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Talent Profile – Silindile Mpungose, McDonalds

At the McDonalds head office in Grayston road, Silindile smiles when I ask where the surname comes from.  “It’s part of the Zulu Chieftancy line,” she explains.  “Where I grew up in Mahlabathini in KZN they take things like pedigree very seriously.”

Silindile was raised by her grandmother and is the second of four sisters.  “My mom was working in Durban at the time,” she recalls.  “so, I attended primary school in a little village three hours’ away from Durban.  When I was in high school my grandmother passed on and my sisters and I moved to Durban to stay with my mother.”  She recalls how different the big city of Durban was from where she grew up.  “Everything was new to me!” she laughs.

After school she did a diploma in Food Technology.  “I was always interested in science and wanted to do something with micro-biology.  When I investigated Food Technology as a career my first thought was that I don’t want to cook all the time!”  She laughs, “But it was very different.”

Currently she is a Supply Chain Consultant for McDonalds with a focus on quality, with her Btech in Quality she was able to move into this role.  Quality for this company is paramount, she explains.  There are global and local procedures that need to be complied with to ensure that a quality product reaches the consumer.  “My job is broad and interesting – we have to ensure product availability, competitive pricing and quality – it covers the full supply chain.”  The broadness of the job is what keeps her interested.  She assures me that there’s no such thing as a boring day!

Silindile loves her job, and it shows in the animated way she describes it to me.  She has been with McDonalds for almost 6 years and there’s no particular aspect about the job that she hates.  “I think it all comes down to your perspective:  you can view something as an irritation or as a challenge.  It’s really up to you.”  One of the challenging areas of her job is the need to be flexible.  “You might spend a lot of time planning a project, just to find that things need to change at the last minute.  It’s very dynamic.  You have to be able to accommodate changes.”

The drive to achieve is something that she learned from her mother, who wanted to provide better opportunities for her daughters. “She is my role model.” Silindile declares.  Currently busy with her MBA at the Edinburgh Business School, Silindile has always had a plan for her career.  “The MBA has given me an appreciation of how holistic a business is – you have to be able to look at it as an integrated system.  I would like to go into a more strategic position in the near future, and the degree is getting me ready for that.”  Her advice to young people starting out, is to build a solid foundation.  “You have to understand the business thoroughly,” she assures me.  “Spend the time to learn all areas, understand the basics and then start to make the connections.  This takes time and patience.”

Silindile recalls one of her favourite jobs – the running of a micro-brewery in Ballito.  “I understood brewing, having been a brewing technician for SAB in Durban,” she recalls.  “All of a sudden I was put in charge of the whole operation, including fermentation, packaging and training new staff.  It was very daunting!  I focused on reading up as much as I could.  Those four years was the best time of my life.  Sometimes you have to dive in and swim, and not wait to be ready.”

Women are pushing the boundaries in careers and other aspects, she believes.  “I believe that the time should be right for getting married and having children, and I’m not putting pressure on myself.  We don’t have to bow to the pressure from society and the traditional roles filled by women are being challenged.”

Reading motivational books is a passion of hers.  “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert made a particular impression on her.  “It made me want to do something for myself, you know?  I think it’s important to know what you need in order to find yourself.  It could be a place of solitude, or someone to talk to – but know what it is that you need.”

She laughs at my question on what superpower she would choose, if she could.  “Wow, I haven’t thought about that since I was a child!”  After considering the question for a while, she muses:  “Well, I would like to be Superwoman.  That would mean that, whatever I want to do, I can do.  There would be no self-doubt!”

Her goal for 2018 is to run her first full marathon.  “I started running a couple of years ago, first for 5 km’s and then increasing the distance.  I joined a running club to keep myself honest.  Next year my sights are set on the Comrades marathon!”  And having spent an hour with her, I’m sure that she’ll achieve it.

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