We recently hosted our final Young Leaders Dinner for 2016 with Chairperson of Media24 Limited, Rachel Jafta. Our Young Leaders Dinner is aimed at supporting talent attraction and retention in Cape Town, particularly within our Sponsor organisations. Speaking to diversity, integrity and resilience Rachel shared her journey with us.
Growing up: One of six children, Rachel grew up in the town of Sutherland. Her father was a farm worker and neither of her parents had the opportunity to go to school. Despite this, Rachel’s parents were convinced of the power of education and instilled this belief in their children, encouraging them to see education as an opportunity for the taking. Rachel reminded us that leadership begins at home, and that we should be mindful of our behaviour in this space as we set the example for the next wave of future leaders.
Being in business and education: As a Professor of Economics, Rachel is inspired by the bright minds that she gets to work with. Being in business, she learns first-hand about what is going on in the world and is then able to share that with her students. Rachel said that her involvement in community projects is where she learns the best life lessons.
Post Degree: Following the completion of her Degree, Rachel decided that she wanted to obtain her PhD in Economics and Business Management. After completing her PhD, she worked for an organisation which offered an exchange programme for staff. She was selected to work in Mexico, however due to SA’s Apartheid policy, was unable to take up the opportunity. Rachel was then offered a job at the University of Venda where she was tasked with setting up an Economics Department – this was not something she was expecting. She said that her life has been a series of challenges and she had to find ways of dealing with them quickly.
Resilience: Considering recent business and political developments, Rachel describes the world as “sottosopra” (Italian, for up-side down). She shared with us the history of Naspers. Founded three months into WW1, with no money and market, the company chose to print its first Afrikaans newspaper. At the time the population was that of 5 million people, most of whom could not read. Despite challenges like not having enough Afrikaans words, the paper order for the first edition was lost at sea because of the war. Nevertheless, the first edition went to print (after borrowing paper from the English version) and the title has never missed an edition since – a story of adversity being the best opportunity to do something great.
Diversity: A believer in the power of diversity, Rachel said that diversity of thought is more important than the diversity of what we look like. She said that people agreeing all the time means that there is no independent thought, which will result in stagnation across many of life’s spheres.
Assertiveness: Sitting on the HR and Remuneration Committee for Naspers, Rachel looks after the talent pipeline for 130 countries. She has noted a trend in SA, a lack of assertiveness, which she feels can be attributed to the way in which we have been raised, as well as our education system. Rachel highlighted that as Industry 4.0 progresses the elements of workplace readiness and soft skills will need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
It was an inspiring evening hearing from Rachel and it ended with a vibrant discussion amongst young leaders about how to make corporate Cape Town a more inclusive place to work and thrive.