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Real people doing real things : A career built on a solid foundation of learning from the bottom-up

by Camilla Pennington

Lushane Abrahams is the Head of Operations for Audit Graduate Recruitment Southern Africa at Deloitte, based in their Cape Town office.  She is a true example of someone who has built a solid career based on a foundation of learning from the bottom-up.   We chatted to Lushane about the intricacies of her career, what and how she has learned along the way and who she is outside of work.

Lushane started her career immediately upon matriculating – her journey to Deloitte started with her roles as a Girl Friday and PA for an international sports brand.  She then spent two years working on a part-time basis for a small family business which coincided with having children, followed by some time off to focus on being a Mum.  Sixteen years ago, she felt the urge to return to work and joined Deloitte on a two-month contract as an Administrator – and she never left!  Whilst at Deloitte she has worked her way up to a managerial and leadership role.  She initially worked in recruitment, covering both graduate and experienced-hire recruitment for the Cape Town office, later concentrating on the graduate function at both a local and national level.   Lushane attributes her success to the freedom Deloitte have given her to play to her strengths.  It used to bother her that she works in a professional environment and lacks a tertiary qualification – wisdom has taught her, however, that there is as much value in qualifying through the “university of life” and she has always been appreciative of the firm’s faith in her potential as well as the ongoing investment they have made in her growth and development.

Lushane has a natural passion for connecting with young talent – seeing young people grow and achieve their goals is what delivers motivation and reward for her.  She currently manages a team comprising an IT analyst, four campus managers and four regional managers who are responsible for the firm’s graduate recruitment.  One of her key areas of responsibility is to ensure that the systems and processes used by her team enable them to deliver on their mandate which is to attract and recruit young talent.  A typical day might be spent reviewing the firm’s recruitment processes, analysing data and recruitment strategies and ensuring that there are no major gaps when it comes to responding to graduate applicants in a timely and efficient manner.  Lushane also looks after the internal referral programme and needs to ensure that processes are strictly adhered to.  A considerable amount of time is taken up providing input and guidance to her team and ensuring that they are empowered to perform in their respective roles.

The “university of life” is one where learning takes place through trial and error – and Lushane is no stranger to this!  In the early years of her career perfection was something she strived for, but with the benefit of hindsight Lushane has realised that perfection comes at a high price – it is far better to focus on building a solid network of competent colleagues and to leverage off the strengths of others to deliver a sound end-product wherever this makes sense.  Failing is also a critical part of the learning curve.  Working with young talent, she has also learned that “I/we [i.e. her team] are not the benchmark” – when formulating recruitment campaigns or activations it is the students whose opinions count and to whom the team are striving to appeal – so it’s important to involve young people in the process and to ask them what is relevant and important.

I asked Lushane what has changed most over her 16 years with the firm – “audit, is audit,” she began, “but technology has changed, and the profession is far more regulated – and for good reason.  The generations we recruit are different, too.  Yes, they are tech savvy and want to be challenged but they also seem to struggle with stress when they enter the world of work – coming from University, graduates have tended to focus exclusively on their studies – the world of work requires them to juggle several balls at once and this takes a great deal of adjustment”.

A further change is in the availability of opportunities for graduates – business has grasped the importance of attracting and developing young talent and there is more openness in the recruitment relationship than used to be the case.  Lushane’s hope is that graduates will increasingly recognise the importance of assessing a potential employer just as thoroughly as the employer assesses them – achieving an ideal fit requires this.  Graduates are part of a global market and have greater access to international opportunity – something Lushane would encourage them to embrace – with the hope that they come back to South Africa to share what they have learned abroad.

Lushane has two daughters – the eldest of whom is working and living at home and describes her as a “flat mate” rather than a mother!  Her youngest daughter is au-pairing in Minnesota.  Although her nest is not quite empty, Lushane is excited to have more “me time” as her girls grow up.  She has a natural affinity for the ocean and tells me that she swims regularly in the freezing-cold Atlantic!  She is fortunate to have three siblings living in Cape Town and is a die-hard Stormer’s supporter.  Reading and spending time at home re-charges her batteries and, although she has a stronger preference for fiction she has discovered the beauty of audio books when it comes to non-fiction.

Colleagues would describe Lushane as approachable, a kind of what-you-see-is-what-you-get individual and a leader who makes a good devil’s advocate while providing support and allowing her team to learn and grow without any major balls being dropped.   And there can be no better teacher than Lushane whose career is built on a solid foundation of learning from the bottom-up.

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Camilla juggles her time between her two daughters who are aged 11 and 13, working on SAGEA projects and assisting with the running of her husband’s website, South Africa The Good News.  She enjoys walks among the green hills of the Midlands and spins regularly to keep fit.

cam@gmail.com

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