for young alumni
world of work
value for you
inside wits connect november 2018
4 connect 5 benefits 6 news 7 sport 8-9 braamfontein - things to do 10-13 world of work 14 profile: murray nossel 16 fourth industrial revolution 18 leadership: gail kelly 20 books 22 social entrepreneurs 24 technology 46 weddings
Cover photo: Abovebrent
38 41 32 inspiring alumni 26-29 international witsies 30 foodies 32 film 33-37 construction 38 civil engineering 40 telecommunications 41 gaming 42 aeronautical engineering 43 music 44 banking/food 45 molecular biology
Witsie for life Welcome to our new online magazine for young Wits alumni – the generation who are building careers and leading busy, demanding lives in a time of challenges and change. Being part of the Wits alumni network gives you access to opportunities, resources, insights, support and inspiration – and can keep you in touch with some of the best friends you’ll ever make. So we encourage you to stay connected to Wits and to each other. Please make sure we always have all your current contact details. Your connection point is Wits Alumni Relations. We welcome news about alumni achievements and ideas about how we can add value to your degree. You’re a Witsie for life. And what a life it can be! Purvi Purohit Senior Liaison Officer: Alumni Relations Purvi.Purohit@wits.ac.za
Keep your edge! Why stay in touch with the Witsie community? It’s a powerful international network and set of career resources.
The University of the Witwatersrand Alumni group on LinkedIn has more than 8000 members. Connect with this incredible network, share your professional profile, gain career insights, keep in touch with people and benefit from exposure to opportunities.
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New Chancellor Wits Convocation has elected eminent businesswoman Dr Judy Dlamini as the University’s new Chancellor. She takes over the role from retired Constitutional Court Deputy Judge President Dikgang Moseneke in December 2018, for a six-year term of office. Dr Dlamini qualified as a medical doctor in 1985, earned her MBA from Wits in 1999 and has a Doctorate in Business Leadership from Unisa. She is passionate about education and about gender equality in the workplace. She is the founder of the Mbekani Group of companies, which follows the philosophy “Live Life Beautifully”, and co-founder of Mkhiwa Trust, a philanthropic initiative. Read more
Wits’ goodwill champion Witsie Chimene Chetty (PDM 1996, MM 2000) has been named as one of just six Global Goodwill Ambassadors in South Africa. A seasoned entrepreneur herself, she leads The Entrepreneurial Wayz (TEWZ) in Wits Commercial Enterprise (Pty) Ltd. TEWZ provides insights, skills, tools and mentoring to budding entrepreneurs. Global Goodwill Ambassadors is an international association of humanitarians which aims to empower people in need. Read more
Support your team Click here for Wits Sport news and events. Stay in touch with Wits sports clubs
Photo: Gallo/Getty Images
Wits Men were unbeaten throughout the first Varsity Basketball tournament and were crowned champions after defeating UCT 78-55 on 14 October 2018. Wits came close to the Varsity Football title in their first-ever final, on 27 September 2018, but Tshwane University of Technology clinched it 2-1. The PSL team, Bidvest Wits (below), were crowned Absa Premiership and MTN8 champions in the 2016/17 season.
Witsie artist Hannelie Coetzee drew on the architecture thesis of fellow alumna Tshilidzi Mavhunga to create this mural in Braamfontein, celebrating the heritage of the Ndzundza Ndebele
places to visit
Braamfontein Braamfontein is in the process of urban renewal and there are plenty of reasons to visit Wits’ neighbourhood.
Wits Art Museum
Science & Cocktails
Not only does it contain a superb collection of African art, there’s a great variety of exhibitions on throughout the year as well as events for families.
at The Orbit
Interesting science talks and jazz music
Incubating digital entrepreneurs
A celebration of music and gaming
Explore the past with virtual reality; learn more about rock art; have fun with family activities; test your DNA and more
Starts and ends at the Wits Club, next to Alumni House
world of work
Your Wits degree is only the start of your lifetime of learning. Did you know that Wits alumni can access a wealth of career resources?
Job listing Find or advertise an opportunity
Photo: James Hendry
Wits alumni jobs portal One of the intriguing opportunities advertised recently on the Wits alumni jobs portal was the position of presenter and field guide at a game reserve. The employer, WildEarth, is a media company which produces live wildlife content for clients such as National Geographic and the SABC. WildEarth’s James Hendry explains that the job entails speaking to the audience through a camera mounted on a game drive vehicle or carried on a walk. Viewers can ask questions as they watch on TV or social media. “We are constantly looking for great guides to join our team,” says Hendry. They need excellent knowledge of the local plants, animals and culture, communication skills and the ability to cope under pressure – among other attributes. Have a look at the “office”. Click on the red icon.
Further study Keep your skills relevant and be ready for opportunities â€“ or create them yourself. Learn more about short, online and part-time courses at Wits. Some of them are free! Learn a language or sharpen up with executive education at Wits Business School.
For copies of degree certificates, please contact the graduation office. For transcripts (academic records), please contact your Faculty office.
A study of Wits graduates revealed that 96% found employment within six months of graduating. 11
world of work
What is your Wits degree The Wits Alumni Office offers all alumni free access worth? Wits is ranked 204th in the 2019 Times Higher to the Wits e-mentoring platform, where mentors Education World University and mentees are matched according to their own Rankings. needs, anywhere in the world.
Professional development Are you an early-career academic? Learn more about Witsâ€™ professional development programme.
world of work
New courses and programmes Have you heard of these new courses and programmes at Wits? • Activism and citizen journalism • Master of Management in Governance • The Startup Accelerator • The Entrepreneurial Wayz • Digital Business
Wits Plus In these videos, alumni talk about their experiences of studying part-time.
Learn a new language, sharpen your business communication skills or learn to teach English at Wits Language School.
Everybody has a story “Not only do we communicate most effectively through our personal stories, our wellbeing and professional success depend on it,” says psychologist, performer, documentary-maker and entrepreneur Murray Nossel (Wits BA 1982, BA Hons 1983, MA 1984). This is his story. BY HEATHER DUGMORE
“I don’t think I realised the full power of storytelling until I arrived in New York in 1990, in the middle of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” says Dr Murray Nossel from his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, overlooking the Hudson River.
In telling his story, he spoke about the woman who’d helped to raise him in the Johannesburg suburb of Dewetshof, where he grew up. “She was a domestic worker, and also a sex worker,” he recounts. “She was unable to have children, which she found shameful. Because she felt unfit to be a mother, she did what she felt she was fit to do: use her body for money and raise other people’s children.”
“I wasn’t aware of the epidemic until I got here. I was simply running away from a failed relationship in South Africa.” Seeking to escape the hurt, Murray took up the invitation of a friend in New York to visit. “My intention was always to return home, but 28 years later I’m still here.”
He also spoke about his grandparents, who came from East Prussia to South Africa in the early 1900s in search of a better life.
A clinical psychologist at the time of his move, he decided to give this a break and try his hand as a playwright and performer. “I was influenced by the work of the poet and performance artist Laurie Anderson. In the army I would listen to her on cassette under my ‘boshoed’ (army bush hat), as she shared monologues about her life. I emulated these in my own way at open mic nights in New York bars.
His paternal grandfather, Meyer Nossel, ran the butchery section of an eating-house for mineworkers at the bottom of Rosettenville Road and spoke all the South African languages. “The eatery smelled of offal and stew and his fingers were red from chopping meat all day. As a young boy, I wanted to run away from the smells and the flies and the dead cows hanging from hooks. I regret not paying greater attention to all this now, as I see it as the beginning of my politicisation. Poor, uneducated Jews like my grandfather were regarded as low lives. Everything he did
“People seemed to think I had an interesting voice and something unusual to say about my life in South Africa.”
was to ensure his children received a good education so that they did not have to work as he did.
“Paul wasn’t like most of the guys who teased me for being a ‘pansy’ and ‘moffie’. Then one day one our teachers, Miss Elsbet Smit, was battling to control our class and ordered us to line up. She said ‘boys on the left and girls on the right’, at which point Paul added ‘and Murray in the middle’. I blushed from top to toe and the class laughed. It felt like a total betrayal.”
“My late father, Norman, a businessman who had studied pharmacy at Wits, always stressed that people can take everything away from you but no one can ever take away what you know. Knowledge is power and they are inseparable.”
Murray says his life changed at Wits. “I transformed from the sissie boy to the cool person, with bleached blonde hair, smoking Camel cigarettes on the library lawns.
Murray’s mother, Pauline Nossel (80), originally a concert pianist, still teaches music at Wits after 60 years. “Growing up, I didn’t like having a working mother when my friends’ mothers were at home. But later I understood and deeply appreciated her need to create. My mother taught me that listening and storytelling go together.”
“At Wits my mind was opened for me as there was a very active political movement on campus. My studies in psychology, English literature and law also gave me the tools to see the link between the personal and the political and to take action by finding a personal connection with others who shared the same ideals and aspirations.”
At the open mic sessions in New York, Murray also told his story about being gay. “This story starts in 1974 when I was at school. The teacher told the class to turn to their neighbours and tell one another a story. I was sitting next to a boy named Paul Browde, who told me a story and then asked me to share mine. I told him I didn’t have a story.
the deep read
the deep read
Fourth Industrial Revolution How do the humanities equip you for the fourth industrial revolution? PROFESSOR RUKSANA OSMAN, DEAN OF HUMANITIES, WITS PUBLISHED ONLINE: THE CONVERSATION
The term “fourth industrial revolution” is understood in various ways. Some people are excited about it. Others are cautious. Some assume it means that technology and robots will take over every human activity. And still others imagine that this “revolution” will lead only to joblessness and automation.
environment with peers (virtually or in a class) better than learning online? In seeking answers, societies must create the space to have conversations across social, academic, industry and community boundaries. The purpose of these conversations is to determine priority areas that need to be improved by the rapid technological changes we are currently experiencing as well as thinking about how we redefine the human condition.
There are also those who are sceptical and insist it’s no revolution at all. They argue that it’s just an improvement and fusion of various technologies – like artificial intelligence and 3D printing – and acceleration in productivity.
Universities have a crucial role to play in these conversations. And a humanities education has a lot to offer when it comes to preparing students for the fourth industrial revolution...
In all these instances, the interaction of technology with humans and humans with technology is underestimated. The emphasis on interaction is key to understanding the fourth industrial revolution. And this epoch will, like all times of change, require universities to push the boundaries of teaching and learning.
Harnessing the humanities A humanities education inculcates the importance of reflecting on the vast array of methodological and societal issues that arise from any practices. These include the technological and computational practices that underpin the fourth industrial revolution.
Universities will need to ensure that students are equipped with approaches to learning that involve agility, adaptability and curiosity. It will be a challenge for us all.
Critical thinking, debating and creative problem solving are taught in the humanities. This kind of critical orientation allows students to explore the complex human-to-human relations and the human to robotic relations that we are already encountering and that will become ever more common.
The fourth industrial revolution will also raise many questions for universities to consider. What needs to shift in how lecturers teach and how students learn and will be learning? What does the blurring of the lines between the physical, digital and technological mean for social relationships and for student learning? What do these shifts mean for different countries? Is learning in an
Photo: Gallo/Getty Images
SIMPLY GAIL Wits MBA alumna Gail Kelly is one of the world’s top business leaders. BY HEATHER DUGMORE
“Let me sit closer to you,” says Gail Kelly as we position ourselves around the imposing table in the VIP dining room at Wits Business School. She’s petite and groomed in pastel, with a strong voice and presence.
was made group general manager of human resources at Nedbank, and later head of the card and personal banking divisions. She and her family moved to Australia in 1997. Gail was 40 at the time and she pioneered a path for women in banking there. She says it helped that it was the right time and the right place, as it was a time of growth when Australia was looking for senior women executive bankers. She was interviewed by a range of banks and received five offers in one week.
This is the woman Forbes listed in 2010 as the eighth most powerful woman in the world; the first female CEO of Westpac, one of Australia’s big four banks, which she led from 2008 to 2015, and where women now occupy half of all management positions. Gail has lived in Australia for 21 years, yet her heart is still in South Africa, where she grew up. She started her banking career in 1980 in Johannesburg as a teller at the Simmonds Street branch of the “SA Perm” (South African Permanent Building Society), which subsequently merged with Nedbank.
She adds that there were many occasions when she felt fear and wondered whether she was up to the responsibility she had taken on. “What I learnt is that you have to stare down the fear of failure. You owe it to yourself to give it a go.” She drew on this many times as CEO of Westpac, which she describes as “by far the most demanding role of my executive career”.
She was “eager and hardworking”, she says, and quickly rose through the ranks of the Nedbank Group. During this time she did her MBA at Wits Business School, graduating with distinction in 1986, while pregnant.
Since retiring in 2015 she has joined the board of Woolworths in South Africa; the group expanded to Australia about three years ago. She also recently established the Gail Kelly Global Leaders Scholarship between the University of Cape Town, where she studied as an undergraduate, and the University of New South Wales, where she is an Adjunct Professor.
In her book she writes that when she started the MBA, she was “intimidated by the mostly engineers, chartered accountants, mathematicians and doctors in the group. Yet when it came to the cut and thrust of things, I found that I could write clearly and concisely and could argue the merits of a case. I could look at a complex situation from many points of view, getting to grips with the details while also standing back and thinking strategically about the whole.”
“I frequently come back to South Africa, partly for work but also because Kruger National Park and the South African bush is in my DNA. However, this is the first time I have been back on the Wits Business School campus in about 20 years. It’s wonderful to be back and to see all the growth and development, and to be in South Africa during this huge moment of change.
Her thesis was all about how CEO success depends on the development and advancement of employees who show potential. In her case it was prophetic. In 1990 she
Witsies share work experience
Musa Kalenga (BCom 2009) is the author of Ladders & Trampolines: Anecdotes and Observations From a Contemporary Young African Marketer, which contrasts incremental growth with exponential change in a business. He was the guest speaker at a networking event for Wits alumni in 2017.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe (MBBCh 1987) published The Precious Little Black Book: A Resource Guide for Women Across South Africa.
Miles Kubheka (BCom 2000, MM 2009) wrote about his business lessons in Vuyoâ€™s: From a Big Big Dreamer to Living the Dream.
Journalist and activist Thandeka Gqubule donated the proceeds of sales of her book, No Longer Whispering to Power, a biography of Wits alumna and former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela, at an alumni networking event in 2017. The proceeds benefited Wits students.
Thank you 1 570 individual donors have helped the Wits Annual Fund reach the R2-million mark!
R100* IS ALL IT TAKES
Small, regular donations by alumni will give future generations a world-class education. Enhance the reputation of your Wits degree, change lives and show appreciation for the education you received. DONATE to the Wits Annual Fund at
Donations are tax deductible in SA, the UK and the USA. *about ÂŁ5.50; US$7; A$10; C$9
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the deep read
the deep read
Embrace the power of social entrepreneurs Following the corporate scandals around KPMG and Steinhoff International, the legitimacy of business has fallen to levels not seen in recent history. PROFESSOR BORIS URBAN, WITS BUSINESS SCHOOL PUBLISHED ON BUSINESSLIVE
This fall from grace is not just a result of accounting irregularities but a consequence of an obsession with individual enrichment, short-term financial focus, the parochial thinking of management and downright ethical failures.
beneficial for the public but for the financial performance of the corporation itself. Business has a key role to play in SAâ€™s transformation and development. This includes not only CSR activities but also developing social entrepreneurship and social enterprises, which combine economic and social objectives to create social value by means of commercial, market-based activities.
Leftist critics of free markets assume there is a fraudulent aspect to capitalism, and in SA for many it is easier to see the destructive part of capitalism than its creative side. In a country such as ours, the scars from decades of corporate complicity in economic crimes will take a long time to heal, but in the interim mistrust lingers between business and ordinary people.
Entrepreneurship has been successfully employed to boost social causes and has applied innovative and sustainable solutions to social problems that were previously in the purview of the public sector. Indeed, there is a growing awareness of social problem-solving through entrepreneurial means.
However, it would be far too easy to condemn all corporates as social outlaws. The role of corporates as powerful instruments of progress, innovation and development is often ignored or overlooked. An inclusive corporate sector lies firmly at the heart of a functioning society.
As an empirical phenomenon, entrepreneurship can be traced back to the beginnings of organised trade and is arguably the second oldest profession in the world. From Adam Smith through to Karl Marx, Joseph Schumpeter, Max Weber and beyond, entrepreneurship has been recognised as a driving force for economic development. Industrial history, specifically through the early 17th and 18th century industrialists such as Cantillon and Say, confirms the birth of new industries, which have always depended on the revolutionary skills of entrepreneurs.
Corporates, if managed ethically, can be powerful vehicles for growth and inclusive development. Moreover, corporates can transform individual lives, particularly when they engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Researchers have investigated the effect of corporate social initiatives and found that CSR is not only
inspiring alumni the deep read
the deep read
It’s time to talk about tech Technological advances are reshaping our lives. How should we respond? BY IMRAAN VALODIA AND BONANG MOHALE
The International Labour Organisation has taken a particular interest in the labour market consequences of this revolution and has set up a consultative process to focus on the future of work. We are fortunate that President Cyril Ramaphosa is co-chairing this commission. It is an important vehicle for SA to play a role on the global stage to shape our future world.
affect inequality and what policies and mechanisms can ameliorate the costs for the most vulnerable sections of our population and how it can lead to greater levels of equality. Because the challenges in developing countries are far different from those in developed countries, we need to craft a strategy that does not simply respond to the negative aspects of the fourth industrial revolution but rather uses it to build a more equitable world.
We have to acknowledge that technology might be disruptive. Advances may result in costs for businesses as they adjust. Advancements could negatively affect employment levels. The focus must be on looking at innovative ways to ensure that technology serves to support and empower, rather than replace, workers. We should consider policies that will manage these transitions in the labour market so that society, rather than individual workers, bears the costs of adjustment.
Technological change is not a process that is independent of social norms and regulations. Instead, these fundamentally shape the process of technological change and its outcomes. The worst response would be a one-sizefits-all approach that is based on how wealthy countries will adjust to this new world of working. It also means that we need to urgently start having these important conversations in order to ensure we are drivers of and not responders to the fourth industrial revolution.
We should start with an understanding of what we mean by “work”. We tend to focus on paid work and ignore unpaid work, and the interactions between paid and unpaid work. The reality is that there is a gendered distribution of unpaid work, with a large number of women having to deal with the burdens of low-paid work and an unequal burden of unpaid care work. Technological change could change the nature of paid and unpaid work. In most developing countries, most jobs — especially for women — have been created in the informal economy. The conversation on technological advances must also look at work in the informal economy.
As we continue to grapple with unsustainably high levels of unemployment we must be cognisant of the potential of technology in the labour market. If we want to harness the potential of technology as a tool to build something better, we need to be thinking about using the fourth industrial revolution to create a labour market that deals with inequality. Imraan Valodia is the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management and leads the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) at Wits University. Mohale is CEO of Business Leadership SA. This article was originally published on https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/.
Technological change has different effects on different groups. We need to understand how this change will
witsies around the world
A Wits education can take you places. We followed some of our alumni on their international journeysâ€¦
Wits degrees: MSc 2004, PhD 2009 Career: Archaeologist
Wits degree: BArch 1978 Career: Architect
MEXICO / SPAIN
witsies around the world
Read about these International Witsies here
Wits degree: BCom 2009 Career: International trader
Wits degree: PhD 2008 Career: Educator and musician
BOTSWANA / CHINA
witsies around the world
Wits degree: MSc Eng 2004 Career: Civil engineer MOZAMBIQUE
Wits degree: BSc 1993 Career: Translator and interpreter
Wits degrees: BA 1998, BA Hon 1999 Career: Public financial management adviser
IRAQ / AFGHANISTAN / INDONESIA...
witsies around the world
Read about these International Witsies here
Stephen Matseoane Wits degree: MBBCh 1959 Career: Medical doctor NEW YORK
Witsie temptations Blame it on Jamie Oliver and the Masterchef phenomenon. They’ve made food innovation sexy and everyone’s lapping it up – literally. Read more
1. Tankiso Makwela / Loyiso Bikitsha (left) LLB 2012 / BCom
Kota Kings 2. Jonathan Robinson BCom 1996
Bean There 3. Apiwe Nxusani Mawela BSc 2006
Brewster’s Craft 4. Paul Ballen / Josh Amoils
BA 2011, BA Hons 2012, PDM 2014 / BCom 2011
Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream 5. Perseverance Khumalo
The Slice Delights 6. Tshepo Lethea BSc Eng
Dicky’s Cakes 7. Miles Kubheka
BCom 2000, MM2009
Vuyo’s 8. Daniel & Clemmy Forsthofer
BA 2009, BA Hons 2009, PDM 2010 / BA 2008, BA Hons 2009, PDM 2010
Tutto Food Co
Proudly Witsie Need some career inspiration? Here are just some of the Witsies taking us into the future
Age: 29 Wits degrees: BA Hons 2012, MA 2013
Career: Scriptwriter and director
Lwazi’s full-length feature movie, Farewell Ella Bella, opened in South African cinemas on her 29th birthday. She says she’s been “lucky” – some scriptwriters and directors work for decades without reaching this goal – but her Wits lecturer Pervaiz Khan says she put in the necessary prep as a student. Reading, listening, absorbing and acting on feedback, paying attention to her work and other people’s… This was the approach that resulted in a Master’s degree movie script which was later accepted for support from the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Film & Video Foundation and the Industrial Development Corporation. “Apply for everything,” Lwazi advises other
young people in the industry. In getting to this point of her career, she took herself seriously, cared about detail and learned how to be assertive and when to compromise. That’s also what made it fun to work with her on the movie, judging by what its actors have said. Skilled, responsible leadership frees others to do their best. Speaking to an interviewer about her work, she said: “It’s important to me to present women as they are – complicated, flawed, motivated and active in their own lives.” She also said: “The determination and ability to commit and follow through is what separates those who achieve their dreams from those who don’t.”
inspiring alumni inspiring alumni
Construction Economics and Management: Dr Yomi Babatunde (right), a senior lecturer in the
School of Construction Economics and Management, has put a great deal of effort into creating a strong link between university learning and industry practice. Originally qualified as an architect in Nigeria, he also has 10 years’ experience of international project management in Singapore. When he came to Wits, he designed a “capstone” course for construction management students, bringing together everything they had been learning in a way that simulated real work experience. Four of his former students share their experiences here: 33
Age: 26 Wits degrees: BSc (CS) 2014, BSc Hons (CS) 2015, Certificate in Property Investment and Practice 2012 (Wits Plus)
Career: Site engineer, project manager
Tebogo never dreamed he would find himself working in Ghana. But that’s where he was from 2016 to June 2018, building a 15-storey regional bank headquarters in Accra.
successfully, i.e. on time and within budget” is the reward, and that feeling of success “far surpasses the stress and labour”, he says.
A career in the built environment had appealed to him since his teenage years, especially since his grandfathers were builders and suppliers of construction materials. He’s passionate about learning and was the top student in Construction Management at Wits, where he found that the course prepared him well for the technical demands of the work. Vac jobs also helped him acquire a variety of skills, and he’s proud of his ability to maintain excellent relations with all the people involved in a project. His honours year exposed him to the skills required in corporate and consulting roles, which he is finding useful.
With the Ghana project complete, Tebogo is back in South Africa and currently working as a project manager for a development company. His responsibilities include coordinating professionals, contractors and subcontractors; preparing budgets and cash flows; and compliance with regulations. His plans for the future involve learning from the top people in the project management field – and staying in touch with Wits, so as to make use of opportunities for growth. Tebogo enjoys travelling and seeing other cultures, as well as some adrenaline-pumping activities like bungee jumping and cliff diving.
Working hours can be long and the work physically demanding, especially on big commercial or housing projects, but “the relief of completing a quality job
Age: 27 Wits degrees: BSc CS 2014, BSc CS Hons 2015
Career: Construction management
When Anton enrolled at Wits he never expected to be sitting in an interview in his final year for the job opportunity of a lifetime in the hub of mega projects and extreme engineering, Dubai. This happened when an employer went on a recruitment drive at Wits and offered him a place on its leadership development programme.
will potentially overwhelm you. This is a fast-paced industry where you are expected to be in ten places at once.” Anton recommends the author Stephen Covey’s approach to time management. The rewards of the job are in reaching milestones and handing over a completed project. He is currently working on a waterfront development, managing subcontracts.
Now working as a section manager for Alec Engineering and Contracting, he has been in the United Arab Emirates for four years.
Anton plans to stay in Dubai while the construction industry there is healthy. “With construction economics degrees from Wits I am fortunate enough to be employable worldwide. The construction industry is seeing a healthy rise in Vietnam and I possibly see myself going there in the next five years to experience the culture and build my career with different experiences and construction environments. The plan is to take the experiences I have gained in the main contractor role and shift them to the area of project management consulting.”
What attracted him to the construction industry was the fact that no two days are the same and there’s no “copy and paste” solution to each day’s new challenges. His Wits training prepared him to expect this and gave him the tools and skills to deal with problems and look for logical solutions. But “the real learning starts at the work place, on site and studying the contracts”, he says. “Time management is critical in this industry,” he says. “Not only do you need to manage the programme of works (to ensure completion on time) but management of your day-to-day time set for your own tasks as well as personal time. Without proper management of your time, each day
Though the world is his oyster, he notes the value of staying connected to a Wits network and maintaining relationships. And for now, he’s enjoying the social scene around Dubai.
Age: 25 Wits degrees: BSc (CS) 2015, BSc Hons (QS) 2016
Career: Quantity surveyor
Stacie works as a junior cost manager for SteadWay GmbH in Berlin. Her family is involved in property and construction, so she was exposed to and interested in the industry from a young age. But it was her Wits qualification that opened the door for an international move, she says.
She agrees that time management is essential in the construction industry. Not only does it reduce personal stress and improve work performance, “clients require decisions and information as soon as possible and if one is unable to manage their time properly then they begin to lose faith and confidence in you,” she says. And of course, delays can affect the cost of projects. “In one of the projects I have worked on the engineers were unable to submit their design information and specifications for the building to the local authorities within the required timeframe. Due to the poor ground conditions, the authorities had to approve whether the supports and reinforcement in the foundations were adequate for the building. This late submission resulted in a three-month delay and since works could not be done during this period, the project was delayed and additional costs were incurred.”
She’s currently working on fitting out the Google Campus office space in Berlin. “It’s a space for entrepreneurs to gather together and work on their projects and innovations. It’s a very interesting project because Google has leased space in a former power station which is a heritage site, so everything has to be approved by the heritage community before works can proceed. My responsibilities include producing the cost reports, identifying any potential value engineering and associated risks, visiting the site and verifying works are complete for payment to the contractor, tracking any design or construction changes that have an impact on cost and adjusting the cost report, assisting with the tender process and participating in calls with the design team and the client.”
The most rewarding and enjoyable part of the job, says Stacie, is going to the site once the project is complete to see how everything comes together. “During the construction phase it can often feel like things are falling apart or you’re unable to see the big picture. Seeing the finished project makes it worthwhile.”
Stacie found the job by searching online for construction and project management companies in Berlin, following the ones she liked on LinkedIn and sending them her CV.
Age: 26 Wits degree: BSc Hons QS 2016
Career: Quantity surveyor
Sesitwa has been living in London for about two years, after being transferred there by the same company he worked for in South Africa, Turner & Townsend. He had a bursary from the company in his Honours year and worked there part-time. Upon graduating, he joined Turner & Townsend’s graduation scheme. He says the company quality and culture are the same as in Johannesburg because his colleagues are great to work with. He is in the process of obtaining his chartership through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and is based at his client’s offices in Westminster, enjoying the company of worldclass professional colleagues.
In future he’d like to work on rail and aviation projects to complement his water and mining & metal sector experience. Sesitwa wanted to work in property or construction but wasn’t aware of quantity surveying until his second year of study (at the University of Pretoria). He then focused on this field and hasn’t looked back. “I believe the project management and construction law modules of my Honours degree have given me the most valuable exposure, especially in relation to the way projects are delivered in the UK.” Again, time management is the key. Sesitwa says it’s what “separates the good quantity surveyors from the great ones! There is no free day in construction, you have to make every day count.”
Sesitwa’s work at the moment involves helping water utility companies to manage their costs and risks. Currently, he collaborates with all kinds of engineers who are building and refurbishing flood defences for the Thames Estuary, to protect £200-billion worth of property and 1.25-million people. He enjoys being part of every stage of the project cycle, an opportunity not available to many quantity surveyors.
He values his connection to Wits and the network it provides, and believes alumni can give students some inspiration. “It is my responsibility as an alumnus of Wits to help out wherever I can.” He also tries to attend networking events in the UK.
Age: 28 Wits degrees: BSc Eng 2011, MSc Eng 2018
Career: Civil engineer
Innocentia’s passion for civil engineering emanated from her interest in design and creating things. She recounts how she created model houses out of cardboard boxes while at school, even including electricity. She started working for an international engineering company, Hatch, in 2012, after completing her studies at Wits in 2011. One of Innocentia’s career highlights is her recent involvement on a multi-disciplinary railway construction project, which was part of a railway expansion project to export manganese from the Northern Cape to the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape. She received a global award of recognition from Hatch for construction excellence for the various roles she played on the project. In her role as construction manager, at the age of 26, Innocentia was part of the Hatch team that took on the planning feat of keeping the existing station operational throughout construction.
diverse backgrounds” and learnt to be resourceful and solve problems. “I learnt communication and co-ordination skills through the projects and assignments I completed at Wits, which required team work. I had to develop these skills further on the job due to the collaborative nature of engineering projects. I am still working on this and I have great mentors who guide me.”
Currently, Innocentia is the project controls manager as well as supporting the project manager on a project to upgrade an existing iron ore processing plant.
She recently registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa as a Professional Engineer. “When I reflect on my career so far, I realise that one of the elements that have contributed to my success is having mentors as well as being open to opportunities.”
Named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s top 200 young South Africans, she sees herself as “part of a generation of ‘societal’ engineers that has been instrumental in achieving our country’s National Development Plan vision, which recognises infrastructure as one of the key drivers of economic growth and social inclusion”.
For Innocentia, the appeal of her job is “being part of creating something which wasn’t there before; and the sense of accomplishment that comes with looking at a completed project.”
“My plans and dreams are constantly evolving,” says Innocentia, “and I’ve embraced the fact that a career does not have to be linear. In the short to medium term, I want to gain more experience in project and construction management on complex projects.”
As for life off-site: “I am a thrill seeker and I always challenge myself to do things outside my comfort zone, for instance, jumping off a bridge or a plane or even scuba diving,” she laughs. “I also enjoy hiking, painting, and travelling.”
She says she had to work very hard as a student at Wits but enjoyed “engaging with intelligent individuals from
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Innocentia was construction manager on this railway project
Age: 34 Wits degree: MEng (cum laude) 2013
Democratic Republic of Congo
Nicholas is opening the way for all kinds of developments in Africa, as Managing Executive: Technology Strategy, Architecture & Innovation for Vodacom Group. He has led teams that have launched Africa’s first commercial 5G network and first commercial narrowband Internet of Things network. He’s also led award-winning business deals: spectrum acquisitions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, and the largest ever telecommunications infrastructure sharing and 4G roaming deal in South Africa.
He was there when South Africa’s telecoms capacity had to be scaled up to meet the demands of the 2010 World Cup. He’s had to develop the business case for new products, services and investments. He’s found his way around international regulatory environments. He’s co-ordinated the design of networks. “There’s never been a dull day,” he says of his career at the telecommunications group, which supported him in undergraduate study with a bursary and put him through its Young Achievers programme.
“The most impressive thing about technology, for me, is the ability to completely transform people’s lives. It makes information and education accessible to anyone with a smartphone and levels the playing fields for all of us to learn and grow,” says Nicholas. “I could not think of a more exciting time to be alive.”
His career advice is to keep learning, ask for help, have a plan and keep your expectations realistic – even when you have big dreams. There’s no way around hard work; and it’s important to treat people the way you would like to be treated. “Remember that we are all just people on our own journeys in life.”
Ben Myres / Cukia Kimani (left)
Age: 25 /27 Wits degrees: BA P&VA 2016 / BSc 2014, BA Hons 2016
Career: Game developers Ben and Cukia met at Wits, studying game design, and worked together on a final-year project, a game called Semblance. When they showed it to an examiner with commercial experience, he encouraged them and this gave them the confidence to set up their own business, Nyamakop. They developed the game further, showed it at festivals and started looking for investors and international exposure. Awareness and feedback started mounting and eventually in 2018 Semblance was released on the Nintendo platform – the first African-developed game to be on any Nintendo platform ever. A review site, Metacritic, has ranked Semblance among the top 50 games released worldwide in 2018.
Polygon, has called Nyamakop “one of the most promising studios in African game development”. Cukia and Ben were chosen for Forbes Africa’s “30 under 30 most promising young change-makers” this year in the technology category. “Sales have been about what we might have hoped for a first-time release,” says Ben. “We’re happy with that result for a first outing.”
The gaming industry – said to be worth more than $100bn internationally – moves very fast, so any advice you get might soon be inapplicable, say Ben and Cukia in this video. They’ve been learning a lot, and fast. “You’ve got to be flexible.”
Nyamakop is back in the R&D phase now, making new prototypes before pitching new work to publishers and investors. “We’d love to make some Afrofuturist games!”
One of the largest international games publications,
Age: 30 Wits degree: BSc Eng 2011
Career: Aeronautical engineer
Adam was one of those kids who build things and take them apart – model rockets, remote-controlled planes and cars … And now he’s building a company, which he started in his parents’ garage.
covered. Engineering, however, teaches one to think and problem solve, so I did exactly that. I enjoy the business side but my heart will always be with technology and when I can I always get out into the workshop and go and tinker.”
“What is sorely lacking in an engineering degree is a solid foundation of practical work. I had to spend a lot of time working on my practical skills as well as bringing myself up to speed on advanced manufacturing techniques.”
One frustration is the time and cost involved in complying with government regulations for this industry. The technology is developing faster than the regulations can be implemented. But Adam is working to help get the whole industry airborne, as Chairperson of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa. “When the regulations were promulgated in July 2015 they were based on full-size aircraft regulations, which have proven to be far too stringent for the drone industry. That being said, as an industry we completely support the mandate of the South African Civil Aviation Authority to ensure safe skies. We are not looking for regulations to be dropped but rather to be more implementable.”
Aerial Monitoring Solutions, which he launched in 2013, manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles (that’s drones to most of us). They are custom-made for users in mining exploration, land surveying and agriculture, and designed to handle African conditions – and Adam is full of ideas for more applications. At first, he says, investors and customers “liked the ‘cool’ aspect to the business. Drones weren’t even really a buzzword when I started, so it took a lot of explaining and educating our customers initially as they didn’t always see the potential applications for the systems. But now my customers are coming to me with novel and exciting applications.
He says the industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs and help solve many of South Africa’s problems – like safely tracking stolen vehicles and protecting wildlife from poachers. It has already had a positive impact on rhino protection.
“We have been through a quite substantial research and development phase, with our products only rolling out to the market in the past year,” he says. “With the poor economic climate in South Africa, sales have been slow, but we have started to see this change.”
Adam would still like to travel to space, the dream that drew him to aeronautical engineering in the first place. But a drone perspective on our own planet is already pretty amazing. “I think the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is when vultures and bateleurs fly behind the drone in formation,” says Adam. “It always gives me goose-bumps to see.”
The step from technology to business was more like a leap into the deep end for Adam. “The basics of business and economics are covered during a degree, but much was not
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Age: 24 Wits degree: BA 2016
Career: Singer/songwriter Nicole – who uses the stage name “Boskasie” – is a born performer, with a smooth, smoky voice and a style she calls “eclectic soul”.
direction that it did. It was on the campus grounds during one of my breaks between lectures that I brought my guitar and started playing, and as a result landed my first open mic gig. I have as a result forged lifelong relationships with people I knew from that experience and beyond. The most important connection for me is the people and the friends I made, some of whom still support me.”
Her song “If I Knew Then” is a letter to her younger self, expressing the idea that she has returned home to herself after a journey of discovery, “realising my light, my truth, being honest and being real. Despite the judgement and opinions of others, your truth will always set you free,” she says.
As her song says: “Finally, I can see what life wants me to be.”
“My music is written as a result of exposed feelings and vulnerability, so when I perform that is merely an extension of my emotion. Performing in that way allows me to feel closer to the audience and I use its energy.” Nicole says her Wits experience influenced her in many ways as an artist. “Firstly, what I was studying – psychology and anthropology – helped me gain a more in-depth understanding of people, which directly influenced my songwriting. Furthermore the discipline and structure one learns at Wits helped me when it came to the admin side of the music business. In many ways being at Wits just opened my mind to a world of possibilities that I would never have known of otherwise.
“I want people to know my music and what I stand for,” says Nicole, “because I feel like that is my purpose on this earth: to share and spread messages using my platform as an artist. “If you believe what you’re saying, and if what you’re saying is your truth, other people will believe it too and as a result you can spread messages through that. “I sometimes do struggle with the balance between what I want and what other people or the music market wants at a certain time. I try my best to stay true to what I am feeling and my sound, and that isn’t always the popular route. “Always follow your gut or intuition. It’s an extension of what your soul knows and needs, and your soul always knows what’s good for you.”
“If it wasn’t for Wits, my career might not have gone in the Photo: Abovebrent
Age: 35 Wits degree: BA 2004 (International Relations)
Career: Investment banker turned charcuterie entrepreneur
What, charcuterie entrepreneur? It means he makes biltong... But it’s upmarket. Skye was working in banking in London and, just for fun, operating a once-a-month pop-up restaurant in a pub, featuring South African favourites. It turned out that Brits and expat South Africans alike were hungry for good-quality meat snacks, so in 2017 Skye left banking and started Woza Biltong & Charcuterie. Noting that customers wanted ethically sourced meat with no artificial preservatives, he set his mind on providing premium quality. Some of the products have already won awards.
he was offered work there with a start-up in financial technology, which opened his eyes to the fast-paced international world of investment banking and financial services. He spent seven years at a large bank and went through the experience of the global credit crisis, but eventually started to yearn for the days of smaller, more entrepreneurial ventures that offered a better work-life balance. Having obtained UK citizenship, he could also afford to be more adventurous in his next role. Skye had always enjoyed good food. But living in London, with its huge variety and quality of food options, turned his interest into a passion. He and a chef friend decided to launch Woza in 2015 as a pop-up restaurant, offering a menu of modern takes on their favourite dishes from back home, such as bobotie, Cape Malay fish curry and malva pudding.
Skye didn’t have a firm career plan in mind when studying at Wits. His interests included law, international relations and music and he wasn’t sure what direction he would take. “The BA undergraduate degree, therefore, was perfect for me as it exposed me to different subjects, ideas and students, broadened my mind and taught me how to think. The degree also offered flexibility to enjoy the numerous social and non-academic features of being at Wits, which I certainly maximised. Looking back, I think that was very important for my personal development.”
Their home-made biltong was the most popular item on the menu, so Skye decided to focus on this demand. While still at the bank, he did a year of consumer research by approaching potential clients in his chosen market segment (fine food and drink, as opposed to health) and soon had enough clients to leave his job in May 2017. “I was sure to leave on good terms with my old management and team and not burn any bridges.”
It was chance that got him into banking. After graduating from Wits and getting an LLB from UCT, he went on what was meant to be a gap year, starting in London. Soon
Skye has learnt a lot from running his own business. “In many ways, working for large companies can be easier because you have the status of the brand behind you and resources of the firm at your disposal. Trying to build a brand from scratch and get the attention of consumers in a competitive and crowded marketplace is extremely difficult and takes a lot of hard work and especially luck.” Planning and research is useful and a soft launch or trial can be a good idea, but at some stage you have to take the plunge and start “learning by doing”. “One also needs a thick skin as there are plenty of closed doors and negative responses in the early days. It’s important to celebrate the small client wins and success stories! Resilience is important but so is being honest and objective with yourself. There is no point in obtaining market feedback if you ignore it. Chances are that your business model and product will not be perfect from the start and will require tweaking over time.” Skye had a lot to learn about distribution, in particular. “Finally, I can’t stress the importance of networking enough. Pretty much all of the good things that have happened professionally for me have been as a result of my trusted networks, whether professional or otherwise. Devoting time to appreciating, nurturing and leveraging your network is crucial and I can say for sure that Woza would not have been possible without the support of my network.” And if it doesn’t work out? “I still would have had a blast and learnt loads! It is worth trying to find happiness and fulfilment in your professional career.”
I can’t stress the importance of networking enough.
Age: 31 Wits degree: MSc Med 2015
Career: Molecular biologist Thulile Khanyile (MSc Med 2015) is not only working on her PhD as part of the search for an HIV vaccine, she’s also interested in the connection between science and business, as she told Metro FM. She co-founded an organisation called Nka’Thuto Edupropeller which prepares learners for science/innovation expos and educates them about business concepts. It aims to get children thinking about STEM-based creative ways of converting solutions into something that can be sold. In the #Talks4Success video series, she shares some of the lessons she has learnt on her journey. What happens when you fail at university? How do you prepare for opportunities? How do you maintain self-belief until others see your value? “There are certain things you can’t control in life, but you must plan for them even if you don’t know what they are,” she says. Her advice for getting what you want: tell people what you want. And that means knowing yourself. Thulile is currently a lecturer with the HIV Pathogenesis Research Unit at Wits.
weddings at Wits
The ultimate Witsie connection
Photo: Christiaan David Photography
Many Witsies met “the one” on campus – which is also a perfect backdrop for wedding photos.
For young alumni of the University of the Witwatersrand