LIZ Thring has just finished a year-long PG Dip – the contact part of it. All that’s left are two more assignments and, at the moment, she’s just overwhelmed that she can see the finish line after a gruelling year of study and learning – all completed as a wife, a mother and a business professional.
Liz is the group training and development manager at Adcorp, a global workplace solutions company. She’s responsible for see to the training the company’s own 2600 employees, making sure their skills remain world class.
She was handpicked to be one of 13 Adcorp staffers drawn from across what is perhaps the biggest company in the country when it comes to putting people into jobs to take part in a special Post Graduate Diploma programme in executive education hosted by Henley for the company.
“Henley Business School Africa has a great reputation, it’s internationally accredited, but locally based; the kind of educational institution a company like Adcorp would look to for the training of its senior staff.”
She wasn’t disappointed.
“It was tough, we were doing an honours level course over 10 months over and above our day jobs. This wasn’t a programme where you could take study leave,” she says.
For her the opportunity to increase her management skills and bring herself up to date with global best practice was an immediate drawcard, but over the year, she discovered the course offered far more.
For a start, she learnt to really get to know and bond with her colleagues, all of whom came from different parts of the country working in different sectors of the company from Finance to IT, resourcing, outsourcing and HR all with their own linguistic, cultural, educational and social backgrounds.
The year, where they would stay together off campus at each of their six weekly contact sessions at Henley, has brought them all much closer together. It was competitive, they all wanted to excel, but in the process, they became a group very quickly.
The Henley experience though just made those bonds set even firmer; from the group projects that would be done after hours at the hotel to the sharing of thoughts on assignments between them once they’d gone back to work, but one of the most profound experience for Liz were the field trips to parts of Johannesburg she had never ever thought of visiting.
“We spent time at a home in Kensington, in the east of Johannesburg, for orphans. We went to Hillbrow, to the deepest, darkest drug centre of Johannesburg, perhaps Africa.
“It was a balancing, a recalibration of all our lives, being exposed to these hard-core challenges in our own country. You know, we’d come out of an exam complaining of not having had enough time to prepare. When we emerged from that shelter, none of us were complaining anymore.”
Coming face to face with the underside of South Africa’s social reality wasn’t just the only boon for Liz, she felt at home the moment she started on the course, despite being a university-trained musician and with no formal academic training in subjects such as Finance and Macro-economics.
“Henley has a very broad-minded faculty, we were presented with a very holistic view of what it means to be educated. Only a couple of weeks ago we listened to a monk speak to us on mindfulness and we learnt the importance of achieving our own personal mastery.”
The emphasis on the creative aspects of leadership were especially gratifying for the former musician.
“It was wonderful to connect the dots between creativity and commerce. Henley has a really good recipe, I have been able to connect the inner me to the outer me, while developing all the hard businesses skills one needs to strive in the future.”
Will she back to do her MBA?
“I need to finish what I’ve started,” she grins, “but who knows? Maybe.”