Registered psychologist Nontuthuko Mgabhi, affectionately known as Nontu, works as a general manager of human resources. She’s also passionate about running for good causes and improving the learning experiences of children from underserved communities. She tells Go Hustle about the journey…
We’re also super-excited about Nontuthuko’s virtual chat this evening (Tuesday 11 May)! She kicks off the Salomon WMN Virtual Series: Meet The Women, The Brains And The Bravery Behind The athletes. We’ll be in conversation with Nontu discussing her journey, yes, but also the importance of rest, of making time for yourself, of self-care, gratitude and authenticity. Best part: it’s FREE! Register now and secure your seat. Chat starts at 6:30pm sharp.
But back to HR for a minute…
Nontu studied psychology. Today, she combines her expertise in that field with her hobby (running) to serve and change lives. “I work in human resources. It’s all about supporting the business and people in achieving the main objectives of the business – be it safety, efficiency or productivity,” she says.
Nontu’s advice: be flexible
“I always advise people to be flexible when starting a career. I started a career in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category at South African Breweries (SAB), then I moved to mining (Rio Tinto), and now I’m in the transport sector. It’s been a lovely journey with endless opportunities for growth and broadening my horizons,” she says.
Nontu encourages graduates not to lose hope. Perseverance is key, and will pay off in the end. “I understand and empathise with the socio-economic realities of today, with the high unemployment rate and seemingly shrinking opportunities. Until you are employed, your job is to apply for opportunities,” she says.
Mentorship is career gold
Find a mentor in the industry you’re interested in. It’s a great way to get a feel for the culture of that industry. “This comes in handy when you’re called for interviews,” says Nontu. “Spend time reflecting on your natural talents and gifts – who knows where this can take you? Maybe to entrepreneurship? Maybe outside South Africa?” Don’t be shy – you’ll be surprised how many experienced people are willing to guide and mentor young people.
Nontu’s feelings on transformation and gender equity in South Africa
“Transformation, gender equity and inclusion are achieved through having equal numbers at the top. In my organisation, we truly have equal numbers at the top: three men and three women. This shapes the culture and the experiences of women. We learn more by seeing and doing,” she says.
Nontu subscribes to a top-down approach. Organisations need to first strive for equal numbers at the top, she believes, because this agenda must be driven from the top and employees need to feel that it’s not simply lip service.
“I was blessed. [My very first boss was] a wonderful lady by the name of Suraya Singh from SAB, where I started my career. She inspired and mentored me. I am also blessed that my current boss, Ala Waller (CEO of Richards Bay Coal Terminal) is supportive of women’s empowerment and advancement. I am truly privileged – [it’s] as though I carefully chose my bosses,” quips Nontu.
What overcoming challenges look like…
“[I overcame challenges] by being open-minded and hard working. I also tried not to take a lot of things personally,” says Nontu. While you complain, she points out, the world is moving forward. “Always remember, things are not always as you think they are – you may be wrong, so don’t take every challenge as a difficulty. Most, in fact, are opportunities,” she says.
“Lessons to my younger self”
1/ Focus on the good.
“There is something positive about almost everything.”
2/ You are enough.
“Don’t seek too much validation. Believe you are already enough. Don’t be overly critical of yourself. You are not alone – others, too, are struggling.”
3/ Have the courage to stand up…
“When you do, you are standing up for many other women. Use your voice to shape the world. You are your ancestors’ wildest dream – make them proud! Don’t be shy to be a little different.”
Connect with Nontu
Nontu can be reached on Facebook and LinkedIn: @Nontuthuko Mgabhi.
Don’t miss tonight’s virtual chat!
Nontu is a long-distance runner who made history by becoming the first female from Africa to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 consecutive days. She embarked on this grueling challenge to raise funds for a needy primary school in Dukuduku village (a deep rural village in Mtubatuba). Catch her in conversation with our sisters over at Modern, where they host the Salomon WMN Virtual Series: Meet The Women, The Brains, And The Bravery Behind The Athletes. Register now.