To the matriculants: Let your works speak for you and define you, not your words
By Robertta Mutimbiri
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, esteemed guests, the Ambassador Hamadziripi, Honourable Chief Charumbira and Consul-General of Zimbabwe Ms Chaurura, Group Executive Chairman Mr Matsika, Zororo-Phumulani members of staff, and most of all, the young recipients of the laptops to be handed out this week.
We – as Zororo Phumulani – are handing out the 2021 edition of the laptop give-away on three venues at the same time – in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
There can never be a better way to spend an afternoon than to be at a gathering where young people –today’s youths and tomorrow’s front runners and leaders – are to receive rewards for their hard work and outstanding performance.
If anyone amongst you knows something that could beat this Friday afternoon feeling, please correct me now while I am still standing in front of you.
First I want to say, at the expense of stating the obvious, that when a private company chooses to channel its corporate social investment money in the direction of promising young graduates of the schooling system, it is scoring a double triumph.
Not only is it redistributing some of its profits in an undeniably worthy direction, but it is also investing significantly in the future of our countries, our societies, and our economies.
For the 4th year in running Zororo-Phumulani has been giving out laptops to deserving recipients who would have enrolled with any tertiary institution.
The sole aim of the company is to empower the youths by giving them the right tools as they start their journey into University life, no matter what their chosen field or career might be.
I want to address my few remarks today, to the young recipients of these sought-after tools. I am going to limit my talk to a few things to think about that I would like to leave with you as you go forward in your chosen careers.
As you might have witnessed in the last few years of your educational journey, the decisions that you make today will impact the years ahead of you.
It is worth applausing that you are here today to receive laptops which will go a long way in the journey that you are embarking on now, but it is also imperative that I point it out to you that hard work and sacrifice will definitely take you to the top, but it takes character for you to remain at the top.
Once again the decisions that you will make today will impact the years that are ahead of you, hence choose wisely.
It is a fact that in today’s world of work, many of the jobs in which your parents’ generation were employed, and many of the jobs for which you yourselves will be trained or educated, will disappear partially– in other words, fewer people, not more, will be employed in them –or disappear altogether, within a decade.
Read widely – don’t just look at the pictures – and let such reading inform your conversations
And these are not only the more obvious ones that one can foresee being mechanised.
As artificial intelligence makes its presence felt in more and more areas of our lives, even some occupations and professions which are sought-after and prestigious today are likely to disappear, or to be performed by robotic devices, for instance, computer programmers, and lawyers in some fields.
My advice to you is to remain open to the world, alert to trends that may be what are sometimes called “weak signals” of what is to come. Read widely – don’t just look at the pictures – and let such reading inform your conversations with friends.
Most importantly, try to think of yourself as resilient, as able to bounce back whenever you fail to reach your desired goals, pick yourself up from disappointment, and re-invent yourself. You may surprise yourself where you may end up.
Many young graduates end up excelling in fields vastly different from the one for which they trained.
As you are in tertiary education, think hard about unemployment; think about creating something of your own.
I want to challenge all of you present in this room today that the next Mark Zuckerburg should come from one of you.
You now have the resources at your disposal, what is left is how you will use them.
So, what do I mean by “preparing yourself for unemployment”?
It could mean that you need to keep in mind the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur, of looking for a need that needs to be fulfilled and starting your own business.
A lot is said about entrepreneurship these days, as more and more people start to realise that unemployment is inherent in today’s economies, in other words, not something that is just bad news for a while, and is bound to improve.
But it is not for everyone to start-up – and sustain – a small business.
Listen to the Money Show on Radio 702 or Cape Talk you will get excellent advice, but it is also sobering advice, that helps one to get an idea of whether you might have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Or whether you should rather choose another path, for instance, that of self-employment.
Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur like Mr Farai Matsika.
My third thought to share with you concerns your performance in your work, whether you are an employee in a corporate or an organ of government, or a manager. Over the past few decades, performance has become an important element of work.
I did a count last year of how many reports I had to submit in one year – and found that I had produced no fewer than 100 reports
Government and many businesses have been persuaded of the importance of performance management.
Targets, performance plans, performance measurement, reports, and reports on reports have become the order of the day.
I did a count last year of how many reports I had to submit in one year (not little one-paragraph affairs), and found that I had produced no fewer than 100 reports.
That is a lot of time taken up in trying to persuade others that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing!
It is too much to go into in detail here, but what this tendency in management has led to is “performativity”, and this has rapidly become an epidemic in the corporate world and government alike.
Performativity is not the same as good performance.
It is the strongly felt urge to be seen to be performing – as a company, as a department or as an individual.
Achieving targets may be very different from actually achieving what we need to be achieving.
We are doing so much measuring and reporting these days that we are not getting the job done! In the Far East there is a saying: “If you spend all your time measuring the pig, the pig will not get fat!”
And there is something else that is a growing tendency in our society that comes with performativity.
It is the box-ticking mentality. If I can tick the box which indicates that this or that job is done, I have done the job.
So much of what passes for success and achievement in the world of work today is about compliance with targets and performance management requirements, rather than with actually accomplishing real results.
And we wonder why so many projects overrun their timeframes by several years, and overrun their budgets.
The fourth and final thought that I want to leave with you, is about being humble.
Today’s popular culture is based on “Look at me! See how well I am doing! See the car I have just bought! See where I take my holidays!”
Somehow, I think we might need to re-think this look-at-me, selfie culture as we start out in our careers.
The temptation is great – after all, “everyone” is doing it. … But the fact that so many are doing it does not mean that it is doing us any good.
Psychologists have begun to diagnose and treat more and more patients suffering from all manner of health complaints – physical and mental – related to the stress of constantly trying to stay on top, of keeping up with the Kardashians, of making others jealous of our success.
Perhaps we’d do well to listen to one wise Chinese man who said.“The wise person does not boast of what he will do, therefore he succeeds.
He who boasts of what he has done, and what he will do, succeeds in nothing. He who is over-proud of his work, achieves nothing that endures.
To the corporate world out there I say, let’s continue giving back to the communities that we operate in today. It is from these humble backgrounds that the future leaders will come from.
To the laptop recipients here today, you are justly proud of your achievements this afternoon, and who can blame you for celebrating?
But always try to remember: Let your works speak for you and define you, not your words.
I thank you.
Robertta Mutimbiri is Managing Director of Zororo Phumulani. Zororo Phumulani Funeral Plan is powered by Doves Crocker Morgans Zimbabwe.
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