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The art of seeing what is possible

You come to business school because you think you need to learn more about business, and then you discover that it’s about so much more! For Puleng Malele, an artisan at the Ford Motor Company, his experience with Henley Business School has really opened his eyes to what is possible. From finance to personal mastery, it’s been a journey of new discoveries and auto-correction that’s already led to one promotion at work. And the journey is only just beginning, he says.

I’ve always been a technical person. I’m originally from a small town called Groblersdal in Limpopo province, and I’m one of six children – we’re three boys and three girls. When I finished school, I went to technical college in Witbank, Mpumalanga where I completed electrical and mechanical courses, and this has been my passion ever since. I’m an artisan by trade and worked for various companies before starting at Denel, where I had the opportunity to work as a welding practitioner and instructor and did a lot of lecturing and training. Five years later I moved to my current role as a maintenance artisan at Ford in Silverton, Pretoria.

In the automotive industry, there are newcomers every day with new products and more to offer. As an organisation, we are under constant pressure to keep up and invest in new product development. From a maintenance perspective, we have experienced a lot of transformation in terms of introducing robotic and automation systems to the assembly line. This means tapping into the global supply chain network to ensure availability of spares and parts to service the line.

My journey with Henley Business School began in 2021 when I started the SOAR! Advanced Diploma in Management Practice. Through our talent and development initiative programmes they tasked our managers with selecting a few high-performing individuals from various departments within the organisation to enrol on the programme. Fortunately, I was selected!

Shortly after starting my studies at Henley, I got promoted to a team leader position in the maintenance department. This, along with valuable mentorship from my manager, has given me a lot of exposure to the management side of business.

Henley helped me find better ways to communicate with my manager about what solutions I thought would work in our company. For example, I suggested that we incorporate preventative maintenance measures into our system. So now we perform monthly and weekly checks which ensure we always have spares available for whatever challenges we might face, and we can maintain the equipment according to the manufacturer specifications so we don’t have these issues going forward. 

I also found the personal mastery module at Henley very impactful. It makes you more self-aware and more conscious of your environment, and this shows up in your interactions with colleagues in the workplace – the improvements are ongoing. From a personal perspective I learnt a lot from the financial classes at Henley too. Some things I had always thought I was doing right, I realised were less than optimal! And I’ve been able to course-correct which has really opened my eyes to what’s possible. Next year I hope to enrol on the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice at Henley to continue my learning journey.

The most inspirational person I’ve met at Henley Business School is Rayana Edwards, the founder of Sari for change. She started the NPO with the aim of bringing about change in her community by empowering women with skills in garment making. This type of business practice also fosters self-sufficiency as most of these ladies now make school uniforms and other clothing to feed their families. My key takeout is how she managed to turn the NPO into a sustainable and profitable business, attracting business opportunities from countries abroad. I’m encouraged by her work to also establish a similar initiative in my community to better the lives of our unemployed youth. I plan to apply my learnings to build meaningful relationships to change the circumstances and conditions of our youth.

I believe in the power of business and business thinking to create a brighter future. For instance, I think we might have experienced COVID differently if more people had been afforded the opportunity of a business education. Many businesses did not succeed during that time because they lacked the qualities and capabilities in terms of knowledge on how to prepare themselves for uncertainties like the pandemic.

Of course, a big part of good business is effective leadership and this hinges on accountability. There needs to be more of this in Africa. When people are put in leadership positions and they don’t deliver, if they’re not held accountable, this has a knock-on effect on businesses. Businesses flourish because they’re guided by accountable leaders who ensure goals are met through proper management. This is the kind of leader I hope to be and the kind of leader Henley encourages you to be!

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