Posted by Editor
So I was minding my own business
the other day while the new executive team at Collective ID were discussing the
upcoming launch and who should speak at the event. I immediately started
looking on my phone for names of accomplished speakers when I heard my own name
Looking up, I saw one of the
executives beaming from ear to ear as he said, “Brilliant idea. Mosidi – you’d
be a great speaker – you can talk about inspiring transformation.”
My heart started beating
furiously. Before I could come up with one good reason why it shouldn’t be me,
there were high fives and back pats and that was that. I was it.
It wasn’t so much that I didn’t
want to speak, more that the topic of inspiring transformation wasn’t exactly
new. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that there wasn’t
anything I could add that hadn’t already been said.
Finally after a long day and late
night at work, I found myself at in the morning with a blank piece of paper and an unwritten
speech. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, a single thought hit me
right between my eyes – I am living proof of transformation and mentorship. I
am an example of what true transformation can achieve. I need to tell my story
and how my own journey, once set in motion, lead to continuous improvement.
Growing up in Alice, a small town
in the Eastern Cape,
I felt like I had a very protected upbringing. My parents were both in teaching
– my mom as a high school principal and my father as a physics professor. My mother and her grandmother, who were
evicted from Sophiatown, grew up in difficult times and placed great importance
on education. I even got the nickname “no-College”
for being a constant shadow at my father’s side. I was lucky to be exposed to reading
at a young age. I was curious about everything and hungry for knowledge. My
parents instilled in me the drive to want to do well, to succeed against any
odds, to think independently and stand on my own two feet.
While I completed my BCom at RhodesUniversity,
and was well-equipped with theoretical knowledge, my practical experience and
understanding of how big corporations work, was very limited.
Despite this, I got lucky – really
lucky – because my very first boss at Unilever, Claire Hooper, mentored me from
the very start. She saw qualities in me I didn’t even know I had and pushed me
to do things I wasn’t sure I would be able to do. She taught me to use my
skills and abilities to go after what I really want. She helped me get my first
car and advised and supported me in getting my own flat.
I learned to thrive on challenges
and find solutions to problems. I was given the space to make mistakes and to
grow at every opportunity. This was my first experience of real authentic
transformation and a mentorship.
Years later I would find myself
rising up the corporate ladder, taking more and more senior positions, leading
teams and achieving success for the brands and companies I worked at.
But something just wasn’t right.
Here I was with everything I
thought I wanted and yet I felt unfulfilled. It played on my mind a lot,
because I knew I loved my job but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that
something was missing.
And that’s when the light went on
… I realised that part of my role was to contribute meaningfully to my country by
mentoring others, tapping into their hidden talents, empowering and guiding
them to reach their full potential and in turn pay it forward to the next
Transformation is about removing
the barriers to prosperity – it’s not a hand-out, it’s about giving a helping
hand. It’s about giving people a fishing rod and up-skilling them to fish,
encouraging and guiding them.
My journey has not been all plain
sailing, I’ve stumbled along the way, fallen straight into the trappings of
success and power in ego-driven, highly competitive business environments. This
taught me humility and the importance of valuing others. It helped me connect
better by being more vulnerable.
I realised that enabling others to
succeed not only grows them, it grows you and the team and the company. It
creates a culture that taps into the talents of the collective, not just a
My experience reinforced my
viewpoint that transformation is about more than codes and charters and levels
and points – while they play an incredibly important role, authentic transformation
happens when everyone benefits.
People are at the heart of
transformation. Embracing diversity, nurturing talent and investing in training
and development encourages employee engagement, which increases performance,
giving the company a competitive advantage and a more profitable bottom line.
Transformation is about growth,
which it leads to on all levels. It’s about economic empowerment – economic
participation and enablement. Fronting
and window-dressing have cast long shadows over the true meaning and beneficial
nature of transformation, enriching a few and empowering even fewer.
True transformation is inclusive,
tapping into the talents of each individual to benefit the collective. This is
where the playing fields shift, this is where the magic happens, where
collaborations and partnerships are created to benefit all parties involved.
It’s a win-win.
In my opinion, we need to look at
transformation in this light – as a dynamic platform that enables each of us to
contribute and grow, and in so doing, create jobs and future opportunities that
cultivate our country’s economy as a whole.
For many years now I have
continued my journey of empowering others by connecting talented people with
business opportunities and introductions that enabled them to expand their
network. By shining a light on people’s potential, businesses grow, thrive and
Through my very own personal
experience, which afforded me the opportunities to work at forward-thinking, progressive
companies like Unilever and SAB and now my role at Collective ID, I have seen
that real transformation builds brands, companies and communities with
-Content by Mosidi Seretlo, non-executive chair, Collective ID