The family culture at KBC Health & Safety is what distinguishes the company from a run-of-the-mill corporate, says Learning Excellence Manager Gugu Ndimande, on the occasion of Women’s Day on 9 August. “You will bump into the Chairman, CEO, COO or engage with your Line Manager or colleagues, and the first thing you talk about is your wellbeing and that of your family. In a culture like this, there is always a sense of belonging. We share in one another’s exciting times as much as we support one another during difficult trials – for that reason alone, one always strives to stay committed to the course and improve on their best.”
Gugu is responsible for learning excellence and quality, facilitator competency and the continual improvement of training delivery at KBC. There is never a dull moment, as she constantly engages with clients and personnel about KBC’s many and varied programmes. In addition, contributing to a ZERO HARM working environment in the broader industry is an immense responsibility, and also a proud one. “At KBC we keep thousands of people out of harm’s way, at their workplaces, every day, ensuring they return safely, to their families and loved ones.”
Post-matric, Gugu was an assistant teacher at a local primary school. She also worked as a catering manager, where she learned to be of service to others. A stint as an adult educator was followed by a role as a conveyor belt attendant at a mine, during which time she was appointed as a SHE representative. Exposure to KBC induction training inspired lightbulb moment in that she saw an opportunity to combine her love of sharing information with that of safety, especially as she was now also studying for her National Diploma in Safety Management.
“I applied to become a facilitator at KBC, held different positions, and 13 years later here I am – and the rest is history. Being passionate about training and a keen advocate of education, I always strive to learn or study something new.” This drive for constant self-improvement saw Gugu achieve her BTech Degree in Safety management with the assistance and encouragement of KBC itself.
Therefore, it is also particularly rewarding for Gugu to see the personal growth of the people with whom she engages. “When people start to see better versions of themselves, it is exciting for me.” She is also a natural problem-solver and enjoys seeing a well-executed plan coming together. Another important factor is engaging with different departments within KBC, which all contribute to its family culture and the company’s larger mission and vision of inculcating ZERO HARM awareness.
Gugu adds that it is important to acknowledge that all people have an abundance of knowledge and experience. “Training always becomes so much more impactful if relevant or current examples and scenarios are used. I follow this principle even when I am carrying out internal Train-the-Trainer sessions or workshops. The training is not about you; let the learner feel that this is for them. Keep it simple! Tell stories and create an environment conducive to a family like environment where individuals want to share their experiences.”
Commenting on the challenges she has faced in her role as a woman, Gugu says the main obstacle is being made to feel like you don’t know what you are doing. “People always doubt your capabilities as a woman. You will be challenged in different ways. There are still stereotypes out there, believe it or not. There are people who still believe that women cannot stand in front of men and talk about safety and technical issues, or even manage a team of men. Those are the challenges that women in any industry are currently facing.” She adds: “We have come a long way in our country, but I don’t think we are there just yet.”
There are many women who echo this sentiment, and a recent positive step in the right direction was the Generation Equality Forum concluded in Paris at the beginning of July, with the announcement of bold gender equality commitments and launch of a global five-year action plan to accelerate gender equality by 2026.
“The Generation Equality Forum marks a positive, historic shift in power and perspective. Together we have mobilised across different sectors of society, from south to north, to become a formidable force, ready to open a new chapter in gender equality,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, stated at the launch event.
Gugu is excited about this forum, and stresses: “We need to invest soundly in the empowerment of women through improving access to health, education, opportunities, rights and economic participation. Thumbs up though to organisations that are recognising women as equal contributors to businesses. There is hope!”
Her message to women contemplating a similar career path is simple: “Anything is possible. Be brave, courageous and stay focused, as the world needs such women, and prepare yourself for the journey. Nothing happens overnight. Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded there! Find a mentor if you can and work under the wings of the experienced until you emerge. Set clear goals for yourself, have values and invest in your future.”