A township girl's wisdom

Aug 31 2012 08:20

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 portfolio.

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 about. 

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 professional.

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 doing.

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 opportunities.

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)

 - Fin24

* 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.

Previous women's month columns:

Go with the flow - Glenda Noemdoe, senior operations manager for Metropolitan Wellness

The female factor - Ngao Motsei, group executive strategic human resources of MMI Holdings

Dare to take risks - Kate van Niekerk, marketing manager of Norcros SA

Seducer or slavemaster - Jacqueline Allschwang, inspirational and transformational NLP coach and facilitator and owns Inspire Transformations

Knowledge is power
- Mimi Viviers, key accounts executive at Connection Telecom

Sweet and simple - Sandy Wilde, head of Sanlam icover

Does money matter
- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance

Starting from scratch
- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group 

* Follow Fin24 on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

workplace  |  business  |  women



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