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Barbara Njapha

Barbara Njapha

BARBARA NJAPHA is the managing director of Performance Solutions Africa (PSA), a consulting firm in Durban that conducts performance enhancement interventions. Best practice programmes are offered to organisations in the private and public sectors, involving the training and coaching of leaders and managers. PSA's major focus currently is delivering school management programmes in the education sector, and to date these have been delivered in over 2000 schools nationally.

On a day to day basis, Barbara is responsible for the overall management of the company, its people, and its functioning. She liaises with clients and the funders of projects and oversees the finances, marketing, new business, staffing, projects, and the developing of specific project reports.

After matriculating from Igagasi High School in Umlazi, Barbara enrolled for a secretarial course at the Mangosuthu Technikon, as she lacked sufficient credits for university studies. Upon finishing the course, Standard Bank employed her, engaging her in their accelerated learning programme, which provided exposure to several banking functions. A year later she was accepted for the bank's "FTUS" scheme, whereby employees could attend university full-time. Due to her interest in people's behaviour, she enrolled for a B.Com (Industrial Psychology) degree at the University of Natal in 1995.

Diverse experience

After completing the degree, Barbara dealt with human resource (HR) matters ranging from training to industrial relations. At the end of 2001, she was employed by ABI as an HR specialist. When she felt that she had reached a ceiling in HR, she asked to be exposed to operations. To her surprise, they offered her relevant training and appointed her as a senior warehouse manager. She commented, "The opportunity to gain diverse experience in human resources as well as operations was a special gift."

When managing the warehouse was no longer a challenge, Barbara left ABI to start her own recruitment company in 2006. Soon afterwards she met with a former work colleague who advised Barbara that PSA was looking for an HR head. Consequently, in addition to running her company, she joined PSA, and became a director replacing the lady who had recruited her. An opportunity arose when the then - managing director moved to Cape Town and Barbara was appointed to this position in 2010, which is the job title she still holds.

Barbara says, "I am not inspired by a specific person, but by the actions of any person that makes a positive change." She admires someone like Nelson Mandela for his vision and ability to look beyond his immediate circumstances, but it is his actions as well as the actions of often unknown people doing something beyond themselves, that inspire her.

Women have an extra load

"Women still have "the short end of the stick" in business," says Barbara. Historically women have often been seen as fit to be in the kitchen rather than business, she says, but things have been improving and women are playing an increasingly big role in business.

"Women do however have a double-load," she says, "because they have to double-prove themselves in business."

As this need is in addition to the load of multi-roles beyond business, Barbara concludes that women are forced to approach business differently, due to the additional challenges of motherhood and caring for their families compared to men.

Achieving a work-life balance

Achieving a work-life balance has been difficult and has often been "a hit-or-miss" Barbara says. There were times when she could not be there for her children due to work commitments, for example when doing a warehouse stocktake on a Sunday. Fortunately, her children were independent at a young age and she appreciates the support she gets from her family. Her husband has encouraged her and became very understanding over time.

"I view work-life balance a bit like a see-saw, because sometimes there is more of it and sometimes less." This is further motivation for her to be in a space where she can do what she loves and have the freedom to decide what she wants to do and when.

The advice that she would give to her younger self would be "education, education, education first" says Barbara. "Because, although some people succeed with little or no education, this is just too risky."

She would then go on to tell herself to make investment savings, learn how to be financially savvy, and to prepare for retirement early on. Lastly, she would tell herself to become independent and only enter into a long-term relationship when she can be whole on her own and wouldn't need to be reliant on someone. "Then you can go and live life, not do what someone else tells you to do, but what you enjoy doing."

Becoming a social entrepreneur

Barbara is happy with most of what she has achieved, especially being able to provide for her children's education, but has not yet succeeded in terms of reaching her goals.

"I want to do something bigger than myself, some-thing I am passionate about, on my own terms."

Her passion is to uplift and empower people in society. She wants to engage in what she terms "social entrepreneurship" which for her means "resolving community-related problems through one's entrepreneurial skills without doing it for profit". When she has become a successful social entrepreneur, she would feel that she has succeeded.

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