WITS students were treated to a strong and bold Nescafe grind session that included an inspiring talk by Google Africa CMO Mzamo Masito, a seasoned executive that’s worked for brands like Nike, Unilever and Vodacom. The motivational and skills session was in celebration of #MandelaDay2019 and as part of Nescafe’s #ThisIsOurGrind campaign to empower youth.

A mobile coffee shop was placed at the WITS Library Lawns with a stage setup where Mzamo would give a talk later following sessions by experts to highlight the importance of a LinkedIn profile.

Mzamo took over the stage to talk about his career and the hurdles he’s had to go through to get to a position where he no longer applies for a job and offered guidelines to maximise your potential. My personal highlight from his empowering talk was the point about knowing what you want and the people that can help you achieve it.

He said that a person is the sum of five people that they hang out with, “So if they suck, you suck, if they have poor values sooner or later you’ll also adapt to those values. You must choose to be around people that are more progressive and not those who are not ambitious about life and their goals.”

Mzamo said that sometimes we need to build the courage to cut off things, habits and people that may somehow hinder success in our lives. He made an example about how he almost failed his first year at University.

“I told my friends that I can’t afford to fail because I’m here on a scholarship that my mother is poor, and I have no father so I’m going to try to study and get my degree. I’ve had to build the confidence to approach my lecturers when I didn’t understand a subject to say I don’t know please teach me,”

He says the lesson he learnt as a student is that he had to ask for help and that people will help you. That he wouldn’t have made it had he never stepped up to ask for assistance. He mentions that one particular lecturer who agreed to teach him. Every day for an hour they met for lessons and he eventually became better.

“You have to know what you want and surround yourself with people that can help you achieve it. You are the average of the five people you hang out with. Sometimes you have the decency to have enough courage to grind on your own, cut off certain things, habits and people that pull you down.”

Mzamo highlighted some of the issues as the youth he believes are pulling us down and farther away from reaching our full potential.

“We hang around with friends that have the same issues and problems as us. You’re both poor, you don’t know how to speak English properly. You basically club together in your misery and you comfort each other in your misery. It doesn’t help. We’re all miserable anyway so how will we help each other.”

Another powerful point Mzamo made was that if you’re not willing to chase your dream, to do what it takes and more to reach it, if you’re always scared to hustle then you won’t get anywhere in life.

“There’s a misconception that having a degree equals success but the reality is that wealth is built on three things; on the job, coach and mentoring and the formal education which only accounts for 10% of your development. It’s important for us to build and have a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate our competencies.”

He said whilst completing his studies he had so many side hustles that ensured that he had a portfolio of evidence to compliment his degrees. Mzamo worked as a tutor and believed that he had to help other people as he was also getting the help he needed from other people as well. Other jobs he did include being a receptionist but fast forward he was Managing Executive, Brand and Comms Africa Group at Vodacom, and vice President Brand Building, Foods at Unilever and currently Chief Marketing Officer for Google Africa. He’s advice is that we need to start searching for opportunities outside the borders of South Africa because there’s a lot to learn from other African countries.

“A lot of South Africans don’t think outside Africa. They all want to work in the country when they can work anywhere in the world. My sister works in New York and she has been there for five years. There are South Africans that studied here at WITS who work for Google in different countries. You’re more likely to learn something new if you work outside the borders of South Africa. There’s a lot I’ve learnt in Now Nigeria, and Kenya. If you work in SA you will always be mentally colonized.”

The day ended with group sessions where students could ask Mzamo anything. He said that the key themes that kept coming up is that students wanted to know how they can fuel their grind, side hustles, and the guiding principles and tools are to help them achieve their goals.

“The key thing for me is being able to share not how to do it but rather what the guiding principles are because your how and my how will never be the same but principles are principles. For example, the principle of having courage to speak up and have a voice, pushing through fear, managing it and even knowing that your limitations don’t mean that you’re not smart, are some of the guiding principles they can adopt. Another is that your intelligence is not enough. You have to compliment it. You must have side hustles that will build your portfolio of evidence.”

As we were wrapping up the interview, Mzamo is reminded of a quote by Kaya FM radio presenter that echoed his sentiments.

“Greg Maloka said something powerful- he said our success was partly an accident. But your success must be by design and not by accident. You need to be a lot more deliberate, intentional and pro-active about your success; you need to put plans in place- you need to surround yourself with people that can help you achieve your goals.”

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