Destiny - - News Briefs - SA

Pearl Seopela, Senior Man­ager: Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Out­reach at the Of­fice of the Tax Om­bud, shares a few in­valu­able step­ping stones Don’t be afraid to take de­tours: My older broth­ers were both in univer­sity when I passed ma­tric and there wasn't enough money for me to study too. I man­aged to get a bur­sary for the first year of a BA Com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­gree, but was then forced to drop out. I took up nurs­ing in­stead and dur­ing my fouryear de­gree, I saved up to en­rol for the de­gree I re­ally wanted. When I even­tu­ally be­came a nurse and got a job at a re­search lab­o­ra­tory, I used my first salary to reg­is­ter at Unisa and com­pleted my BA Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­dus­trial psy­chol­ogy de­gree over the next three years.

Per­se­ver­ance is ev­ery­thing: I joined Umed, Denel's in-house med­i­cal scheme, dur­ing the early years of SA's trans­for­ma­tion as Ex­ec­u­tive Man­ager: HR & Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. I didn't have ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, so there I was, young, among all these Afrikaans men, prac­tis­ing how to speak like a man­ager and ar­gue prop­erly in my spare time. I was the only black per­son on that man­age­rial level and I was lit­er­ally fight­ing every day. My late brother was my pil­lar. I'd tell him how they were dis­cussing bonuses in front of me, but leav­ing me out of the al­lo­ca­tions. He said: “Fight it” – so I did. I started be­ing very stri­dent, vo­cal and as­sert­ing my­self. We're of­ten taught to be sub­servient as women, but in the work­place, the rules are dif­fer­ent.

Con­sider the pub­lic sec­tor: Be­fore join­ing the Of­fice of the Tax Om­bud, I was Head of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Gov­ern­ment Pen­sions & Ad­min­is­tra­tion Agency, Chief Di­rec­tor: Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Depart­ment of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and also Senior Man­ager: Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees' Pen­sion Fund. It's grat­i­fy­ing and mean­ing­ful help­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic to nav­i­gate poli­cies and un­der­stand how gov­ern­ment works. I feel as if I've made a real dif­fer­ence to or­di­nary peo­ple in my roles. –

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