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Q&A with Qhawekazi Mdikane

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Qhawekazi Mdikane, Chief Marketing Officer @Momentum Corporate

How could you describe your career path in few words?

What has marked or inspired my career is attributed to my mother who is someone who came from humble beginnings, found herself divorced with two young children that she had to raise on her own. But irrespective of her background and some of the challenges that could have discouraged her, she forged ahead and realised the aspiration of going to study abroad at the University of Southern California (USC) on a Full Bright Scholarship as a single mother of two. Despite being advised to leave me and my brother back home in South Africa because of the pressure and the demands that her studies would require, she chose not to. It is through this exposure of living in Los Angeles between 1988 and 1990 as a nine year old girl from apartheid South Africa that showed me the endless possibilities that were out there. Witnessing her journey and seeing her thrive despite her circumstances strengthened the belief that I could achieve anything I wanted to achieve if I worked hard and applied myself. I attended a performing arts school which kick started my interest in being in the creative industry.

What was your most challenging experience and how has it changed your mindset?

I wouldn’t call it a challenge per se but something that has changed my outlook and perspective on life in general and therefore my career, and that is motherhood. It’s the one thing that I don’t have a control of. As the saying goes, motherhood is having your heart forever walking around outside of you. My perspective of the world is no longer only about climbing the corporate ladder and building sustainable brands, I am constantly thinking about the next generation and what world and opportunities I am creating for my four-year-old daughter. I think about the choices and decisions I make in my personal life and career and how they will impact my daughter and the future generations to come. Motherhood has taught me to be selfless. Having a seat at the table for the first time in my career is an opportunity that I don’t take lightly. I think about what legacy am I going to live. So, when I am gone, what future, spaces, platforms, and doors have I opened for my daughter and created for her and other children that look like her.

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?

Without sounding like a cliché but let’s talk about the COVID19 pandemic. What COVID19 did was it took the entire world back to basics. It made us all stop, reassess and realign. We had time to reflect and we had time to think about what really matters not only in our personal lives but also at work where we spend the majority of our time. And what emerged for me is that as a leader who was relatively new to being an executive, having started my new journey smack-bang in the middle of a pandemic, I often get overwhelmed with the task at hand especially when I assume that I am expected to have all the answers to the uncertainty we face as a team and a business. I had to make sure that the team was ok but going back to basics and stabilising the foundation meant that I had to look after my own health and mental wellbeing first. Therefore I relied heavily on my support system and reached out to them constantly for guidance. There's an African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’. In times of crisis it’s ok not to have all the answers, but since uncertainty is the only constant it’s important to find your own coping mechanisms and share what you are going through with your community. You are not alone. You will get practical tips and advice from lived experience.

Based on your experience, what’s the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

The day we do not have to specify that a leader is female and refer to her as just a leader is the day I look forward to and I will celebrate. The role of females and males have changed so much at home. I welcome the day when the workplace embraces the pace of change taking place at home as much as in the workplace. The workplace is still unbalanced in my view. We have come a long way as ‘female leaders’ but at times the odds are often against us based on our DNA. For example, studies have found that if a female leader takes maternity leave, her career stalls compared to her male counterparts. Success to me is being yourself, expressing your views without the fear of being victimised.

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