Change the world



A speech given by the Chancellor, Santie Botha, at the South Campus graduation ceremony on Wednesday, 13 April 2016.

“You set a very difficult goal for yourself and you’ve achieved it.

Don’t underestimate just how important this is, but this phase is now complete. The next challenge is what you’re going to do with your degree and the new goals that you have to set for yourself, and what you would like to excel in.

My only advice is that you set difficult goals and targets again. Strive to be the best in the field that you have chosen. Keep searching for the new, and what is sometimes viewed as the impossible, and always believe that you can change the world. Don’t strive for fame and fortune; but strive to be the best that you can ultimately be.

In a specialised field, what is far more important than pure knowledge and experience, is expertise. And not just expertise but creative expertise, ingenuitive actually, because the creative component is so pushed in today’s connected world where it’s all about finding solutions and creating the previously unthinkable, in terms of what makes a difference and changes the world for the better. Every day is a new day with new limits.

I recently read this very interesting book about one of the greatest companies of the 21st century, as far as I am concerned, and that is Google. In it, Google’s former Chief Executive Eric Schmidt asked a very simple question, which was whether Google’s winning ways could apply to other businesses and industries as well. A critical ingredient, he argues, is to build teams, companies and corporate cultures around what they call ‘smart creatives’.

This is the modern day term of Peter Drucker’s knowledge workers of days gone by. Smart creatives are described as impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, and typically combine technical depth, with business savvy and creative flame.

The defining characteristic of today’s successful companies and businesses, or whatever industry you’re in, is to continually deliver great products and results at scale and for that, you need smart creatives.

Going into the big wide world to find a job can be pretty daunting. Let me give you the example of my youngest nephew. He completed his LLB and articles as well, and only then decided, after all of that, that he didn’t really want to become a lawyer. A bit late, right?

He then embarked on a journey that was quite frustrating for quite a number of years, trying his hand at different things, doing different jobs, but with no real game plan.

And then, Eureka! Out of the blue, he found what he loved, this is very important, and that was to become a social media fundi for corporates. To create their online presence, create consumer and customer stickiness, grow their families, grow their market share, and be creative with the ultimate aim of having a digital communication business himself one day.

He will soon be in his third job in literally three years, creating a social media function in the marketing division. But his first interview process was quite something. I will give you a quick description: He decided that he wanted to change jobs and work for a new business after less than one year in his existing job, which for me, as a typical baby boomer, is unheard of.

He then developed a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation on what he would do differently with the brand and emailed it to the general manager of digital solutions in his target company. He was invited for an interview based on that presentation, as if on cue. After the first interview, when he presented his PowerPoint presentation to a team of five people, he was invited back for another interview with the Marketing Director of a listed company.

He then prepared another 10-slide PowerPoint presentation for the Marketing Director. Once again, with brand new ideas on how to grow a market share by improving the brand’s digital presence. He was phoned the next day to be told that he had the job.

The moral of the story is that it takes a different approach to get what you want nowadays and you have to decide what approach is going to work for you.

Competition today is global and the war for the best talent is intense. So whether you’ve studied at NMMU or Harvard or Shanghai University, you must be ready to compete with the best in the world, because you might end up working in New York, in New Delhi or in Johannesburg.

This year, NMMU will celebrate over 5000 degrees and diplomas which is a formidable achievement, once again. This is the only university in the world that carries the name of the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Nelson Mandela: A global icon of the 21st century who was born in the Eastern Cape. A name that needs no explanation wherever you are in the world, but with it, comes a huge responsibility to live up to what that name represents.

I can assure you that wherever you might end up working in the world one day, you will never have to explain where Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University is situated or which country you are from.

Remember, your destination is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. Your choice.

Ndiyabulela. Enkosi.”  

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057