WIMVATION | Bigen Africa
by Lydia Bundred
responsibilities have spanned, amongst others; brand management, strategic corporate communications, events and campaigns, stakeholder management, in-house publications, media management and social-media strategy development and implementation.”s.
Her resume includes an impressive list of titles for some of the industries biggest players including; Corporate Communications coordinator for Anglo Platinum, Director of the Newcastle Publicity Association, Communications Director of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Commerce, Communications Consultant for the Indlovu Regional Council, and Communications Consultant for Municom.
Joining the Bigen Africa Team
In January 2010 she left Anglo Platinum to become a member of the Bigen Africa team. “I was attracted to the opportunity to work for a company which not only has a meaningful vision, but actually lives the vision – in this case to develop sustainable infrastructure on the Africa continent that will improve the quality of life of all. Integrated with this is Bigen Africa’s creed of ‘doing good while doing business’, which involves employees and partners in CSI initiatives to support the beneficiaries that the company has adopted. All our projects are undertaken with desirable development outcomes in mind.”
“Bigen Africa is a progressive company and a leader in the infrastructure-development industry,” explains the 2011 Bigen Africa Employee of the Year, “which has proven itself a pioneer in various ways. Known for undertaking massive and often challenging projects, Bigen Africa is innovative in finding unique solutions to unusual engineering challenges and seeking to uphold environmental principles. Besides undertaking pioneering infrastructure-development projects in Africa, such as the Botswana North South Carrier water transfer scheme which not only enhances regional economic growth, but also significantly improves the quality of life of the Botswana people, assisting the government in Ghana in delivering 200 000 housing units across the country. The company has also helped to create South Africa’s first ‘green’ taxi-rank at Wallacedene in Cape Town.”
Why Loving the Day to Day Matters
Having a passion for what you do can make all the difference, the Marketing expert explains, “It is important to me that my work is meaningful and at Bigen Africa I am aware that the projects undertaken make a significant difference to infrastructure development in Africa and specifically the local economies we are involved with. On a smaller, but also significant scale, communities benefit from increased job opportunities through employment on local projects. I am therefore proud and inspired to be involved in the marketing of such a company and aware that my every effort contributes to such worthwhile goals. Coupled with this is the exciting expansion into Africa – the company has undertaken projects in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Congo, Lesotho, Tanzania and Ghana, and has opened several African bases, with the most recent being in Ghana.”
Her role in communications gives her “many opportunities to define the culture of the organisation, bind employees together as a strong team and encourage and motivate them as individuals. In this way I believe that I make a worthwhile contribution to building the company.”
She continues, “If you believe in the value of what you are doing, you will be committed, you will enjoy your job and you will easily go the extra mile. Psychologically, this is the ideal approach and even health wise it is more beneficial. For this reason, I urge people standing at the crossroads of career choices to deliberate with care and not to rush into anything. Remember you are spending more than half of your life at work – make every second count and make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Secondly, when you are enthusiastic about your job, it shows and you inspire others to follow your example. And lastly, but not least, working under an inspiring leader such as Dr Snowy Khoza, CEO of Bigen Africa, makes my career with Bigen so much more fulfilling.”
Any occupation requires certain abilities to efficiently preform duties, in her role as the Marketing and Communications expert Annette finds that “in this field you serve many clients and are always required to be creative and meet tight deadlines under immense pressure. An eye for detail, flexibility, having many projects on the go at any one time, thinking on your feet and out of the box, a love for people and passion and a desire to serve are traits I find to be very important. If you are a person who thrives on routine and calmness, you will never make it in this industry. An ability to grasp concepts and information is also very important as is the willingness to work undefined hours on any given day. In this position there is no such thing as a nine-to-five job. In this field you also need lots of patience and a good sense of humour.” In addition “you must have excellent insight into marketing and promotions principles, budget management and the media. Good management, motivational and interpersonal skills are vital, along with the ability to truly listen to people. Strategic partnership and stakeholder management is, of course, absolutely key to the role.”
Words of Wisdom
Her words of advice to young professionals: “Most importantly, you have to be aware of where your passions lie. Doing what interests you and what you have real talent and skill for will put you on the right track. The rest takes hard work, and that is why you need to enjoy what you do. Highly successful people have the vision to know what they want to achieve and the passion to persevere. This could mean different things to different people and may include climbing the academic ladder. Failures and setbacks do not discourage determined people - they are wise enough to learn from their mistakes. And always build your career with integrity by respecting others and being considerate in every way.”
Bigen and the Young Professional
As a company Bigen Africa is very involved with new additions to their team by involving them in their “formal mentorship programme which aims to enrich young appointees’ professional knowledge and expertise through one-on-one mentorship by experienced senior employees. Bigen Africa received industry recognition for its mentoring programme at the Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony of Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) in 2012, when it was named Mentoring Company of the Year. In 2013, Kobus Viljoen, one of its engineers, won the Mentor of the Year Award. A key value at Bigen Africa is empowerment, which integrates well with the mentoring approach, in particular since the company regards its human capital as its biggest asset. Mentoring and coaching is also embedded in one of the strategic objectives of Bigen, namely to develop and grow centres of excellence, led by subject-matter experts imparting knowledge and skills transfer to the rest of the teams.”
A Young Professional's Guide
Annette van Zyl is the Communications and Marketing Manager for Bigen Africa, an infrastructure development company that focuses on integrated engineering, consulting and development financing. Her career offers young (and seasoned) professionals valuable insights and guidance in creating and nurturing a fruitful and satisfying profession.
Annette began her career “as a journalist and evolved over the years to the marketing and communications areas of expertise. I have been working in this capacity for more than 20 years and in various sectors,” she recalls “including the forestry, mining, chemical and conservation sectors. My background in journalism has given me the ability to maximise media coverage as I look at promotional articles from a journalistic point of view rather than from a public-relations angle. My career