Interview: Nkhensani Ngomane on being a woman and pursuing a corporate career
Nkhensani encourages women to keep aiming for their goals, and speak about their accomplisments in order to grow their personal brands.
Nkhensani Ngomane is a Cluster Specialist at Vodacom and an award-winning community champion. She gives us insight into her experience as a woman working in the coporate world and how she's overcoming the obstacles in order to succeed.
How long have you been at Vodacom and how has your career grown?
Depends on how one defines career growth. I started as an intern in 2013 for the Enterprise Business Unit, now known as Vodacom Business. I was then a Business Advisor, which was an essential foundation for every other role that came after that. In 2016, I returned to a Cluster Specialist role. This is the role from which I deliberately created my career growth.
In 2019, I was elected Chairperson of the Local Consultative Committee of the Limpopo Region. I got the opportunity to represent the province nationally, serving as a third chairperson and a chairperson of the Employment Equity portfolio of the National Consultative Committee.
To date I manage more than 20 SETA interns who are growing and contributing to the growth of the organisation and the communities they work in.
What has been the highlight of your career at Vodacom?
Definitely being a Global Women in Red award winner in 2020 for my advocacy in social service and equality. My intention was to highlight the importance of the Vodacom ICT Centre – we’re witnessing Vodacom bridging the digital divide by actively participating in rural development programmes through the ICT centres.
Speaking of the Global Women in Red Award, can you tell us more about the awards, your work, what inspired you, and how your projects are progressing?
The Global Women in Red Award recognises 100 women who are an inspiration to others and have championed and supported diversity and inclusion. I received my award in 2020 for my community work, more specifically for the work I do at the Tivumbeni ICT centre in Nkowankowa, Tzaneen, Limpopo. Through Greater Tzaneen Community Foundation, I secured a Google course, through which we train unemployed youth.
My inspiration goes back to my student days – in Introduction to Business, we studied Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which recognises self-actualisation (in other words, the realisation of your personal potential) as the highest level of psychological development. That lesson stuck with me.
When Global Women in Red recognised my work, it was an affirmation and a reminder that there’s still more to be done. We continue to work with the ITC Centre and, in addition, invite Grade 12 learners to apply for bursaries and to institutions of higher learning. We’ve also invited an NPO that works with gender-based violence victims to do training on the Vodacom Bright Sky app, which provides support and information to anyone in an abusive relationship or concerned about someone in that situation.
In collaboration with World Vision, we’re working on establishing another ICT centre in Ga-Sekororo that will serve the same purpose as the one in Nkowankowa.
What do you think is still the biggest challenge to having more women in managerial or senior positions?
In a room where there are equally qualified men and women, men are still the preferred choice. The system was not founded on women thriving, leading or being part of it altogether. The blueprint was never designed for women in leadership and the redesigning of it is still not inclusive of women. As a result, there is only gradual change.
Women forums are vital for creating spaces for women to have career growth conversations and receive guidance on how to pivot their careers. At no point should a talented woman who seeks to advance her career be stranded. As women, we must continue to coach and recognise female talent for advancement purposes.
What are the worst pieces of ‘advice’ often given to women pursuing careers?
Do not expose your vulnerability. Well, I’ll quote [the best-selling psychoanalyst] Clarissa Pinkola Estés: “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.”
Fake it til you make it. Rather, I would say, be authentic and talk about your accomplishments, your intention and your visions in a way that gets you recognisefd. When you do that, you never have to be exhausted from faking anything, but rather you are motivated and excited about building and becoming what you aspire to.
What is your advice for women pursuing careers in corporate?
Speak about the achievements that promote your personal brand. Speak about your aspirations, keep aiming until you reach them, and then move on. The world awaits your talents, zest and expertise, and it’s too big for you to just be in one place forever.
Find out more about how Vodacom is striving to build a more inclusive and empowering workplace for all. #FurtherTogether