“The fu­ture holds more pos­si­bil­ity than you can ever imag­ine.”

Af­ter leav­ing high school at 16, Wendy Gamiet’s teach­ers swore she’d amount to noth­ing. To­day, she over­sees op­er­a­tions at a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany with an R800 mil­lion turnover.

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents - By Wendy Gamiet

wendy used to stare at the aero­planes in the sky as she traipsed her way to classes at a strict Catholic school in Cape Town. She dreamt of be­com­ing an air host­ess and fly­ing away from the mean nuns, po­lit­i­cal tur­moil of the ’80s and the gang­ster­ism of the Cape Flats.

By the age of 16, she had dropped out of school. Her dream of be­ing an air host­ess would never be re­alised. In­stead, she found work in a cloth­ing fac­tory.

And then she worked, watched, lis­tened, worked some more, took classes and kept push­ing her­self.

To­day, Wendy is the group op­er­a­tions ex­ec­u­tive at TCI Ap­parel Group, one of the largest cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers in South­ern Africa with an R800 mil­lion turnover.

She man­ages 3 000 em­ploy­ees across four plants, pro­duc­ing wom­enswear, menswear, chil­drenswear, sleep­wear, and for­mal wear for local and in­ter­na­tional re­tail­ers.

When she’s not over­see­ing the pro­duc­tion of millions of gar­ments ev­ery month, Wendy en­joys spend­ing qual­ity time with her sons Roche, 20, and Ai­den, 15. She did fi­nally get on those aero­planes – but it was for hol­i­days, not work as a host­ess.

We asked the busy ex­ec­u­tive to share a few of the se­crets to her suc­cess.

1Dream big It doesn’t mat­ter how im­pos­si­ble your dream seems or where you come from: dream big. The fu­ture holds more pos­si­bil­ity than you can ever imag­ine. When I was in high school, I was re­bel­lious and not a high achiever. The nuns thought I would never amount to any­thing. Sis­ter Carmelita would say, “One day you’ll join the guys sit­ting on the cor­ners.” But that was her dream, not mine.

2Ed­u­ca­tion is key My mom told me I had a week to find a job or I had to go back to school. So I stood outside Mon­viso Knitwear fac­tory, where I heard they were look­ing for clean­ers, and hoped they would pick me. I started out as a line feeder – fetch­ing wa­ter or thread for the ma­chin­ists.

My boss, Ian Stein, told me that no mat­ter how bad my ex­pe­ri­ence at high school was, I would have to get an ed­u­ca­tion if I wanted to build a ca­reer. So I took ad­van­tage of the ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes at work. Eigh­teen years later, with two young kids of my own, I en­rolled at UCT Grad­u­ate School of Business and worked week­ends and nights to fin­ish the Ad­min­is­tra­tion in Man­age­ment Pro­gramme (AIM) and a post-grad­u­ate diploma in Man­age­ment Prac­tice. Not hav­ing a Matric didn’t work against me; be­cause they took my work ex­pe­ri­ence into ac­count.

3Love life I make time to do things that bring joy to my life, like spend­ing time with my sons. It sounds sim­ple, but I love noth­ing more than sit­ting on the couch to­gether shar­ing sto­ries about our days or mak­ing plans for the week­end. And I love to drive along Chap­man’s Peak with the fam­ily on Sun­days, stop­ping off in Camps Bay for a snack.

4Build strong teams I use con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment task teams, be­cause it’s the best way to com­mu­ni­cate in a man­u­fac­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment. For ex­am­ple, we have a high level of ab­sen­teeism in our in­dus­try be­cause of trans­port and so­cial is­sues, so in or­der to deal with the sit­u­a­tion I have a team of work­ers who are fre­quently ab­sent, work­ers who are never ab­sent, hu­man re­sources and shop stew­ards. This mix means I get dif­fer­ent in­puts and ideas from ev­ery­one af­fected, and the team is em­pow­ered to want to look for bet­ter so­lu­tions.

5Be con­sis­tent De­ci­sion mak­ing is a big part of my job, and it is im­por­tant to be con­sis­tent. Peo­ple tend to judge you by your ac­tions, and in­con­sis­tency is quickly no­ticed. When it comes to dis­ci­pline and time-keep­ing, ev­ery em­ployee across the board needs to

be treated equally. Oth­er­wise there would be chaos.

6Ex­pect chal­lenges Not ev­ery­thing will go the way you want it to go. I re­cently put a lot of time into groom­ing a grad­u­ate for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, and they de­cided to leave the com­pany. If you don’t want to be dis­ap­pointed ex­pect the un­ex­pected and ac­cept chal­lenges. I’ve re­fo­cused my en­ergy into de­vel­op­ing a num­ber of grad­u­ates and not con­cen­trat­ing on in­di­vid­u­als.

7. Trans­fer your skills If you don’t have a suc­ces­sor you can’t go any­where, be­cause there won’t be any­one to take your place. I al­ways men­tor a group of two to three peo­ple. This has made it eas­ier for me to progress to the next level with­out wor­ry­ing about who I am leav­ing be­hind.

8Never give up It takes time to reach your goals. Be­com­ing group op­er­a­tions ex­ec­u­tive took me 30 years of hard work. Prac­tise pa­tience, com­mit­ment, hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion. “It doesn’t mat­ter how im­pos­si­ble your dream seems or where you come from.”

9Know your strengths De­ter­mi­na­tion has al­ways been my big­gest strength. I’m also al­ways will­ing to lis­ten, learn and ex­e­cute changes.

10Keep the faith I put God first in ev­ery­thing I do in life. He is al­ways on time, and will never dis­ap­point you, fall out of love with you or mis­lead you. But you need to make the right choices in life and that starts by sur­round­ing your­self with the right peo­ple, avoid­ing neg­a­tiv­ity and learn­ing from your mistakes.

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