One thing we love about our Comms Spotlight, Duduzile Nxele, is how she has put purpose and making positive impact at the forefront of her career and that has opened doors for her to excel in the communications field. From starting out in ICT to becoming the Corporate Communications Manager at the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, we see the power of knowing yourself and speaking up about what you want through our interview with Duduzile. If you’re looking for a boost of inspiration for your career, this interview is all you need!
How did you begin your journey and career in Communications?
I landed in the Communications career completely by chance (don’t really believe in chance or coincidences) but my career started in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) research. I worked for global organizations such as International Data Corporation (IDC) and Accenture until 2015 when I decided to do something about the nagging feeling that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
For years prior to that, I had been feeling like I was not living my purpose. I had a great career with so many opportunities for a young black woman but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to do something that would have a bigger impact on other people’s lives. So I eventually took note of this feeling and started listening, I asked myself – what was I passionate about and for me it was children and education. I have always been bothered by the state of education being offered to the poor black child and wanted to do something about it, no matter how small it may be.
So in 2015, I decided to join a non-profit organization (NPO) that worked with underprivileged communities. It’s there where I was introduced to Ford Motor Company. They had been working with this NPO to start a training centre that would provide free accredited training courses to students who couldn’t afford to further their studies after high school. That became my project and I immersed myself into it until Ford asked if I could run their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. I jumped at the opportunity as it meant that I was going to be able to achieve so much more with this big corporate resources, way more than I had ever dreamed I would achieve by myself. This role sat within the Communications department and I reported to the Corporate Communications Manager.
In 2018, when the role Corporate Communications Manager became available, I was asked if I was interested and I hesitated because I didn’t have a Communications background but I did have an ability to connect with people from all walks of life. So I took a “chance” and opened up myself to this path which was a perfect alignment of values and purpose.
Can you take us through what you do within your role as the Corporate Communications Manager at the Ford Motor Company?
I am responsible for three main areas in my role: Internal communications, External communications and CSR efforts for South Africa.
What are some of the deliberate steps you took to develop yourself and rise through the ranks in your career?
Since embarking on this journey of making a positive social impact, I have made it my overriding ambition to live purposefully and I treat work no differently. So I always make my intentions known of what I am about and what I want to achieve and that has opened up so many doors for me, as a result I find myself in very important conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), I am part of the DEI council for the global Communications department at Ford and that happened purely because of a mentor who knew my passion for people and was able to match me up with this cause. I also make a concerted effort to surround myself with people I can learn from.
Can you share one major challenge you have faced in your career so far and how you overcame it?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge but certainly a hill to climb – We had the task of communicating the very big news of $1 billion investment made by Ford to South Africa in an event where the president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa was going to be in attendance, all of this during Covid times. Now I am sure you can imagine the preparations that go into an announcement like that and having a president of a country in an event adds its own complications but we have such an amazing team who was able to thrive in those circumstances and do the very best job!
What are some of the key lessons you have learnt from your professional journey so far?
Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to let your intentions be known. Many people are willing to help if you are willing to show up. Once you open yourself up to new experiences and show up wholeheartedly for them, watch how everything conspires to make your dreams come true!
The best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a mentor in the industry?
To do well in this industry, you need to be able to connect with people as human beings first then business will follow naturally.