The comfort zone occupied by well educated, melanin privileged women in corporate South Africa is starting to become the new plateaux. Some women that are lucky enough to hold the limited sought after positions in corporate South Africa are beginning to sit back, ease into their new comfortable seats and become observers, pretty ornaments, things that complement the scenery. I know this may sound harsh, crass and downright outrageous but ladies the comfort zone is a real place and we should avoid finding ourselves there by all means possible!
Often the path to this purgatory is the fear of taking risk, the fear of not revealing one’s weaknesses especially given that one is now in a privileged position, employed on their “merit”. Sometimes we are not hired on our merit. Sometimes, we are hired for convenience. Sometimes, we are the only option (by law).
The greatest disservice one can do is to limit their potential and shrink into the background. It is not enough to throw jargon around in meetings, but only to falter at crunch time and cower behind the junior graduates who will carry the ground work. Yes you have your bachelor’s degree, your honours degree, your master’s degree and perhaps your PhD, but if one doesn’t continuously upskill you will find yourself in the comfort zone. Present but not participating. Stuck.
In the team I work in, we build financial models. Most times, very complex models. When I started I knew how to model but not at the level that I had observed from the team. Problem. Compounding this was that only one team member, at the time, was custodian of these models. Opportunity. To date, my modelling skills have improved significantly and I have taught myself to code in Visual Basic Application (the programming language behind Excel). Learning VBA wasn’t difficult but the first step was the hardest, I had to acknowledge that a) I wasn’t as good as I thought I was and b) my less experienced colleague was better. Eventually I took the leap, exposing my short coming by trying and failing and trying again. It really is amazing how easy it is to learn a new skill especially computer specific by just reaching out to Google. From basic functions, now I can code complex macros using loops etc. that make modelling easier…ironically. Key takeaway- no excuses and Google is your friend!
My motivation for this goes beyond excelling in my own team and company but to hone a skill that I can carry with me wherever I go. To have the goods behind my CV, to be a doer and less of a talker. Few of us will utilise more than 50% of what we learned in university and with each year your graduation date moves further and further away. Stay relevant by continuously and actively investing in your career, become the first option instead of the only option.
To those of us privileged enough to be where we are, let us not take this lightly. In conjunction with helping those less fortunate up the corporate ladder, let us make sure we do not become complacent. Be respected not only for your qualifications but for your ability to understand, to execute, and to learn.
On behalf of MM