Itumeleng Ndlozi Means Business
Published - 20 August, 2019
Itumeleng Ndlozi sits on the executive committee, as Divisional Managing Director of the Public Sector at Ince. She began her career at Ince 11 years ago in the Marketing division playing a support role to the other business units by assisting them with engaging with their clients. Her journey continued in client services where she looked after the company’s corporate finance clients, and later, issuers listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
She changed roles once again and was appointed PA to the managing director, Alban Atkinson. After some time as Alban’s PA, Itumeleng began her foray into sales. Something she confesses was not her first choice or strong suite, for that matter. “Persuasive selling was not something I knew, and Alban came to me and said, “what about selling?”’’
“It was something different, it stretched me a lot,” she admits. And yet, the learning opportunities excited her. “For me, anything that’s deemed as growth, to my mind, is good for me. So now I was outside of my comfort zone. From a learning point of view, it was really enjoyable,” she says.
Blessing in Disguise
Her defining moment, she believes, came when she accepted the appointment as Alban’s PA. At the time that Itumeleng took the offer, she admits that she felt conflicted about taking the position as it seemed she was moving in reverse as far as her own career aspirations were concerned.
However, the position came as a blessing in disguise as it then gave her direct access to the managing director. It gave him the opportunity to interact with her and get to know her. Working closely with him presented a whole long list of opportunities that she didn’t expect.
When Itumeleng was given some insight into why she was being offered the position, things became clearer. Alban was very involved in a lot of strategic projects that still need somebody that could play an oversight role. “It’s not just sitting there and managing my calendar and picking up my calls; you’ll be very much involved in what I’m doing and making sure that the projects that I’m in involved in come to completion, by minuting meetings and following up,” Alban told her.
“Alban invested a substantial amount of time in leading and guiding me,” Itumeleng recalls. She notes that this learning experience highlighted the importance of mentorship as it gave her access to counsel. Itumeleng points out that “you get young people that have the inborn confidence and are able to articulate their dreams and aspirations and on the other hand you get young professionals who are raised to be humble and submissive; never challenging authority”. She adds that as a young, black professional in the early days of her working career she was labeled as arrogant and a bully for displaying confidence and having an opinion. It is because of her own experiences that she is passionate about coaching young professionals within the working environment.
Guidance and Mentorship
Itumeleng believes young professionals can benefit from the kind of mentorship where they are guided in terms of how to carry and conduct themselves. “There’s nothing wrong with being confident,” she affirms. “There’s nothing wrong with speaking with affirmation about whatever it is that you strongly believe.”
“I’ve been very fortunate that in this path that I’ve been on. I’ve had quite a number of people, some of them not even knowing, taking a mentorship role in my life in terms of how I converse with people, how I project myself, and it’s still a journey,” Itumeleng articulates.
She notes how, because of a lack of mentorship, smart, intelligent people sometimes don’t live to their full potential. “What I’ve picked up is: your academic background will get you through the door, but after that, it’s your social skills that will elevate you to greater heights.”
She admits she’s in her current position as head of the Public Sector division because she had access to somebody that was in a position of power who saw potential in her. “It’s so important to invest a little bit of time, coaching, advising and directing someone in a non-intimidating way,” she says.
She strongly believes that it takes mentorship, similar to what she has received, within the workplace to encourage young professionals, to find themselves and become confident in their careers.
The main goal of the Public Sector division which Itumeleng heads up is to grow the market share in that sector. The role has exposed her to a diverse portfolio of clients. “They all require a different approach in terms of how you interact with them,” she says. “It’s not me coming into the office and doing the same thing over and over. Every day is completely different; overall, it’s quite interesting.” The interactions with clients and introducing them to the concepts around integrated thinking are really exciting to her.
Her vision is to assist the public sector in realising the benefits of integrated thinking and reporting. She believes in partnering with clients to share their value creation story whilst engaging with their stakeholders. Itumeleng is passionate about promoting good corporate governance, ensuring that clients meet their required regulatory mandate and maximise their stakeholder engagement.
She also serves on Ince’s executive committee, a task she doesn’t take lightly as far as diversity is concerned. “Our daily experiences shape our outlook on life, our opinions, our views and everything else,” she says. “When you have a diverse representation of people at a senior level that contributes to the business strategy, it makes sense.”
According to Itumeleng, a varied, diverse company leadership makes for better engagements and more informed interactions. “Diversity makes for more balanced conversations,” she says. “The more diverse people there are the more honest conversations we can have. When the scales are balanced, even the conversations will be balanced.”
The changing face of business where female participation is concerned is also important in the case for balanced, honest interactions, Itumeleng emphasises. “We are in an era where women are more assertive; their roles are not limited to bearing kids, raising them and running a household. They want to make a meaningful contribution to the business world and the economy in general.”
“Now, I’m mindful of saying “men didn’t do a good job and women coming into the mix, things are going to get better”. But again, a diverse outlook on things does help,” she clarifies.
Her belief is that if business could be equally balanced, a lot more can be achieved. She concedes that the historically patriarchal system has previously excluded women from occupying meaningful positions in the working environment. Despite this, she shares that she is pro-excellence. “I am not for one specific gender when it comes to upliftment. I strongly believe that both men and women have room to contribute to the overall society” she says.
Advice to Her Younger Self
“Always trust your instinct; don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It’s okay to not conform. Be open to new challenges and never stop learning. Surround yourself with people that are genuinely interested in your personal wellbeing and don’t be afraid to dream big.”