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Nosihle Dlamini - a love or understanding of the human element, everything else will make sense

Senior Manager, Quality Division, Toyota SA


Nosihle Dlamini may be described as a woman extraordinaire. As a senior manager at Toyota in the Quality Division, Nosihle plays a role in ensuring the vehicle quality at a leading automotive company. Her responsibilities include liaising with internal and external customers, driving efficiency, productivity, and quality through innovation and creative problem-solving.


Nosihle is also the vice chair for the TWIMS Alumni board, an association aimed at making manufacturing ‘sexy’ again in the communities around manufacturing spaces.


In addition, Nosihle is the founding member for Circle of Hope, an organisation run through a church in the township of Kwamakhutha and Ezimbokodweni. They assist youth and older people with job searches and readiness for the workplace. She is also an ambassador for WYB organisation where leaders are coming together to be agents of change for socio economic issues in KZN. A chance encounter with a plant engineer, piqued Nosihle’s interest in studying engineering.


Nosihle didn’t stop there though, after obtaining her mechanical engineering qualification, she continued to pursue subjects she believed were essential for her personal and professional growth. Her education, which includes psychology, business studies, and her current pursuit of a masters in human resources, showcases her dedication to understanding how the human dynamic operates within systems.


Nosihle emphasises, “It’s people who build cars, not the machines or the robots and its people who buy cars and so understanding humans is key. Whether you look from a business or socio-economic point of view or any other perspective, people are at the heart of it. As soon as you grow a love or understanding of the human element, I think most of everything else will make sense.”


She added, “That is interesting because I think as soon as we crack that code then everything will just fall into place. What makes the common denominator is tapping into that human spirit, that human energy that’s going to make everything work.”


Breaking stereotypes

Entering a male-dominated industry is no small feat, and Nosihle has faced her fair share of challenges. She began her career in engineering in Witbank, working in the mining industry. Despite being one of the most qualified in many meetings, she remembers being unfairly stereotyped as a ‘meisiekind’, the young girl who could be younger than some of the engineers’ daughters and therefore deemed unworthy of a say.


However, these challenges only fuelled Nosihle’s determination. Looking back, she recognises that the difficulties she faced taught her resilience and encouraged her to speak up even when challenging.


However, gender bias continued to be a hurdle, Nosihle recalls feelings torn between her personal life and the persona she had to portray at work. Like many other women with untold stories, Nosihle struggled with fertility issues and a heartbreaking miscarriage. She felt that amid heartbreak and anxiety it was important for her to be present, maintain a brave demeanour and continue as if there was nothing wrong to deliver on the required performance targets.


Nosihle reflected, “I think that was one of the biggest challenges, where you literally live a double life. It’s the whole stereotype of being a woman, you constantly have to prove yourself, which we do all the time.” She emphasised that our current education systems continue to teach and promote ‘cut-throat masculine traits’ as ‘good management’. “When a woman comes into the space not operating in a masculine manner, we think it’s weak leadership,” she added.


Nosihle is passionate about the need for more inclusive leadership styles, recognising that the top-down approach often fails to capture the true essence of leadership. She advocates for leadership which combines strength with empathy, a concept drawing from her experience of a confident and capable mother.


A message of empowerment

Nosihle firmly believes that running away from challenges is not the solution. Drawing inspiration again from her strong and resilient mother and empathetic father, who both prospered despite their own struggles, she is determined that we as South Africans can do the same. She emphasises that life’s hardships should not define someone. Instead, these challenges should be viewed as invaluable life lessons, opportunities for growth, and a path to prosperity. She added, “We all have different journeys. You need to experience the things you do to become your best self. ” Another source of inspiration for Nosihle is her children.


She says, “We are in South Africa and need a better country, we cannot all immigrate somewhere else. Every day I wake up, see my beautiful boys and think how I can change things so that they can have something better to grow into as people.” Nosihle turns to her firm faith in God to remind us that we all have a unique role to play in the world.

An impassioned advocate for education, Nosihle says, “There’s a level of empowerment and the discipline that goes with education.” As she feels strongly about this, she sponsors the schooling of four children per year, hoping to make a difference in an education system which favours the wealthy and leaves the underprivileged largely unsupported. Nosihle also runs a school and homework club at work, where she makes all the shopfloor leaders go back to school and helps them with their schooling.


In a world that often measures success by rigid standards, Nosihle reminds us that true greatness lies in embracing our unique talents and passions. She advocates for an education system that recognises and nurtures individual strengths and talents, rather than pushing everyone into the same mould.


Her advice to young people is simple: “Know thyself. Embrace every experience, whether positive or negative, as a crucial part of your personal journey.”


In Zulu culture, a greeting that stands out is “Sawubona,” which translates to “I see you.” Being nominated for this initiative feels like her personal “Sawubona” moment shared Nosihle. It’s not just about her own hard work, dedication, and perseverance being recognised; she’s also excited about the acknowledgement of all the other remarkable women she’s surrounded by.

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