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Defining success with Shaleenah Marie Samsunder

Meeting up with Shaleenah

Heading up the Learning and Education portfolio at Siemens, Shaleenah is a certified coach and NLP Practitioner with a Masters in Science Degree in Coaching and Behavioural Change.

Her passion, contribution and commitment to the empowerment of women in South Africa led to her being selected as the “Top Women First Runner up” in Topco Media Top Women Awards in 2012. She was also nominated as one of 3 young achievers under 40 in the Oliver Empowerment and Transformation Awards in 2013. The Oliver Awards aim to identify and acknowledge true empowerment, leadership and innovation.

The opportunities that change you

Shaleenah studied at the University of Durban Westville where she received the Faculty Medal for Academic Excellence. Leaving South Africa when she received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. With her experience gained in the USA, she returned to South Africa to contribute to the development of human potential here and enrolled for post-graduate studies in Human Resources and Organisational Development.

Women’s empowerment and development

As the chairperson of the Siemens African Leadership Organisation of Women, Shaleenah positioned this initiative as a women’s empowerment and development initiative targeting women in her organisation and beyond. The purpose and vision of ALOW are to inspire, motivate, empower, develop and connect women. Through ALOW’s activities, opportunities were created for individuals to view leadership in powerful new ways and enrich their own sense of possibility.

Shaleenah was also instrumental in establishing the ALOW Business Book Club, a leadership, networking and educational program that transformed the solitary act of reading into a powerful opportunity not only to engage in powerful conversations with other women but also to develop leadership competencies. The Business Book club was used as a platform to raise awareness around female leadership and support and promote South African authors.

Empowering individuals for Shaleenah goes beyond career advice and her initiatives ensure that individuals are empowered in all aspects of their life from wellness topics to business and life skills. The rationale for introducing these empowerment initiatives is to ensure that individuals live their most empowered, professional and personal lives.

Setting up future skills

She recently established SieMent which is a Siemens mentorship programme. A critical factor which impacts employability is the job readiness of graduates. Graduates often do not have the necessary skills required to be employable. In order for students to become more employable, the gap between academia and industry needed to be bridged. SieMent is bridging that gap between academia and industry by closing the disparity gap between the expectations of industry and the work readiness of graduates in South Africa. The Mentorship model SieMENT, which Siemens is driving will ensure benefits for the graduating students who will find their transition into industry roles smoother.

Using your power to change lives for the better.

Empowering individuals in the workplace

In her words, “Our collective experience and skills are our most valuable resources. We need to inculcate a culture of lifelong learning that includes the sharing of knowledge, experiences and the transfer of skills. We need to actively promote mentorship because having a mentor can mean the difference between career stagnation and progress for many individuals with untapped potential. Empowering others with the knowledge, skills, and the ‘know-how’ is not a choice we have but a social responsibility we have as individuals in society”.

Take the time to make an impact on those around you

Shaleenah is the Group Mentor at SieMent where students are mentored and offered valuable insights into the dynamics of the workplace. Shaleenah is also a Global Siemens coach where she works with individuals to help them gain self-awareness, clarify goals, achieve their development objectives, unlock their potential, and leverage their strengths.

Shaleenah Marie Samsunder brings to the table both her passion for the development of people and her passion for designing learning programs that create an effective leadership culture which fosters innovation, emotional intelligence, responsibility and high performance.

In her words “ I try to live my life by always committing myself to excellence and never associating my name with mediocrity, this is best encapsulated by the quote “Everything you do has your name on it. Autograph it with pride”.

Celebrating your success

Leading Women in Business – Learning and Development Series with Elmarie Cronje

As Head of Learning and Development at EOH, Elmarie Cronje has supported the Learning and Development of thousands of their employees, helping others to understand their impact on a business. Her passion for developing people, their talent, future and capabilities through constant change and growth are abundantly clear in her role and her joy in what she does. We sat down with Elmarie to find out more about how she got here and what inspires her. 

Tell us about yourself

“I started studying politics with big plans of working at an embassy overseas and realised that it was all about government acts and policies and it wasn’t for me. I shifted to teaching, and this is where everything started for me. I was an educator for 6 years and then moved into adult learning, teaching everyone from the tea lady to the CEO how to use their phones.”

Elmarie then did a course to be a skills development facilitator, starting her own business that would go on to support companies in developing their teams to achieve their strategies and goals. She was acquired by EOH in 2010, stepping in to be Head of Learning and Development.

Reframe and start again

“I had been working at a place for 4-5 years and applied for a higher position and the process went great, it made sense for me to apply for it and then I didn’t get the position. When I asked why, after I had given everything to getting that position, a man filled it.

You cannot stay in a place where things like this happen. It motivated me for my future. I realised that my self-worth is linked to this, and I will not spend the rest of my time here. I didn’t sulk; I said no, reframed, and left, and the rest of my life started that day. Had this not happened, I would not have reframed and looked for a new opportunity and I might have stayed and been unhappy. This was an opportunity. “

How do you stay grounded?

“I take time out. As a knowledge gatherer, it is very difficult for me to take time out – I like to look at the news from all sides, and it is important to stay balanced and take a break when you need to. Taking time out and quiet time gives me the space to focus on my family and gives me the space to make sure that the connection, trust, and understanding are always there with them. I try to be present and try not to overthink. Sometimes you need to learn to just leave things behind, leave work behind, spend it with who you love, and come back later if you need to. “

“Learn to leave it at the table – there are specific times for specific purposes.”

The power of learning

“EOH has close to 100 legal entities and every year to keep learning and development going and growing is a phenomenal achievement. Every year that a new programme ends and starts, you see the energy and opportunities that you create. It’s about taking more time to celebrate how many people get qualified and skilled, staying abreast of new opportunities, and knowing the part that you play in creating opportunities for other people. It is easy to say, I want to study or do a skills programme, and to realise it is a massive effort and investment that you make in yourself. I have so much respect for people who want to do this. So every year, seeing the people who want to do this – that for me is amazing.”

Learning in a changed world

“We have gone through a massive digitisation change and created the Rise Up academy and just created a digital platform of eLearning programmes and it’s the whole process of how we kept people learning, even through COVID. Going full scale digital in 3-6 months – we had to move and go on while the whole team was at home.

This has also shifted how we can share information – you can download a book or a podcast and share it with anyone. Share knowledge and life-changing information!”

What advice would you give women?

“I have a lot. You always have to be inclusive, not just with race and gender but with age and understanding the level that people are at. You must be empathetic to others, encourage free-thinking and understand that your team is everything – you need to look after them. Never forget that you are part of it, even if you are a junior – make that count.”

“The way that you show up must serve you.”

Let your challenges motivate you; be strong in your communication; keep your ego intact; and broaden your emotional intelligence. Learn to read the room, the people, and the situations. These are skills that you can learn. Try to lead by example. Whether you are a manager or not yet, in every piece of work that you are doing, you are leading. Be the master of the area that you are in.”

It is necessary to delegate

You have to delegate. If you don’t delegate, apart from it saving you time, you are taking away the experience of others to learn and grow. How will they learn and how can they pull from your experience if you do it all yourself? This is how you grow your team. It is not about you not doing the work. When things are tough – you have to work through it. Switch “I don’t know” to I don’t know yet.”

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I love Ted Talks. I follow different people for their points of view and their systems. They have different lenses that they use in the world. I read a lot, which builds the energy and wisdom that I can fall back on when I don’t know what to do.

My values might mean I want to help people or other things – and I realised purpose is not a destination. You have goals in that time frame and that keeps you moving forward. As I set more tangible goals, my life gets more meaningful.“

Encouraging women to take the leap in their lives and careers, Elmarie reminded us “You might walk in alone, but you are never alone.”

Do everything with intention

Leading Women in Business – Learning and Development Series – Getting to know Seipati Moloto

This National Women’s Month, our team at MasterStart has been connecting with phenomenal women who are making an impact in business today. We had a virtual conversation with Seipati Moloto, the Senior Manager of Learning and Development at the Liberty Group South Africa. Seipati spoke about some aspects of her career journey, and about always being present, and intentional in who you are and what you do.

About Seipati

“I was born in a small location in Soweto, Johannesburg, in a family of community workers – growing up in a space that was all about giving. “Witnessing the struggles within South Africa at the time, the 1976 student uprising encouraged my parents to enrol me in boarding school from primary school to matric.” Seipati reflected on this opportunity with great humour, understanding, and gratitude for the new doors that would open for her.

Tell us more about how you began your career

“Initially striving to be a social worker, I registered at Wits University and failed, and then decided to change my qualification.” I enrolled at Peninsula Technikon to study Analytical Chemistry, going on to work in the lab as a Laboratory Technician for a pharmaceutical company, and then as a Senior Technician. We had issues in the Quality Assurance Lab, and I went into the factory, started asking questions, and realised that people were given a recipe and the steps of manufacturing without really internalising their value in the production process and society at large. I had the advantage of language and used that to help people see meaning in their jobs, I started teaching people basic chemistry in isiZulu.”

This would ultimately inspire her next course of action, unintentionally creating learning opportunities for factory workers, Seipati asked to formalise her role in training others and “the training bug bit and never left.” She then decided to study part-time and completed her BCom and Honours in Industrial Psychology.

“We teach people what to do, we don’t teach them why they are doing it.”

Taking the chance

Gearing up to take the next steps in her career, Seipati remarks, “I was ready, but my CV wasn’t” and it was a woman who said, “I have a feeling about her!” and took the chance. “Embracing this opportunity, I ran with it.” Creating a beautiful, lifelong bond of women empowering other women.

The proudest moment of her career

Working at a bank in the early 2000s, “I was coming in on my first day and doing orientation to establish a training department, and I had never been so scared.” As I got to know people, I realised that this was an opportunity to do something meaningful with a positive social impact. I was asked to develop and teach people who were semi-literate about electronic banking. Not an easy task, but I realised I had to show the benefit to the recipients.”

“My proudest moment was with a widow, whose husband had recently passed away and sitting with her on the pavement and teaching her how to use an atm in IsiZulu, I literally drew what the atm looks like and what to do. ” An experience that was new, intimidating, and had not been widely accessible to many within South Africa at that time, “the next time I saw this woman, she came up to me and told me how happy she was that she now knew what to do. This was the most fulfilling moment of my life.”

How do you stay grounded in the chaos of the world?

“Family. I am very invested in my family, and every Sunday my sister, her family, my son, my grandchildren, and even my ex-husband meet at my parent’s house for lunch. This tradition grounds me – if I don’t go home on Sunday, I feel it on Monday, I feel like something is missing. We also have conversations that are way outside of my understanding of the world, and it is a purposeful grounding. “

What is your advice for other women who want to step into leadership roles?

“One of the things I have always said to myself is to always make sure that I am present. Do things with intention.”

“Don’t try to be someone else, be yourself. I make a point of asking myself these questions before I start anything: Why are you doing it? What would you want to achieve by doing it? How I want people to experience me as a brand, whether putting up a social media post or attending a meeting – I always try to be intentional. This can be difficult, but you don’t have to be intimidated by others. Consistently be yourself and be proud of who you are as a woman.”

An impressive woman to engage with, Seipati is always finding opportunities to do what matters, her love for nurturing, mentoring, and supporting others, and is currently pursuing her studies to become a coach. “Everything about me is about creating opportunities to enable others. I was very lucky to align my purpose, my gifts, and my job – and it’s not always like this for other people. It is about understanding who you are, how you want people to experience you and being intentional about it.”

“Sometimes I don’t progress simply because I don’t follow the crowd, and I am absolutely okay with that.”

She can still be found sharing her time at the children’s centre her father established and has shared her favourite quote with us.

“Thought without practice is empty, and action without thought is blind.”

Kwame Nkrumah