EMBA alumnus and lecturer, Sean Lewis, starts the interview by highly recommending we all purchase a pair of Sexy Socks.
“Did you know that these incredible bamboo socks are made right here in Cape Town by a friend of mine? And for each pair purchased, a pair is donated to a school child in need. Go and buy a pair, they really do keep my feet warm.”
Developing resilience: teacher, lecturer, volleyball coach, karate black belt, runner
My background is in education – I was a high school teacher and a university lecturer. In the political 1980s I was forced out of teaching. In 2000, I was 38 years old and decided to challenge myself by leaving academia and heading into the private sector, starting out as a Strategic Communications Consultant, before moving to IT at Nedcor Investment Bank, and MWEB before moving to Vodacom. I wanted to understand how business worked and I wanted to learn how the academic sector could operate more effectively. I had this dream that I could go back into academia and make a contribution in terms of management of education delivery.
I eventually spent 17 years at Vodacom. While at MWEB, I decided to do an MBA at Stellenbosch University. But that academic journey was cut short, because I had to choose between coaching the national female volleyball team and studying – I chose volleyball! Much later, I applied to the UCT GSB to do an MBA – second attempt! I also requested funding from my company, but the funding was approved late, and I lost my place in the MBA programme for that year. Because of my age and background, they suggested I go into the EMBA programme. I now work at BCX , Africa's leading premier ICT solutions and service provider. I run a business unit that provides IT Service Desk and Systems Operating Centre services to corporate clients.
Building your career
“Don’t simply have narrow, vertical competence – build vertical deep competence and strong horizontal positioning if you are looking for new opportunities. Most new opportunities are a few steps adjacent to where you are now.”
My advice to new graduates:
- Do what you are doing, as well as you can do.
- Look for more and different things to do – better opportunities are out there.
- Don’t simply have narrow, vertical competence – build vertical deep competence and strong horizontal positioning if you are looking for new opportunities. Most new opportunities are a few steps adjacent to where you are now.
- Don’t be weighed down with the expectations you have created. The MBA isn’t a silver bullet or a magic key to a more lucrative career
- No one can be perfect; that is human frailty.
- All of us need to be at peace with what is right for us personally – it is okay not to want to get to the top of the pyramid.
When you are using a systems-thinking approach, you are essentially looking at phenomena in their context. We try not to jump to the first possible solution, or the one that appeals to our gut. Instead, we try to think about the outcomes we desire and all the possible contributors to that outcome, to identify the best places to intervene to nudge the outcome in the direction we want it to go. This was very much the approach used in teaching the EMBA, very importantly, basing the learning experience on phenomena in the student’s own workplace. There are multiple tools that can be used to shift to our thinking from command control, from the omniscient leader, and from gut level leadership. Learning to listen is often the very first and most important thing we can do, and it is amazing how badly we listen.