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A sound strategy will get you to the top

Aug 10 2016 19:18
Eugenie du Preez

Cape Town - Always have a 100-day plan ready when you start in a new position and make sure you implement it in time, says Dr Adri Drotskie. As a strategist by profession and the MBA director at Henley Business School, this achiever should know what she's talking about.

She has a dizzying list of accomplishments: a senior research associate of the Faculty of Management, University of Johannesburg, Drotskie lectures and does research in the fields of strategic management, international management, contemporary management and strategic marketing.

Before entering the corridors of academe, Drotskie gained eight years’ experience in the transport industry and also worked in the financial services industry for ten years.

She told Fin24 by email what it was like working the transport sector in the 1990s: "It was a different world from today. The number of women could be counted on one hand and we became fewer and fewer as you moved up the hierarchy of management. As women, we had to work twice as hard to prove we could do the job as well as the men.

She adds a surprising comment: "The obstacle that I encountered was other women being very competitive as well. I think it was caused by the fact that we were each fighting our own battle to grow and progress. The transport industry was a man’s world and women had to stand their ground."

Always a daddy's girl

Drotskie says her father was her role model, until he passed away ten years ago. "I admired the way he stood for what he believed in and was always humble, although he had so much wisdom and knowledge. He would always be the one I talked to when I had to make an important decision and I ended up making the decision myself, with his guidance."

She adds that she has also had a number of role models in different organisations, who have guided her to growth and helped her become a better leader and person. And in turn, "I have mentored a number of women in organisations I’ve worked for, as well as students whom I supervised and mentored through master’s studies while 'life happened'."

She labels having to give up her job through no fault of her own as one of her greatest life lessons. "I worked for an organisation for many years and was one of the top performers, moving swiftly through management levels and thinking I could do anything and achieve higher and higher goals. 

"And then one day, I had to leave the organisation due to the bigger strategy and organisational changes." She comments philosophically: "You have to be ready for any change or challenge at any time," adding "I believe that everything happens for a reason."

Speaking of the "vast shifts in terms of industries and types of positions" she has had throughout her career, Drotskie believes that every time she embarked on something new, she made the right decision.

"There is a path laid out for your life and your main job is to follow the path. I always set goals for myself when I start in a new job in terms of the next position I want to be in. That gives you something to strive for."

What advice does she have for a woman trying to make headway in a traditionally male-dominated field? "Don’t try to be like the men. Be proud of being a woman and insist that you get treated equally to men. Don’t expect different treatment, we are all equal." Don't take any nonsense from the menfolk, says Drotskie, and make sure they realise that you are in your profession or position because you deserve it through your own hard-won knowledge and experience.

Women are still asked to pour the tea

And yes, women are still expected to pour the tea in a meeting or to take the minutes, she says with the voice of experience. "Throughout my career and up to today, there are stereotypes and perceptions of what the role of women is versus men." There has been improvement, but these ideas are still very much alive today, Drotskie states resignedly.

Balance is one of Drotskie's secrets for career success: "The past three years I have also learnt the value of really having a work-life balance. It contributes to your success in both work and life."

She explains: "My approach to life and work has always been to do everything the best I can, be passionate about it and set goals to achieve in everything I do. This is based on my values and beliefs of trust, inspiring, honesty, passion and being humble."

A reality of life today is that women are increasingly educating themselves further and starting strong careers during or after building families, says Drotskie. "We are strong as women and need to build the future in a positive way," she concludes.

* August is Women's Month and Fin24, in collaboration with the Sanlam Enterprise Supplier Development Programme, invites you to help us celebrate and showcase SA's extraordinary women in business.

Read Fin24's top stories trending on Twitter:

womens month  |  women  |  leadership
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