Mastering yourself is key to better team collaboration
Marcus Karuppan, who celebrated his third graduation from Henley Africa this month says that his journey from Higher Certificate in Management Practice (HCMP), to Advanced Certificate in Management Practice (ACMP) and most recently to Advanced Diploma in Management Practice (ADMP) with the business school has given him the tools to make a real impact in the NGO space. And as manager of the Digital Youth ICT Academy, previously T-Systems ICT Academy, a digital training centre that works predominantly with previously disadvantaged youth to provide free education so that they can become economically active in society, he hopes that his growing business expertise will translate directly into a better future for hundreds of young people.
By Michelle Ford
After I matriculated, I got into on a business administration programme at CIDA City Campus, but during the second year I had to drop out and find work. And then life happened, and I didn’t have time to study and complete any qualifications. I started working at DELL and then at Dimension Data as a technician. I was subsequently invited back to the university where I used to study, to act as a tutor. Today, I will have been there 20 years, and I’m now the general manager of the training institution originally set up by T-Systems South Africa.
People always ask why I’ve been with the same company for so long. The reason is simple – I want to be able to do for others what was done for me in terms of being given the opportunity to study. All the members of our current team are previous students. They understand exactly the meaning of the training they’ve received so they can pass it on to the students that come into their environment.
I really believe in the value of education. So, someone makes an offer for you to go and study and says they’ll pay for it, you grab the opportunity with both hands! A few years ago my manager suggested that I look into a degree programme because she wanted a succession plan for the academy. Henley Business School Africa was already doing some workshops with the company, so they were my immediate go-to.
The experience at Henley Africa is hands on and I simply loved that. When I was at university a long time ago, you’d go into the classroom, listen to your lecturer and then there really wasn’t much support after that. You had to fend for yourself and figure it out. At Henley we were immediately given the opportunity to apply what we learned as we went along, which really helps the learning stick.
I registered first for the Henley Higher Certificate in Management Practice (HCMP) programme, and our first project was to identify an NGO and work with them. As I work in the NGO space, it was exciting for me to see what others were doing. My group identified an organisation called TechnoGirl that is also a training centre but they support young females at a high school level though mentorship and various other activities. Everything we learnt in the classroom at Henley, from marketing to financial management, we were able to pass on to TechnoGirl, helping them to improve things like their administration and funding models.
The Henley team was always there to support us. The training blocks were generally five days every other month, but you could reach out to the staff support team any time, and they were always on point. Sometimes a week before the training session they would connect with you and find out if you were ok and on top of your assignments. Henley also looks after your body and not just your mind. The food is incredible! You get fed throughout the day!
One of my biggest learnings on the ADMP has been on how to have hard conversations. I used to think that conflict would end in an argument and I didn’t want to be in a situation like that. Now I have learnt to address the issues and not the person. It has allowed me to be a lot more at ease with myself and others. In the past if I needed a report done, I would do it myself in case someone didn’t deliver but that took away the time I was able to dedicate to more strategic work. I still work late but that’s how I operate. But it has taken a lot of pressure off me.
I also enjoyed that many of our lecturers and tutors were from commercial entities which helped me get a view on what a ‘real company’ as opposed to an NGO operates. One of the things I learned from them is the concept of shared value, which has taught me that even as an NGO, we still need to be making money because staff still need to get paid and we still have to pay taxes and rent. Receiving input from other colleagues and learning the various modules helped me realise that I am running a business that needs to be financially viable while also meeting its vision and mission to have a positive impact on the lives of our students.
Learning at Henley is not always comfortable, you are forced to confront aspects of yourself that you may have been avoiding. I’m not very big on asking for help, I try to figure stuff out. Growing up I always believed that if you had an issue or found yourself in a situation, you had to deal with it yourself, without getting too many people involved, because it was your issue to solve. So throughout the personal mastery section I didn’t’ like it because it started opening up a can of worms I really didn’t want to open. Fortunately, on the earlier programmes we’d gained some practice. In one of our assignment we were asked to reach out to a person from our past who we used to be quite close to but had stopped interacting with over the years. I tried doing that with a close friend from school I lost contact with when I moved away from Durban.
The other person was my father – we don’t talk unless it’s really necessary, so I started looking at that and how it has impacted the kind of person I am today. Even with my son now, we only talk when there’s something important to talk about. Otherwise, we’re just in the same space. What I’ve learnt is that I need those personal connections. The impact this has had in terms of my career growth has been tremendous. I am much better at understanding the people I work with. It’s not just about business. Each of us has a family we go home to every day. At every meeting I have with my team – something I learnt at Henley – we start with a five-minute chat. We discuss our weekends, how our families are doing and any milestones they’re celebrating, like their kids starting school for example. This makes it a lot easier for us to work together and to meet deliverables that we’re getting paid to meet. We’re a team and we support each other.
If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone embarking on the HCMP, ACMP and ADMP programmes at Henley, it’s to apply every single thing that you learn. You don’t always remember the specific tools or the name of the professor who taught you a certain concept. But if you make sure that in everything you do on the programme, you give it 150% and you really live the experience, not just for the certificate that you get at the end, it will enable you to have an impact on the lives of the people around you.