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Q&A with Vumile Msweli

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Vumile Msweli , CEO @Hesed Consulting and Career Coach

How could you describe your career path in few words?

I come from a small township Chesterville in Durban, South Africa. It is a humid beach town that is abuzz with a sense community. I was raised by my mum and grandparents. I was especially close to my grandfather who was an entrepreneur. He was a kind, hard working gentleman who always had time to be of service and support to others. I spent much of my childhood watching him build his business. I guess as an adult I am replicating what I grew up around as a child. I am a serial entrepreneur dabbling in personal services, education and retail. My journey is underpinned be education. Being born in Apartheid South Africa education has been for me the key to the world. I completed my matric at St. Mary’s DSG, did a Bachelor of Accounting Sciences from the University of Pretoria as well as Bachelor of Commerce Financial Planning Honours. I then did my Masters in Business Administration at the University of London, my Executive Education at New York University, my Higher Education Teaching certificate at Harvard University and am currently studying my Doctorate in Coaching at Switzerland’s Monarch University. My career journey began in banking from the contact centre and quickly accelerated to an executive role. Becoming a career coach was borne out of my frustration in my corporate career, where I was an executive facing challenges and wanted a coach who looked like me and understood my struggles and not only empathised but understood what it was like to be an African female pursuing excellence whilst climbing the corporate ladder. There were gaps I identified in myself and I knew coaching could help close those gaps. A career coach is an expert who has hundreds of hours aiding people to achieve the career goals as well as gain clarity on their career journey by equipping them with skills that help them overcome obstacles and succeed in their work. So that is the service I have chosen to dedicate my time to. Supporting people in their career journey, overcoming obstacles, and having work that fulfils them.

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

I started my career at the contact center at a private bank in South Africa. I recall being young, ambitious and naïve. I had a robust debate with the then founder and CEO. I challenged the status quo and gave a number of suggestions as to what I would do if I had the power to change things. Ever the calm and fearless leader the CEO pushed the ball back into my court and reminded me I had the power to change things. This challenge saw me working extra hours and the swift realisation that change isn’t always left solely to leadership but also to every employee. My volunteering my time in this manner resulted in exposure to a highly influential client who advocated for me to get an opportunity to work for a large bank in Europe. This reminded me to not despise small beginnings and seize opportunities without fear. The decision to speak up, show courage and back it up with hard work created opportunity for me halfway across the world. This practice has served me well and has helped in giving me a spirit of boldness in pursuing what I believe is right. This is why I established Hesed. To create opportunities for African women to accelerate in their careers, find joy in their work , be able to compete effectively with the best in the world in their career and fulfil their dreams. The early years of my career catapulted me into a life of my dreams. That audacity to fulfil my dreams by building my own business and sharing my insights through speaking.

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

I find my querencia to allow me to re-callibrate and center myself in order to be able to navigate towards the future. The word is querencia is derived from the Spanish verb "querer," which translates "to desire." For the purpose of our discussion we will look at querencia in the context for bullfighting, a bull may stake out his querencia, a certain part of the bull ring where he feels strong and safe. Querencia is an abstract notion in the Spanish language it is an internal space which you find for yourself despite an external raging war.

I first came across the concept of querencia in American author Ernest Hemingway's 1932 nonfiction book Death in the Afternoon. In his novel Hemingway eloquently describes the querencia as follows: “A querencia is a place the bull naturally wants to go to in the ring, a preferred locality... It is a place which develops in the course of the fight where the bull makes his home. It does not usually show at once, but develops in his brain as the fight goes on. In this place he feels that he has his back against the wall and in his querencia he is inestimably more dangerous and almost impossible to kill.”

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

There is a saying that says if hard work was the only requirement to be wealthy every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. So the gap between success and the status quo isn’t only hard work. I believe this gap can be closed by opportunities and support which can be created on the continent. Helping to close this gap is why Hesed Consulting exists, and there is none better suited or equipped to close the gap than African women. We service predominantly African women as such I think it’s only fair that Hesed be led by African women from across the continent. Having African women in South Africa, Nigeria, Botswana, Rwanda and Unites States of America drive this agenda to support their growth and career success. I do however believe that diversity breeds innovation and that is something we are striving for as we continue our growth journey.

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