As a recruiter, my job description is to match exceptional professionals to opportunities that align with their career path and ambitions.When you break it down though, what we “pesky recruiters” really do goes beyond that in many ways.
At the heart of what we do is people. People drive businesses and initiatives – the passion and ambition that lies behind it. Whether you are the CEO of a large corporate, or an experienced Developer, or you have just started out your career- one thing we all have in common; we are all people first.
One of the true joys of recruitment is that you get to engage with exceptional individuals and learn from, and be inspired by the engagements you have with individuals. Over the years, a few candidates I have dealt with have stuck with me because of the way they look at things and how they tackle life both professionally and personally.
Last year I had the distinct pleasure of engaging with Atenkosi Ngubevana. She is currently a leading Executive at Vodacom, and is one of a few in South Africa leading the charge in RPA and Automation. What I found truly inspiring about her is her zest for life, and her uncompromising confidence in her ability to add value and make a difference (and that she does). At the same time, she is probably one of the humblest people I have dealt with to date. She is unassuming and does not attach herself to flattery or a job title. Like anyone is, she is a human being first. A mom of three kids, with an MBA at the age of 30, – and a Rockstar at the office, she also dedicates her time to an NPO she is involved in. I have picked her brain about a few things- may you find inspiration in her words to take into the future.
Can you describe yourself in a few words?
I honestly struggle answering this question, but here goes. I am loving mother, daughter and friend. I get bored easily, so I need to be surrounded by constant change. I am a book worm that enjoys engaging in meaningful conversations. I have high expectation of myself, because I believe I was never born to be average.
Can you tell me in short what you are responsible for at Vodacom at the moment?
I lead a team called Digital Process Re-engineering where we assess various business units for opportunities for digitization.
What do you enjoy most about your role at Vodacom?
We have a group function, so I work with all business units, which means that my days are never the same. I get to have a holistic understanding of how a multi-national organization like Vodacom operates.
What is it about Tech and Automation that Interests you?
I am a very efficient person and quite methodical. I believe technology can be used to improve how customers can be serviced. So I am always interested in how we can use technology to enrich our customer experiences.
What advice would you give the youth of South Africa today in terms of studies, and selecting a career moving forward into the fourth Industrial revolution?
I read somewhere that the new definition of illiterate will not be based on one’s ability to read and write but will be linked to one’s ability to unlearn and learn new things. So, my suggestion to anyone really is to be constantly open learning new things, be open to realizing that, what you believe to be true today might completely invalid tomorrow. Technology WILL influence every aspect of our lives, so we all need to embrace it.
You are not only a superstar at work, you are a mom of 3 children, with an MBA. Who is Athi when she is not at work?
I am an introvert at heart, so I love reading and spending time alone. I also love spending time with my friends (I have very few friends). I realize that when I am with them, there are no expectations. I am free to be me.
What is your life’s philosophy? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
I have a genuine fear of being average, so I set goals and make sure that every day helps me get closer to my ever-evolving goals.
I know that there are some initiatives you are involved in outside of your day job that involves teaching kids how to code. Can you tell me more about that?
From being in the digitization space, I realized that the adults in the working world will struggle to adapt to the changing world around and them. This made me reflect on how more young adults are being ill equipped with skills that will help contribute meaningfully to society. We started the NPO with some of my MBA friends to expose kids to the concept of coding and its value in society, so they can choose wisely when it comes to their subjects at school.
I am always interested to understand how people define success- what is your idea of success?
Success is not a destination, so I define success as being in different place than where I was yesterday. In someone else’s mind, I might appear to be “successful”, but I am nowhere close to being where I would like to be. But appreciate where I am today because I am in a different place than where I was yesterday.
Can you share with me how you manage to keep it all together? What is your secret sauce?
I honestly don’t have it all together really. I have learned the art of knowing what I can control and what I can’t focus my energy on what is within my sphere of control
It’s been a huge topic of conversation in the tech world that the ratio of men to women is out of balance. How can we motivate women to pursue a career in technology, and where do you think the responsibility lies?
I believe that there are women in the lower levels in the tech space. What I have realized however, is that women tend to believe that their work will speak for itself, when, they must speak for themselves and use their work as backup.
What really resonated with me is that “fear of being average”. Many people fear not blending in- that’s why I think this message is so inspirational. Whatever your chosen field is, find ways to stand out. By being the best you in every circumstance, it will have a ripple effect on the world around you. And that’s all anyone can hope to do