
The lessons I learnt in business were repeated across the
full spectrum of my female bosses.
As the complete Afrikaans to Zulu package unfolded,
demanding from me an equal measure of passion and dedication to match their
focus and perseverance, I carved their stories in my own style and witnessed a
tapestry of experience growing within me that can withstand a storm from
anywhere on the scale of A-Z.
And storms there were aplenty.
And yet, while my memoirs one day will feature my learning
to fine-step with the brightness some have brought to my career, there's a
special spot too for the intuitive quickstep I've developed to back-step out of
some of their fury.
Much will be said this month about the change women have
ignited in our society since they defiantly petitioned a world where men
dominated an era of bad decision-making.
This expectation we have of women hoists them into a
precious spot of fixing the ills of the world. It comes with that familiar
stare a child gives his mom in seeking kickboxing tips to settle the school
You know she's not going to give it to you, but you tease
the beast inside anyway.
Mothers, women, female colleagues, our sisters are more
pragmatic. They know the secret is not in the once-off street credit of the
They find it in the patience of planning the long journey we
are all on. And when you are lucky and open to listening, they share the
secrets they've learnt on their way there.
I hear from Mevrou and my kingdom friend in much the same
frequency as I hear from my mom. They have grown the mix I have become since
waking up in corporate South Africa, shortly after its rebirth in 1994.
With sincere respect, gratitude and appreciation.
With one foot in corporate SA and another on the bicycle,
Adriaan freewheels on Twitter as @aiBester as he co-ponders a @FutureCapeTown
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