“I definitely got more than I bargained for”, this is Thabang Mabuza’s first remark when we sat down to chat about how he spent his one day as CEO of South African Airways (SAA) Technical.
Thabang is a young entrepreneur, an Activator and CEO of Ulwazi Resource Consulting, an events company that hosts career events for school pupils, tertiary students and out-of-school youth.
His biggest event so far has been the Ekurhuleni Career Expo which is held annually and took place on 17 September this year at the Ekurhuleni College, Gauteng.
The aim of the expo, explains Thabang, is to facilitate conversation between corporate companies and young people.
‘It’s not an exhibition, it’s a conversation,’ he says.
The festival is two-pronged: it provides career information to school pupils as well as connects out-of-school youth with potential employers.
‘This year, we ran a placement programme within the expo where unemployed youth could submit their CVs and companies could interview potential candidates on the spot.’
Thabang also organises and manages ACTIVATE!’s Lion’s Den – an event where Activators can pitch project ideas to potential funders and/or partners for possible funding as part of ACTIVATE!’s SWITCH entrepreneur incubator programme. This is where he first met Musa Zwane, CEO of SAA Technical.
‘I never had the chance to go to university and have always challenged the status quo that you need a degree to go into a corporate boardroom and sell value,’ said Thabang.
After numerous conversations with Mr Musa Zwane, the idea was formed for Thabang to take the reins for 24 hours and experience being CEO of SAA Technical for a day.
‘It was an amazing experience and more than just seeing how a huge corporation works,’ said Thabang. ‘It gave me the opportunity to navigate and access relevant people – people who have a budget and that I can present proposals to.’
Thabang was also granted a valuable one-on-one session with the CEO who shared some great leadership tools that he uses to keep the company running smoothly, one of which was “be persistent yet patient”.’
‘If it’s not done now, the energy goes away, so always follow up on every lead but be patient,’ explains Thabang. ‘My journey to becoming CEO for a day didn’t start with one email, it was born out of a relationship which took three months to build.’
Another useful tool he learnt was the A-R-C leadership formula.
‘This basically means that for every action, there is a reaction and you always have a choice about how you respond to that reaction,’ he explained.
Thabang’s experience as CEO for a day left him very excited about his future.
‘The way forward for me now is CEO of Microsoft and ACTIVATE!,’ he declared boldly.
His company, Ulwazi Resource Consulting, also has a lot to look forward to in the near future as SAA Technical has agreed to provide an aircraft at the next Expo in October 2014 for young people to explore and will sponsor a branded trailer for Thabang to host mobile expos.
His parting advice to students and fellow Activators who want to get ahead in life is to make valuable connections.
‘Instead of drafting sponsorship letters, offer to job shadow for a day,’ he said. ‘That way, you get introduced to influential people who will remember you. Whether you’ve had the opportunity to study or not, through connections and mentorship you can have the opportunity to navigate spaces of interest either in business or for work.’
If you would like to join the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network, visit www.activateleadership.co.za to apply. Applications close 31 October 2014.