On 20 October 2015, Accelerate Cape Town hosted our second Young Leaders Dinners with our guest speaker, Tebogo Mekgoe, COO of Airports Company South Africa. With the topic of Diversity in the Workplace, Tebogo told his story of forging a successful career by speaking about his background, the importance of recognising your world view and why having diverse teams is important.
Tebogo attended the first non-racial school boarding school in the country in KwaNatal that was funded by the Anglo American Chairman’s Fund. Due to the political state of the country, most of his family members studied in the USA, but Tebogo decided to study engineering at UCT in order to meet new people and gain new experiences.
Every experience enriches your life
Tebogo pointed out that whatever you experience, enriches your life. As a student, he was sponsored by Anglo American, and worked in small mining towns after his studies. There he met incredible people who earned nothing, but who shared everything they owned. After a few years, he decided to leave the mining industry and has been with ACSA for the past 15 years.
Acknowledge your world view
Tebogo spoke about the importance of acknowledging your world view: what you believe and what you value is a function of where you come from and what experiences you’ve gone through. As you experience new things, your world view changes and it sometimes contradicts what you know. Tebogo gave an example of how when he went for his interview at ACSA, all he heard was Afrikaans which brought back some bad memories, but then his best friend at the start of his ACSA days was an Afrikaans guy who changed his world view.
Embrace diversity – it provides innovative solutions
Diverse teams are very important and it is not just about race, but also about lived experience. Race stops us from learning about a person. Tebogo always gets his teams to talk about themselves at break away sessions as this gives perspective about that person rather than just what they do at work. The more people give of themselves at work, the more innovative the solutions that will come out of that company.
Be open to others perspective
We must catch ourselves when we think that our perspective is right. We have to realise that we need to show people our logic – how we got to that conclusion – not just our answer. Tebogo challenged everyone to learn to balance advocacy with enquiry – find out about others viewpoint to get to a richer solution. Self-awareness is very important as a leader.
It was an inspiring evening hearing about Tebogo’s journey and his advice of balancing advocacy with enquiry really struck a chord with many of us. We’d like to thank the candidates from Allan Gray, PwC and Tsogo Sun for ensuring a rich discussion on transformation and creating more inclusion in Cape Town.