Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Great Migration

So with the official launch of The Passionate Professional website, I decided to migrate my blog (yes, this is where it all started) from my original blogging platform to the website. Do have a read on how and why I started the blog over a year and a half ago, and the journey from then to where we are now...

I will continue to post about my adventures, learnings and anecdotes that I think will be useful and interesting (both related to the incubator and otherwise) so I invite you to once again join me on whats already been an incredible journey and I'm sure promises to only get more exciting as we power on ahead to change the world... one passionate professional at a time :)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Walk your Talk

The power of a simple walk in the park... 

One of highlights of the Fortune Program was the morning I met Gerry Laybourne and was introduced to the Global Mentoring Walk - an initiative which convenes established women leaders and emerging women leaders to walk together in their communities across the globe, with the intention to build a Mentoring relationship - such a simple, yet impactful concept. I was appalled to learn that despite the Fortune Program hosting South African mentees since 2006, South Africa was yet to be part of the list of over 24 countries participating in this Global movement. The minute I stepped out of Gerry’s apartment, I was determined to change that and bring the event home. 

As soon as I returned to South Africa, one of my immediate follow-ups was emailing the Vital Voices staff to find out how do I get involved. I submitted an application and was successfully selected to be the Flag Bearer for the Debut South African Mentoring Walk at the end of September 2013.Despite the short lead time and minimal funding, but with much passion, plenty support from family and friends, and of course a fantastic selection of Mentors and Mentees alike, we successfully hosted the first ever Global Mentoring Walk in South Africa on 16th November 2013. 

Debut Mentoring Walk South Africa 2013 featured on Morning Live

At the end of January 2014, Vital Voices notified the Flag Bearers of the prospect to host an International Women’s Day Mentoring Walk on 8 March 2014. Being the opportunist that I am, I jumped at the opportunity (despite having a flight to India departing on the evening of the proposed event!) and once again hosted an incredibly impactful event, already vastly improved from the first event based on feedback and requests from the Mentors and Mentees that attended. The event was a resounding success and I was left more inspired than ever to continue with the project. 

International Women's Day Mentoring Walk 2014

Seeing the value and impact that the event has had, and realising that November 2014 was too long to wait to have the next event, we celebrated Nelson Mandela’s birthday by hosting a Mandela Day Mentoring Walk, this time in partnership with Careers for a Powerful You (C4U) at the symbolic Union Bulidings in Pretoria. Our Mentors gave their 67 Minutes of Service by mentoring 67 Mentees. 

So after a third hugely successful event within 9 months, I saw a clear “demand” for more events, and as a result of the powerful Mentorship Workshop and activities designed around the “Walk” component of the event, have also seen an exponential increase in the demand for services in the Mentorship space, another huge driver for founding The Passionate Professional

So in order to really Walk my Talk in wanting to pay it forward, and have the power and impact of the Mentoring Walk event extend as far and wide as possible, I have officially created a brand around the Mentoring Walk under The Passionate Professional. This has enable me to take the event beyond just the global annual event to more frequent and specifically themed events. 

The intention of the Mentoring Walk as a brand is to:

Expand to various cities across South Africa
The aim is to host the next Global Mentoring Walk South Africa in Johannesburg and Cape Town (and potentially Durban too)

Host themed Mentoring Walks beyond the November event
Future Mentoring Walks already in the pipeline are as follows 

  • International Women’s Day (March 2015)
  • Freedom Day (April 2015)
  • Youth Month (June 2015)
  • Mandela Day (July 2015)
  • South African Women’s Month (August 2015)
  • and upon request/invite from various companies/NGOs as CSI and/or internal Mentoring Programs

So here we go, full steam ahead to incubating leaders through Mentorship, with a simple Walk in the Park. 

Note: Applications for the 2014 Global Mentoring Walk South Africa will be opening on the 28th September. For more updates follow The Passionate Professional Facebook Page

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ideas Worth Spreading

Are women set to be the Engineers of the future?

It was a huge honour to be invited to give a TEDTalk at the TEDxJohannesburg event last year!! Naturally, I chose to talk about my passions – women, engineering and paying it forward! 

Being the type of speaker who prefer to talk off the cuff made preparing for the talk probably one of the hardest and most stressful things I've had to do. After much planning, rehearsals and sleepless nights, I fast realised that none of these can replace speaking from the heart, and with conviction about that which you'e most passionate about. So that's the approach I took and alas, I guess the success of the result is left up to the audience to decide.  

So let me not write much more for this post, but rather let the talk speak for itself ;)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

When Passion meets Business Opportunity

Turning a Blog into a Business

Heeding one of the biggest learnings from the program – that as noble as it may be, running an NPO full-time is not financially sustainable, or simply put, it’s a poor optimization of a high-potential, ambitious 30 year old in the prime of her career – I took the next big step in “putting my learning into action”. And let’s just say that I didn’t resign from a lucrative job only on a leap of faith - it was a bit more of a calculated risk ;)

In addition to dedicating “more” of my time to growing the NPO, I resigned for another reason. I have always been extremely passionate about people development. Mentorship, in particular, played a big role in my. So much so that I often say that I am a product of Mentorship – both inadvertently and purposefully, especially over the past 5 to 7 years, through the non-profit organisation that I run (SAWomEng), the thriving engineering career that I had with a corporate engineering company, some leadership programs/opportunities that I have participated in over the years, but the most impactful certainly being the Fortune program last year. In being so passionate about the power of mentorship and in line with my deep-seated commitment to “paying it forward”, I once again put my learnings into practice and I went on to turn this burning Passion into a Business Opportunity. 

After fulfilling my desire to dedicating a few months full-time to SAWomEng, I started my own business venture heeding the learning from the program “don’t be ashamed to make money from doing good” – I founded The Passionate Professional (who knew the simple naming of a blog would be the catalyst to something so much greater!)

The Passionate Professional is a Leadership Incubator focused on developing youth and young professionals through Mentorship, with the intention of building a socially conscious generation of leaders and entrepreneurs with a core focus on giving back to society.

Attesting much of my own success to the role that my mentors (both formal and informal) and the mentorship programs I have been fortunate to participate in have played in my life, I founded the incubator to address the severely lacking need for sound and impactful Mentorship Programs and Leadership Development in South Africa. The incubator serves as a platform enabling me to design and facilitate programs based on my experience, thereby bringing the unique exposure, learnings and opportunities that I have so generously been afforded to those who may not otherwise have access to these.

The Passionate Professional, while conceptualised post my resignation, was only formally recently and is as such still in its “incubation” phase itself. However, with a sound and exciting service offering well mapped out and broken down into a 4-phase roll-out over the next 2 years, this is certainly going to be an exciting space to watch. Through the incubator, I ambitiously aim to spear-head a paradigm shift in the way Mentorship in South Africa is approached and practiced. So I invite you to join me on this journey and be a part of the magic that promised to unfold.   

Monday, 11 August 2014

Turning Needs into Opportunities

Removing the boundaries 

In dedicating ourselves more full time to the NPO, the co-founder, Naadiya Moosajee and I, also inadvertently spotted an opportunity! In facilitating a number of up-skilling workshops to our WomEng beneficiaries, ranging from How to do an Elevator Pitch, to Visioning and The Art of Networking, we started getting feedback from the non-engineers, as well as the men in the room about how much they enjoyed/benefited/didn't realize they needed what they had just experienced. We started to crowd-source some more feedback in a more active fashion and fast realized that the content we had developed was applicable, no... was desperately craved, by an entire market that fell beyond the scope of the NPO and the beneficiaries that came through our programs. That’s when we decided to turn this need into a Business Opportunity. 

Essentially leveraging off the events and training expertise acquired in running and growing WomEng, we founded JourneyMap earlier this year, as a sister company to the NPO, as a platform to extend these expertise to the scope beyond WomEng (non-engineers, and not limited to Women).

We didn’t just see this as a business opportunity for us, but also as a direct benefit for the NPO. We have structured the company such that a percentage of the profits generated are fed back into WomEng, thereby creating an additional, and more stable, revenue source for the NPO beyond corporate sponsorships and grants. 

While JourneyMap is still in its infancy, it is already starting to make an impact and it’s just a matter of time until this venture grows wings. Once again showing how putting my learnings into practice have started to develop the social entrepreneur in me. And trust me, there’s much more to follow… but time to bring this post to end, so we’ll have to talk about the rest of my ventures in the posts to follow ;) 

Friday, 8 August 2014

Taking a Leap of Faith

The next chapter of the Re-Awakening

Five months after returning from the program, and after much reflection, consultation (putting my Mentors to good use), projection, and with recalling how so many of stories that the successful businesswomen we interacted with on the program started with “I took a leap of faith…”, I decided it was time that I took mine - I resigned from my thriving engineering career! Not because I hated, or even disliked my job, but more so because there was something inside of me that was just saying that Now is the Time! Now is the time to live my passion. Now is the time to take the risk. Now is the time to give back. Now is the time to my learnings into practice. Now is just the Time! 

My plan was to initially dedicate myself more “full-time” to my passion, the NPO WomEng (previously known as SAWomEng) that had played such a big role in my life over the last 7 years – joining first as a beneficiary, then very soon becoming a founding member of one of the core divisions, GirlEng, and at the time of resigning, being in the role of Managing Director of the organisation. But for the last 7 years, it was always as a volunteer, over and above my studies, and then my full time job as an engineer – even managing and growing an entire division while living and working abroad in Germany! 

The decision was made in a big part so that I could call on my learnings from the program and take the NPO to the next level. Realising that if, over the last 8 years we could achieve what we did as volunteers, imagine what potential for growth and expansion lie ahead if even just a few months I could dedicate myself more “full-time” to the organization? This was also largely part of my commitment to “paying it forward”. 

Looking back, the decision was certainly not in vain. Since resigning in October 2013, the impact of not just dedicating more focused time, but going in with a new mindset, leveraging off the learnings, networks and inspiration from the program, have been astounding. Everything from a significant increase in funds and sponsorship raised, to our global expansion starting with the launch of our first programs in Kenya in 2014 (hence dropping the “SA” in SAWomEng!), to literally spear-heading an overhaul in the operational structure and running of the organization, all significantly increasing the reach and depth of the work we do! And it hasn’t even been a full year yet! I remain excited and know that there are only greater things to come in this space… 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Blogging it Forward

The Inspiration behind The Re-Awakening

Subsequent to my impactful experience on the Fortune Program in 2013, I was determined to make the investment in me count, and committed to sharing my learnings and “paying it forward”. My immediate give-back was to start this blog, to create a platform to share my learnings and experiences, knowing that I was about to embark on an incredible journey – just what that meant, I was yet to find out!

For me the most powerful posts were those detailing my day-to-day activities and thereafter my learnings from the program so that any other young, determined leaders could vicariously traverse my journey and indirectly benefit from the time, resources and unique opportunities afforded to me by being selected for the program. In doing so, the investment in one woman from South Africa, resulted in the benefits of the Program having (and continuing to have) an exponential reach across the globe. Post the blog being written, excerpts have been published in a number of local, international and web-based publications, and have also result in a number of number of speaking engagements. As such the sharing continues.  

In writing the blog initially I did have my own doubts and fears on how it would be received. And yes, since launching it I haven’t quite been able to maintain and update it as I initially hoped. But nonetheless, I do believe that by not being ruled by fear of receptivity and despite a lengthily absence from posting, it has served a valuable purpose. However, beyond just a powerful platform for sharing, the full extent of the reach, impact and incredible ripple-effect of the blog, as a direct result from the program, was (and to some extent still is) yet to be realised.  

Do stay-tuned and read the next few posts to follow to see just what I mean :)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Re-Awakening...

So I was recently completing an application which required me to answer a question around what have I done/accomplished to date since my time on the Fortune Program just over a year ago? I initially started drafting the answer, aiming to be concise and follow the instruction of limiting the answer to 500 words. But as I said writing and, as such, reflecting on the incredible year that had just passed, it fast became apparent that I much more to share than the 500 words would allow. It was no longer just about what I had done, but all of a sudden I started reflecting on my thought-processes, lessons learnt, milestones achieved and even putting plans in action moving forward. I was so inspired and excited during the process - it seemed that the content was just flowing from my head (and certainly my heart) straight out through my fingers, almost faster than they could type. Before I knew it, I was barely done with the first 2 points and I was well over my word limit! 

I realised that as I continued I needed to be more succinct. This meant cutting out much of emotion and thought-process behind some of the activities/accomplishments. It seemed a shame to do so, as I just felt an urge to write. But with the purpose in mind, I went on the complete the question as instructed – when complete, despite really trying, I was still over the word limit and had to review and shorten further. But it was in doing just this – returning to edit my very first point – that the inspiration and reminder came:

I actually had the perfect platform to (continue) sharing thoughts, ideas, learnings and the like! And that it being very seldom that I found myself this inspired to simply write, I should take advantage and make the most of this opportunity… 

And so this is how I find myself here once again, after over a year, re-awaking this platform for the purpose it was launched – to share my thoughts and learnings with the world. And if these can inspire, assist, encourage and/or enable even one more person to do more… to be more, then my time has been well-spent and ripple-effect of positive change continues.

So over the next few days, I will be fleshing out those “500 words” and specifically be posting updates about what I have been up to since my time on the Fortune Program, and perhaps even give a sneak-peak into… where to from here? ;)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Magic of Investing in People

I was recently invited to facilitate a Personal Branding workshop, on behalf of SAWomEng, as part of a bigger Girl’s Networking Day hosted by Sasol. The event was attended by about a hundred sparkly eyed, enthused and energetic high-school girls! My job was to motivate and inspire them to discover their “onlyness” and celebrate their individuality. The only thing is... I think I was the one who was left most inspired!!

With many learners these days being plagued by apathy, laziness and sheer indifference, it was so refreshing to be able to interact and engage with young girls so willing to learn and just wanting to absorb every last inkling of everything they were exposed to. For me, it simply reiterated my belief that when you invest in someone, when you make the time to show them that they and their needs are important too, they will reciprocate. Maybe not immediately, and it might take some effort, but it all becomes so worth it when you see the difference that a simple belief in someone can make.

How often do we find ourselves saying “Kids these days!” and shaking our heads in dismay? How quick are we to brand kids as lazy or call them incompetent? Yes, no doubt there are multiple factors at play - our distressed education system, teachers constantly being on strike, kids coming from troubled homes - but instead of blaming these factors, which are often out of our direct control, perhaps we should look at this a different way. What is in our control? How can each of us give a little bit of our time and effort to invest in someone, even in a small way? Try it.. You may just be surprised by the magic that results!! ;)

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Take 2...

So all it took was a little motivation, coupled with a lot of inspiration (from being surrounded by some phenomenal bloggers), to get me to try a “Take 2…” at this blogging thing! After a whirlwind start with so much to share (the length of my last few posts says it all!), I slipped into a bit of an abyss called “Life” and found myself in a complete state of overwhelm. Next thing you know, it’s almost 3 months, gazillion incredible opportunities/ events/ adventures, but 0 blogs later… and I’m like, I’m sure this is not how this supposed to work (not even the passionate procrastinator could justify this one!).

But it seems like an intervention was in store and I found myself at the awesome Jozilicious mixer yesterday, and as I was sharing some of my stories with my newly found friends (yes, the passionate mingler was in action), I realised, there is still so much I want to share/write about… and more importantly, that “being too busy” is simply not a good enough excuse!

…and what better day to get started (again!) than on my 30th Birthday! I know it’s a year that daunts most people, but when I woke up this morning, I was filled with an immense sense of content and readiness to tackle this next chapter. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had an amazing 20's decade, but that was just laying the foundation. As I look forward, there is SO much that I want to do, to achieve - and I once again invite you to join me on what promises to be an exciting journey ahead…

So keep a look out, definitely more to come in this space as I attempt to not fall off this "bicycle" by making sure I keep this blog moving!  Here’s to a bountiful, informative and exhilarating Take 2… :)