MY BRILLIANT CAREER: Overcoming doubters and naysayers led to top job
How did you end up working in the motor industry?
I was interested in fashion initially and became a fashion ramp model and studied fashion design part time, but the process of starting my career was too slow, so I moved to Johannesburg in my early 20s.
I did various jobs before enrolling with Kelly Personnel and was hired as an assistant buyer to the general manager at Tiger Wheel & Tyre. Six months later, the company went through a transition and the bike tyre departments closed, so I moved roles to become the executive PA to the national sales director and technical manager. I hated it.
A few months into the executive PA position, one of our top sales reps was tragically killed in a car accident. I was sad that a close colleague had passed away but I felt a strong desire to fill this position. However, the department had only male employees. I stood firm and became the first Indian female in the tyre industry. I pushed myself and worked hard, resulting in my sales going to another level. I sold a million alloy wheels and won an incentive trip to Mauritius and then took every prize as the top sales rep. I had overcome all doubters and naysayers.
You have been in the industry for 38 years and must have seen big changes. What would be some of the biggest?
Seeing the increase in the number of women in this male-dominated industry and also seeing women ascending to positions of power and leadership has been satisfying.
Tell me about the work you do.
I negotiate and structure deals at senior levels, dealing with corporate customers interacting with buyers, procurement executives, right up to CEOs of small to large companies. We give all our customers the same special attention. My aim is to provide the best deals and ensure customer satisfaction to ensure repeat business.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A lawyer. I loved the way my cousin, who was a lawyer, spoke. She would share her day in court with me, I wanted it so badly. My mom was a widow and a factory worker. Money was limited, so I stopped dreaming as I did not have the opportunity to study law.
What do you find most meaningful about the work you do?
The adrenaline rush of closing deals, and ensuring the customer is satisfied. I enjoy meeting new people and building business relationships while making reasonable profits for my employer.
What is the best advice you have received?
Look after your customers and they will look after you. Passion! Passion! Passion! From Clive Blechman, my current CEO.
What makes someone employable?
Honesty, integrity and the ability to follow instructions and deliver the goals I set for them. Being passionate, treating work as a career and not a job, and having team-player spirit.