The Annual EWB-SA Leadership Retreat took place earlier this year from the 21st to 25th of January at the Anglo American’s Centre of Experiential learning. The theme was Leading Like You Mean It, a call for our young leaders to embrace their leadership journey as a tool for personal & social progress in their respective areas of influence. The week of extensive and fun training was centered around catalyzing the development of resilient, resourceful and results driven leaders.
The program was kicked off by the Executive Head of Anglo American, Andile Sangqu, who took the time to remind our budding engineers about the power of having a dream, writing the dream down and working daily towards achieving it. He mentioned that dreams have an ability to outlive the individual whilst quoting Mandela and Martin Luther King. The students felt genuinely moved by Sangqu’s open and candid nature and how he was a living example of being a manifestation of one’s dreams. This amazing opening key note set the tone for the rest of the retreat.
The first two mornings of the program began with a Discovery Insights Awareness Course which prompted the students to really understand themselves and their ability to relate to others. Each of the students took a psychometric test prior to the retreat to determine their personal profile which was unpacked during the class. The class was offered by Jill Harris, a Principal at the Anglo-American Centre of Experiential Learning. The students were amazed by the accuracy of the tool and reflected on how best to use these insights in their leadership journey going forward. Naturally, as young engineers, they were also very keen to understand the algorithm behind the tool.
The Retreat afternoons focused on educating the students on the fundamentals of being impactful EWB-SA Chapters, the different roles expected within the chapters and conversations on how to measure their impact. The chapter leaders also had an opportunity to plan for the 2019 academic year.
We had several conversations about different areas of personal leadership throughout the week. Starting with Brad Beira, Executive of Governance, Risk and Health at Constantia Insurance Company Limited, who had an open discussion about how to get what you want. He taught the team the core principals he uses in navigating the complexities of business.
Simon Sizwe Mayson, Assistant Director- Inner City Transformation Roadmap at City of Johannesburg, also took us through the fundamentals of defining and navigating communities. As a mindful meditation enthusiast, he also gave our students a moment to meditate during his heartfelt conversation.
We ended off the first two days with an exciting drumming session. The aim of this session was to ensure that the students had fun, created memories and formed bonds with their peers. It was such a party! We hoped this would improve inter-chapter cohesion in 2019.
Thursday, the busiest day in the program, focused on providing the students with tool kits as they progress. Wiebke Toussaint, EWB-SA cofounder, conversed with the students about her recent visit to Silicon Valley, sharing her insights on the tech industry and its shortcomings. She also highlighted the power of data and the different risks it poses for Africa if not managed properly.
Cikida Gcali, Capital and Productivity Consultant at Mckinsey & Company, and the founder of a digital publication for ambitious millennials called The Money Fam, spoke to the students about how to purposefully navigate their borders. She highlighted the importance of saying ‘No’, being consistent, taking the road less traveled, having a solid ecosystem and feeding your source. Her talk was aimed at ensuring the students have a tool box for managing their side hustle whilst keeping up with their studies and life in general.
Neo, Founder of Technovera, a technology start-up in health care, spoke to the students about the fundamentals of meaningful mentorship. He took us through a journey about how mentorship provided a platform for his excellence during his time in corporate and how he has used it as a tool to be empowered and to empower others over the years. He set the scene for an amazing speed-mentoring session later that afternoon. Nikita Vala, Product Data Manager at Absa and EWB-SA Alumni also had a conversation with our students about the power of succession planning within their chapters, on the continuity of projects and chapters on campus drawing from her experience as a former EWB-Wits Chairperson.
Charged with all this knowledge the students spent the afternoon speaking to several of the EWB-SA Alumni and two BLAST candidates in the speed-mentoring session. The mentors included Lara Da Sontas, Clement Kasalu, Dhruti Dheda, Nikita Vala, Prebantha, Roshne Rayners, Tumisang Kalagobe, Joani van Rooyen and Lesedi Ngoato. The students had a chance to ask these different leaders about how they are navigating their careers and personal lives. The idea was that the students could meet potential mentors.
The evening ended off with the chapters presenting back to EWB-SA on their best practises, 2018 lessons and 2019 plans. The students made sure they dressed up for this leg of the event and received attendance certificates at the end of the session.
After a packed week the students used the wheel of life concept to holistically reflect on their lives and to plan for their near futures. They also got an update on the Human Centered Design (HCD) course and how we plan to execute it in 2019. Once they gave the team feedback on the retreat, they were given the chance to head back to their respective campuses and started with their respective recruitment sessions.
The organising team, led by Oratile Malao included Ayanda Shongwe, Eunice Bohulu, Tshegofasto Tshaka, Awona Shumba, Gaelle Mabasa, Paul Ssali and Noma Magagula. This was a brand-new organizing team for EWB-SA and they challenged themselves to learn quite a lot in a short space of time. We are truly proud of the retreat they put together. Well done.
We partnered with Anglo American’s Ambassadors for good program, particularly with the Human Resource (Talent & Learning) team and the Centre of Experiential Learning. They were instrumental in the development of the program, providing beautiful and safe facilities with amazing scenery and funding. We are highly grateful for their coaching and contribution throughout the organization process and throughout the week.
We anticipate a busy year ahead for our students with a range of courses from EWB-SA such as the Human Centred Design Course, Design Challenge, Entrepreneurship in Engineering course, campus events and community projects. The retreat was just the right kick-off needed for our young leaders to truly lead like they mean it.
Written by Noma Magagula
Edited by Dhruti Dheda