It is not often that you walk away from a maritime industry function feeling inspired to dream bigger, but I left last night’s WISTA-SA’s networking meeting feeling resolute to follow through on some major plans for 2020.
“If your dreams can fit into your pocket – they are not big enough,” Nolwandle Mboweni, CEO of Vela International told WISTA members.
With roots in teaching that continue to define the way she interacts in industry, Nolwandle was nudged into the business world by her father and her husband. Today she is lightyears away from the classroom as she occupies seats in a number of boardrooms – and is currently actively seeking new opportunities in the maritime sector.
Patting her hip pocket and smiling, she was clear that pocket-sized dreams would not have helped her participate in delivering the Gautrain – Africa’s first high-speed train or seen her become a director of companies such as Afrisun Gauteng, Total SA, Allpay Gauteng and more.
Ariella Kuper’s energetic and entertaining description of her road to becoming a major player in the ship auctioning business was equally as inspiring.
“Stars need darkness to shine,” she enthused, telling WISTA members that she had actively sought out male-dominated environments during her career.
Having started out in the steel sector almost by accident and by subsequently “tricking” her way into a job at Macsteel, Ariella’s career culminated in her co-founding the biggest mining auction house in South Africa.
But, following two bouts of cancer, she decided to regroup and focus on what had become a passion for ship auctions. Now she heads up Solution Strategist and is actively involved in ensuring that tonnage moves hands.
For Paula Giusti the path to the maritime sector was also accidental. Arriving in South Africa from Argentina 20 years ago with an agriculture qualification and in need of employment, it was her ability to speak Spanish that landed her a job at a ships’ agency.
Now she is driven by a desire to see Cape Town amplify its position as a super yachting destination and is working with industry players to promote this exciting niche maritime market.
Host for the evening, Janet Cotton of One Eighty has had no less inspirational journey in a very male-dominated sub sector of the industry. She’s the person to call if you need more information about mechanical or structural failures on your vessels or equipment.
Like many women in the industry she has had a number of laughable interactions based on her decision to show up in a workshop environment where she now commands respect.
The services of the One Eighty laboratory in Cape Town is used by many insurers and companies to help piece together the puzzles associated with equipment failure and, in many cases, provides a better understanding of how to prevent similar occurrences in future.
One thing is clear – none of these women ever kept their dreams in their pockets. They now represent significant clout in their respective sectors and are helping eliminate stereotypical reactions to the presence of women in the maritime domain.