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INTERVIEW | SA Women revving things up in the wheel world

03 August 2022 - 09:57
Mulalo Makungo, Audi national sales operations manager.
Mulalo Makungo, Audi national sales operations manager.
Image: Supplied

Brenwin Naidu speaks to three women helping to steer the future of motoring in Mzansi.

Mulalo Makungo: Audi SA 

Talk us through your background:

I was born and raised in Johannesburg with two brothers. I grew up with the privilege of having parents who exemplified a passion for mastering their crafts through their dedication, hard work and love for the academics. 

This was the cornerstone of everything I am and aspire to be. I remember vividly how I would be reading and reviewing board packs as a teenager to present them to my dad. 

This ignited my love for problem solving and taking the holistic approach when looking for solutions. To further fuel this passion, I studied B.com accounting at the University of Cape Town and qualified as a chartered accountant in 2014. Working at different brands I was able to understand the retail side of our industry. 

I joined the Volkswagen Group SA in 2017. I was able get an appreciation of the wholesale and manufacturing side of our industry. The highlight has been participating in an international management programme where I collaborated with international colleagues on syndicate projects and gained exposure to other markets around the world.

Walk us through a day in your role 

A day in my role as Audi's national sales operations manager. First thing in the morning I catch up on local and international news. I review daily sales reports to get status updates on the business. 

This will usually guide my focus for the day and steers the engagement which I will have with the team and the rest of business at meetings throughout the day.

Challenges and rewards of your position?

The biggest challenge is the war in Europe and the semiconductor chip shortages. This has brought increased uncertainty, which has shifted how we go about planning our volumes and requires us to be more agile, quick and innovative to in response to supply to meet demand. The rewards are navigating the daily complexities of our retail operations to achieve our monthly targets as well as being part of the Audi brand, which is playing an active role in transitioning SA into the era of electric mobility.

In which areas can the local motor industry improve?

Leveraging on the digital revolution the world is undergoing and using this opportunity to relook and refine processes to innovate and not be left behind. We also need to continue the conversations on diversity and inclusion for all, especially in senior leadership roles. The approach should be centred on more action, less talk and have clear measurable targets and action plans that are sustainable for years to come.

Anca Priscu, group director: production at Sumitomo Rubber.
Anca Priscu, group director: production at Sumitomo Rubber.
Image: Supplied

Anca Priscu: Sumitomo Rubber 

Talk us through your background

I was born and educated in Bucharest, Romania. My parents are both professional and offered a generous upbringing to my younger sister and me. After matriculating from Jean Monnet High School, I was admitted at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest and obtained a Master's degree in fine mechanical engineering.

I began my career as a mechanical engineer at Romania's Design Institute for Automation Engineering. I later immigrated to SA and found work in the automotive industry as a new product development engineer. My experience includes 15 years with Gabriel SA, where I worked my way up through the ranks to general manager, having fulfilled different functional roles.

In 2013 I joined Rheinmetall Laingsdale as CEO. I was promoted as COO and became one of three MDs of Rheinmetall Denel Munition in 2017. From 2020, I worked as an independent consultant for Norcros SA. In August 2021 I was appointed group director: production at Sumitomo Rubber SA, manufacturer of the Dunlop, Sumitomo and Falken tyre brands for the African continent. I am responsible for designing and implementing strategies for the company's Ladysmith tyre manufacturing plant that maximise shareholder value for the group.

Walk us through a day in your role

My role is very simple. I have six tasks I take care of every day. The first is "ideas rule the world". I wake up in the morning and think with a fresh mind about ideas I pick up from around the world, or that might solve problems or support the way forward. As a leader I am always asking questions. The second task is to be a worthy communicator. There are emails to answer, announcements to make, requests to brief, performance and project status to share. The third task is to get buy-in from employees, to establish if they are aligned or not, and what needs to happen so they are. Task number four is empowerment. I practice empowered delegation with trust. Task number five is execution, for which I take responsibility. The focus is on accountability for results. I need to understand when to stand back, when to facilitate, when to oversee and when to interfere. Last but not least is task six: make decisions. I take informed decisions to solve problems or for potential opportunities.

Challenges and rewards of your position?

The biggest challenge is to preserve energy for what is important in the business and not to be side tracked from the strategy by forever growing requirements and new developments. The most precious rewards come from the people I work with, seeing them growing and being prosperous and, at times, sharing moments of happiness.

In which areas can the local motor industry improve?

The local motor industry faces challenges that are very basic: unreliable energy supply (electricity, water, coal) and social unrest. These would be prime areas of focus before tackling automated business processes and disruptive technologies that are already a reality on other continents.

Stacey-Lee May is the Queen of Smoke.
Stacey-Lee May is the Queen of Smoke.
Image: Supplied

Stacey-Lee May: Spinning champion 

Talk us through your background 

I am 26-years-old from Eldorado Park. I started in motorsport when I was 16 . My dad thought spinning would help me gain confidence after being bullied at school. It did more than that. It was hard at first to fit in a male-dominant sport, but I kept pushing myself.    

Your proudest moment in motorsport so far? 

Going to the US to represent my country on a show called Hyperdrive on Netflix. I was so proud to be part of the show. But it wasn't an easy journey. At the time, I had no sponsors and my dad had to sell his tow truck for us to make it to Hyperdrive. I had the smallest, standard car (my 1980 BMW 325), but in my heart I knew making it there was a massive achievement, taking SA spinning to the world.    

Challenges along the way? 

The lowest point for me was my car not making it through the "walk on water" challenge and I was out of the show. But I knew the seed was planted and someone would take notice. And they did. I secured sponsorships from brands such as Monster Energy, Hollywoodbets, Momo and Tyrelife Solutions. I am not done. I want to be a stunt driver for movies and travel the world with my amazing team. That's my next goal.   

How can the local motorsport sector be improved? 

Many people think spinning is not a sport and we have so many spinners going without recognition. We need a governing body to regulate the sport, to protect the interests of professional spinners. Spinning is proudly South African and our people are not doing enough to promote it and advance it to its full potential.    


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