Its 4PM on a Friday in Johannesburg and the traffic is building up. All of Johannesburg is going home, but the night is young for Cindy Mashao, a Uber driver. She picks us up from our Sandton offices, and lets us ride with her.
Uber is a technology company connecting riders with drivers through a smartphone app. Mashao owns a hair salon in Alexandra, a black township in Gauteng, but now, as part of the Uber network, she has, like her counterparts worldwide, the opportunity to be the CEO of her own taxi.
Mashao was one of Uber’s first female drivers in South Africa when she joined the network late last year. In just under two years of its operation in South Africa, 4% of Uber’s drivers are women. In the United States (US), the corresponding number is 14%.
“Given that the US as a country is significantly bigger than South Africa and Uber has been in the US for five years, South Africa being at this level is really exceptional and the growth possibilities are very exciting,” says Samantha Allenberg, Uber’s spokesperson.
Mashao expertly navigates the back roads to get out of grid-locked Sandton at this peak hour.
“I stay far away from Sandton [as far as possible] when I’m working,” she says. With most businesses operating in this affluent part of Johannesburg, traffic is always a nightmare.
Mashao is a live wire and brimming with stories. As we drive to her usual spot, which is a petrol-station in Morningside, she tells us that drunk customers are her favorite because they make driving exciting and the ride eventful. There is never a dull moment. Her passengers in the morning are usually stressed office-goers, so there is little room for friendly banter.
Its 4.30PM and we start in Morningside at the end of the ever-busy Rivonia road where she waits for ride-requests.
“Morningside is like home for me. It’s where I started,” she says as she greets other drivers, mostly male.
Listening to the radio on the commute all day ensures she’s clued in on the latest music and current affairs.
It helps her find common ground with her passengers. She learns a lot from them too.
“I got a recipe for beer from one,” she tells us excitedly.
Her phone has been unusually silent and we decide to drive around the area. She shows us her Uber app, there are four other cars in the area.
“You’ve got to be sneaky and clever to get requests,” she says cheekily.
An alert goes off on her phone and we’re off to pick up her first customer, in Bryanston.
Our first rider tells us of his amusing Uber mishaps as we drive to the upmarket Sandton City mall. He had once drunkenly requested an Uber van, which seats six and is used for larger groups, only to be greeted by a very confused driver looking for the rest of the passengers. We drop him off and Mashao jokingly tells him not to make the same mistake tonight.
We head to Mashao’s usual Friday night spot at The Waterford Shopping Centre in Fourways. As we pull into the center, a request goes off on her phone and we’re on the move again.
It’s 6PM and we pick up a teacher on his way to a school play. He’s in high spirits after a long week. “It’s Friday night so I thought why not? Uber always has your back,” he says.
There’s a power cut and the area is dark but Mashao expertly maneuvers through the traffic.
The calm and collected Mashao says her scariest moment was picking up a passenger from a wedding at The Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site located 50 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. It was 2AM and the road to the venue was a dirt track.
The Uber app had alerted the passengers about the driver’s profile. Seeing that they had a female driver arriving to pick them up, they had a bouquet of flowers waiting for Mashao.
“It made it worth it,” she says.
We stop at a garage in Honeydew as she reapplies her lipstick land freshens up in the restroom. It’s the only break she has had. We’re in a quiet area and there are no alerts on her phone.
Its 7PM and we head to Melville, a bustling area cluttered with bars and restaurants.
She makes a sudden U-turn as she receives a request. We fetch two 12-year-olds on their first date. We get off as they get in.
They hold hands in the back seat and steal coy glances at each other. We agree to meet Mashao in Melville after she drops them off.
“Fridays are usually busy, you guys must be bad luck,” she says with a laugh. It has been quiet but every moment is an adventure for Mashao.
The night is still young, filled with umpteen possibilities.
The Master Strategist: How Mteto Nyati Developed A Reputation As A Turnaround Specialist And Ethical Leader
What is the one formula this business leader thinks is critical to transforming companies and society?
Mteto Nyati was born from humble beginnings in Umtata, a poor town in the Eastern Cape, a province of South Africa, during the height of apartheid, but he refused to allow his circumstances to define him.
By remaining true to himself from an early age, embracing who he is, a term he describes as personal mastering, focusing on the things he can change and sticking to his core values of family, fairness, excellence and integrity, his career has rapidly progressed.
The mechanical engineer has held various leadership positions at the South African operations of multinational companies, such as IBM and Microsoft where he has fine-tuned and refined his leadership style to become a master strategist, developing a reputation as a turnaround specialist and ethical leader.
From Microsoft, Nyati joined pan-African telecommunications network provider MTN and in 2017, South African-listed Allied Electronics Corporation Limited (Altron), where he is currently CEO.
The highly self-aware and introverted businessman has transformed Altron into a serious contender in the technology space globally with plans to expand into the Netherlands, Malaysia and India.
In less than three years, he has more than doubled Altron’s valuation taking it to just over $642 million.
His success has not gone unnoticed. In 2019, he won the Business Leader of the Year award at the CNBC Africa All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLAs) and the IPM CEO Special Award from the Institute of People Management.
Dressed simply but elegantly, in a navy blue blazer and light-blue shirt, the author of the number one best-seller, Betting On a Darkie, with candor shares his secrets of success with FORBES AFRICA.
With acuity, the story-teller says his success lies firstly in his team.
“It is really not about one individual, it is about building a capable team of people.”
To do this, you need to find the best people, surround yourself with them, and not be afraid to hire those that are even stronger than you in different areas, he adds.
Nyati asserts it is something he has done in almost all his jobs.
Secondly, he attributes his accomplishments to strategy.
“You always need to know where the company is going, your strategy is critical,” he remarks.
“But you need to design the strategy with others and give it time.
“I take at least three months.”
Why? Because it takes time to engage with various stakeholders, from customers to employees.
The inclusiveness of that process is also very important, says Nyati, as is “making sure that not one stakeholder but various stakeholders including your customers” are part of your strategy formation process so that the strategy you come up with is relevant for the company and talking to what your customers are looking for.
In developing his strategy, Nyati talks to employees and gets them to ask some tough questions like ‘where are we failing, where are we missing opportunities’?
The erudite CEO feels speaking to employees is crucial as they know why customers are frustrated.
“If you don’t ask and find out from them, you won’t be able to pick up that information,” asserts Nyati.
It is also critical, he adds, as “then the strategy that you come up with becomes a strategy that the employees can relate to because in reality, it is a strategy that was formed by them.
“When you go and present and say ‘these are the areas of focus, we need to concentrate on this, we need to fix this and fix that’, the things that you are talking about are the things they told you need fixing so they will embrace the strategy quickly.”
This formula, however, was not something Nyati followed throughout his career.
“It is something that grows. You learn, you try this, you try that and you read about how other people are doing things so over time, I have come up with some kind of formula but it is not how I used to do things 20 years ago, it is something that has been built over a period of time,” he reveals.
Asked if it was something he finessed at Altron, Nyati responds, “no, not at Altron, not at all. I would say that it would be at Microsoft”, which at the time was dealing with multiple challenges from staff to customer retention.
“The practices that I am talking about I used at Microsoft, the same way that I did it at MTN to try and address the challenges. I did not change anything when I came to Altron but I started putting together this formula at Microsoft,” he says pensively.
Having taken firm control of the steering wheel at Altron, Nyati wants to help the company that operates in seven African countries, and a few outside of the continent, become more global so that it gets a significant amount of its revenue and profits outside of South Africa.
He also wants Altron to become a paragon of an inclusive society.
Reflecting on this, Nyati says he wants to “demonstrate that you can have an entity where regardless of who you are – black, white, Indian or colored – we can have these people working together towards a common goal and being able to do great things. We need to show our country there is value in diversity, there is so much value in embracing everybody and that is what I am trying to do in Altron and I am amazed at how the people of Altron have embraced that strategy themselves and they are pushing and helping us do great things.”
More broadly, he would like to awaken the giant within society, something he has already started at Altron.
“We have got so much as individuals we can offer but we are playing way below our potential as human beings,” elucidates Nyati.
That is something this meliorist would like to change.
If he can lift that game and help individuals see their own potential and act on that potential, regardless of their background, Nyati says he would have achieved his mission in life. Ponder that.
How To Successfully Negotiate Your Salary
With unemployment at a low 3.6%, American workers have been enjoying a candidate-friendly market, and many have used it to their advantage. According to a recent survey by recruiting firm Robert Half, 54% of job seekers negotiated for a higher payout before accepting their most recent position. Of those who didn’t ask for more, nearly one fifth said it was because they felt uncomfortable doing so.
“Anyone who has the experience is in demand,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “Everybody should feel comfortable negotiating compensation today.”
Negotiating can be intimidating, but with a little preparation, job seekers can be better equipped to walk away with what they’re worth. Here are three keys to a successful salary negotiation, plus what to do if the hiring manager doesn’t budge.
1. Do Your Research
While hiring managers often discuss pay with candidates early on in the hiring process, with 35% of respondents reporting that the subject of salary came up in their first in-person interviews, McDonald advises against negotiating before an offer has been made. If salary range does come up, use that as the starting point to research industry averages for the role at hand, using online resources like Glassdoor’s salary tools and Payscale’s salary calculator as your guide. Another form of compensation that’s worth considering is benefits. A flexible work arrangement or student loan reimbursement, for example, may not pad your paycheck, but they are perks that could boost your bank account. Whatever you do, don’t overshoot—that could be a turnoff. Flexibility and knowing your market worth is key, he says.
2. Establish Your Must-Haves And Your Nice-To-Haves
Before you go into a salary negotiation, determine what you need and what you can do without. “If you’re interviewing for a new role, or if you’re going to your current employer for the annual salary review, know what your priorities are,” McDonald says. “Take the emotion out of it and be really in tune with what’s important to you.” Not being able to articulate what matters most can cost you a few extra thousand dollars, or even the position itself.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no better way to calm prenegotiation nerves than to practice. McDonald recommends role-playing with trusted colleagues, mentors or recruiters so that you can get feedback from those who have been on different sides of the table. As you craft your pitch, remember to make liberal use of the words “we” and “us.” “It’s always good to try and join the parties when you’re negotiating,” McDonald says. Something as simple as “There are a few things that I’d like us to discuss” can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re a team player. For instance:
“I’m so thrilled that you’ve extended an offer and I’m really enthusiastic about the role! I know I’d be the right fit for the [co. name] team and based on what we’ve discussed during the interview process, my background and experience align really well with the expectations of the job. I’m hoping we can discuss the offer you presented because based on my research, the salaries in our area for [job title] are typically around [number]. I’m confident you’ll be pleased with what I’ll bring to the role and organization and I’m looking forward to contributing.”
It is unlikely that your negotiation will end with you receiving an immediate “yes,” so leave by offering to continue the conversation. If the hiring manager doesn’t follow up regarding your request or just won’t budge, ask yourself if you can still afford to take the opportunity. If the answer is no, tell the company right away. “Don’t ghost the opportunity,” McDonald says. “Regardless of how it all turns out, always be professional, always be courteous, always be objective.”
Bryan Habana Swaps Sweatpants For Suits
After 15 years at play Bryan Habana, the man who was once compared to a panther, discusses the end of his run on the field as he gives business a shot
Sitting at the SLOW Lounge in Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile, sleeves rolled halfway up his arm, Springbok and World Cup-winner Bryan Habana looks a lot less like the menacing right winger with an insatiable appetite for tries and more like the entrepreneur he has now become.
The change was sudden. One day, he was recovering from injury and plotting a new season with his French club Toulon, the next he was walking into the Toulouse Business School getting his first badge in Business Studies.
“The decision to call an end to your sporting days is probably the most feared in a professional athlete’s life,” Habana says.
“You don’t really know what you’re going to be jumping into, even though they talk about preparing yourself for life after professional sport.
The transition is the most talked-about topic in sport because it’s so huge. When you’ve been doing something you love for five, 10, 15 years, you almost need to rediscover yourself once it’s done.
“But I’ve kept myself busy – even though I thought I would give myself time to reflect on the past 15 years, which hasn’t happened yet.”
In the post-training, post-gym routine that retired players find themselves, former professionals can often get stuck trying to find their next move. It’s an often depressing realization and a lonely time, filled with much angst and doubt.
Not for Habana. With much of the same finesse he weaved past seemingly closed spaces on the rugby field, he called marketing guru Mike Sharman after calling it a day and the pair, alongside Ben Karpinski, came up with sports marketing agency Retroactive.
“I had a chat with Mike Sharman – whom I’ve known since high school at King Edward VII School – when I announced my retirement last year and came up with the idea of creating something fresh and authentic within the digital sports marketing environment,” Habana says.
“Through Retroviral, Mike had been in the agency space for more than 10 years. He is not about being the biggest but just being the best at what you can do. Ben’s been in a similar space from a sporting fan point of view and he knows sport – not just one type but the heartbeat of it. Shaka Sisulu [Retroviral chairman] comes with a wealth of enterprise experience, which we all needed.
READ MORE | Super Rugby In Sin Bin
Swapping togs, kitbags and sweatpants for bespoke suits, ties and matching pocket squares was always going to make for an awkward transition for one of the most celebrated Springboks of all time.
In rugby numbers, Habana has clocked 124 test caps and a record 67 tries for South Africa, not to mention the World Cup, Tri-Nations, Super Rugby, European Championship and Currie Cup medals that dangle from his neck.
In his post-rugby career, his numbers were dialled back to zero – his factory settings restored.
However, his relationships garnered through rugby have come in as invaluable human relations capital.
Seeing him give a talk at the Mining Indaba in February, you’d think he’s been an entrepreneur for years. Doors that he didn’t know existed have opened and his shoes are tap dancing into rooms that rugby boots cannot take you.
Already, the company can count Jawitz Properties, Cricket SA and Biogen among the clients they create storyfied, authentic digital marketing content for.
Habana says: “I am fortunate as well that, throughout my rugby career, I was able to create a brand for myself and work with some of the biggest brands in the world… Through these partnerships, I’ve been able to see how the other side works.
“Given my wide network, it made sense that I come into a role where I could engage with potential clients. Hopefully, I won’t get seen as Bryan Habana: P.A. to Mike Sharman.
Yes, it’s difficult and you definitely don’t earn your playing salary but I am fortunate to have opportunities leading up to the World Cup. The synergy is very good and there is definitely something special brewing.
Habana joins a growing list of ex-professionals who have veered away from the predictable coaching route – something he describes as more difficult than being a player.
Patrick Lambie, who retired recently, also ruled out the possibility of getting into coaching and is likely to join his father, Ian, and former teammate Guy Cronjé’s business partnership.
Other teammates such as Bakkies Botha (game farming) and John Smit (former Sharks CEO) have provided Habana with a good sounding board in this dark new world he has entered.
“There’s not a support group or a WhatsApp group where we all log on and discuss these things but I definitely chat to John, Jean [de Villiers] and Bakkies, who have entered this space.
“And of course, my wife [Janine Viljoen], who ran her own business in Cape Town, provides good support.”
Perhaps, the grass actually is greener on the other side.
– Sibusiso Mjikeliso
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