Young Leaders Dinner with Angelo Petersen, Group GM Capespan

On 1 October 2015, Accelerate Cape Town launched our Young Leaders Dinners – a programme to support talent attraction and retention particularly within our Sponsor organisation. This small dinner format ensures maximum networking of young professionals and the guest speaker of our first dinner was Angelo Petersen, Group GM of Capespan Group and Chairperson of the Perishable Produce Exports Control Board (PPECB).

With the topic of Resilience in the Workplace, Angelo was ideal to tell his story of growing up in apartheid South Africa and what it takes to forge a successful career. Angelo spoke about three types of capital: intellectual, social and psychological and that ‘resilience can be trained through talent, hardwork and developing emotional intelligence’. Angelo discussed a few of the things that young professionals should focus on to achieve success:

What is your vision?

‘Spend time to create your personal plan, focus on it, work the plan, get a mentor/leadership coach to help you achieve your goals, ask for feedback and review your plan every year’. Angelo has had a mentor for the past 20 years who saw something in his ability and he now mentors other professionals which provides interesting insights into other businesses.

Develop emotional intelligence

As the first black director of the Boeresake Group, Angelo had to deal with certain preconceived perceptions. As a young professional in South Africa, you need to learn to deal with complexity and potential discrimination. Choose to leave your baggage outside and change perceptions by having the right attitude. ‘Do you want to win this battle or win the war? Learn when to walk away.’

Building networks

Business networks are critical and your need to build this social capital. Black South Africans don’t necessarily have generational wealth with ‘an uncle’ in the business, so you need to expand your networks to increase opportunities and support. Learn also to ask for help which is a sign of strength and not weakness.

Build competence and adaptability

Angelo encouraged young professionals to work hard, and build knowledge and experience as ‘you need to be able to do what you say you can do’ to create opportunities. He referenced Darwin who highlighted that the most adaptable species survive and reflected on how this helped him with the ten major restructures at Capespan.

Volunteer to serve on boards and service the community

Angelo has served on the board of Wesgro, the Western Cape’s trade and investment agency, Ceres Fruit Group, Thandi Wines (SA first Fairtrade BEE wine company), South African Grand Prix Bid Company and Izimobius Technologies. He encouraged young professionals to make a difference in their communities and ‘be the change agent to uplift the more disadvantaged in our communities’. He encouraged optimism and looking at how you can ‘change your world, not necessarily, the world’.

It was an inspiring evening hearing about Angelo’s journey and we liked his advice of following the principles of Namaste – I see (the light in) you and you see (the light in) me. We’d like to thank the candidates from Allan Gray, EY and various other companies for contributing to a rich discussion on transformation and creating more inclusion in Cape Town.

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