I’m privileged to be the first edition of the Talent Talks ‘My Story’ insert. I’m somewhat bewildered by this specific task, as it is not always easy to be open and vulnerable in front of others, but here goes.
What we hope to do in this section and with the many stories that follow here on end, is to drop some words of wisdom and seeds of motivation in between the letters. Hopefully people’s life experiences will ignite a fire of your own personal greatness, and get you to realise that at the end of it all, we’re all human beings trying to be brave, indispensible with not a care in the world. Yeh right! We all have a story and we can all learn off each other, and that is what this is all about. Please feel free to drop us a note on your story (firstname.lastname@example.org); we’d love to share it with everyone in the spirit of collaboration and pearls of wisdom.
I’m the middle child – the one with the frizzy hair and the marshmallow tummy, the sensitive one, the peace-maker and sometimes the crazy one. We’re three girls brought up in Yeoville and schooled in Berea Hillbrow Johannesburg. I matriculated from Johannesburg Girls High in 1989 and it was there where my passion for appreciating people’s circumstances, difficulties and differences was learnt. It was also the place that saw me protesting in Std 8, as the government wanted to close our school down.
We were in a gray area and the number of attending school children dwindled and in the end there were only a couple hundred kids in attendance, in a school that in previous years had accommodated close to a 1000 children at any one time. If I’m not mistaken Joburg Girls was one of the first model-c schools in the country. I still have the photograph of me in my school uniform with my plaque card screaming out ‘Minister Clase – keep our school open’.
I also remember the secret interviews with journalists under a tree in Hillbrow Park, my Father having a fit and telling me the AWB had a book with my name in it and they were going to ‘come and get me first’! Every Wednesday in the Star newspaper there was an insert in the middle section where our school was often mentioned and recognised for its fighting spirit and determination to keep the doors open, catering for all the education needs of children in the area. The audacity of wanting to make it a post office or an army barracks still baffles my brain. But school was my special place in so many ways and it was certainly where a light and passion for fair, quality, equal education was formed.
I’ve recently made an enormous change in my life. After being in a global professional services, consulting environment for many years – I’ve decided to take a break. I suspect being in my mid forties is helpful in these types of decisions. Time to recalibrate, focus on my family and just being kind to myself has been an incredible 3 month process thus far. It’s also funny how the fire that was ignited at school has also continued through into my professional life. I’ve developed a passion for youth, education, 21st century workplaces and an insatiable thirst for Human Capital in business. I’m fascinated by what motivates people and what doesn’t. Funny, I’m never far from my own story, if it wasn’t for my determined attitude, hard-working ethic and opportunities given to me by people who believed in me, who knows where I may have ended up. People saw greatness in me that I didn’t and look where it got me.
As I’ve built solutions around scarce skills, graduate strategies and other talent projects, the core of it all lies in the fact that if doors were opened for people to shine, they could achieve anything beyond their wildest dreams. It’s been a huge motivator for me in the work that I’ve done and will continue to do.
So why do I say I ended up in a place I never thought I would have? I was supposed to be one of these mediocre achievers. I never believed I was smart enough, good enough or brave enough. In fact I never even filled in an application form to attend university. I went and studied Beauty Technology at Wits Technikon, a three year National Higher Diploma that believe it or not, has actually taught me skills I still use up until today. Interestingly, my qualification enabled me to travel around the world for four years and gave me the good fortune of living in London, Melbourne, Auckland and Scotland. It was also here on my travels that the very first step in my corporate life began. In fact my very first job in the corporate line was licking envelopes at an estate agency in Baker Street. From licking envelopes to being a Director in a global professional services firm, surely this is proof enough that anything is possible.
Please join me next week as the story continues to unfold…..
Follow Ursula on Twitter or email her on Ursula@talentalks.co.za