Rumbi Mathema, Head: Quantitative Risk Management is a big believer that life is not a destination, it is a journey – and what you do along that journey shapes who you are as an individual, a partner, a parent and in your career.
In a continuation in our series of articles celebrating Sasfin’s incredible women in leadership, Rumbi shares the lessons she has learnt throughout her personal and professional journeys.
1. Don’t focus on titles, but what you want your life’s journey to look like instead
I’m a determined, highly motivated, “get it done” type of person. I start off every day listening to 90’s rap music and reminding myself that I own what happens on the day.
I was fortunate to be brought up by strong male and female leaders in my family which played a big role in shaping my views on work ethic, loyalty, and responsibility. I also have a very supportive husband which helps in that our life isn’t defined by the traditional roles of men and women, but by shared responsibilities and helping each other when we need it. When I was studying for my CFA, for example, he took complete care of our baby. It’s a partnership underlined by mutual respect and love that defines us, not necessarily the titles that society bestows on us.
The same is true in our careers. When I became a mother, I stopped thinking about the titles but focused more on learning and focusing on the value l could bring in whatever role l was in and how l can continue to evolve to create a better future for my kids and our society.
Our impact isn’t in reaching a destination, whether that’s a title, a salary range, or a car. There is so much more to learn and appreciate along the journey. Celebrate your victories whether small or big and the people around you.
The lesson was really brought home for me during the initial lockdown of the pandemic. I lost my father during lockdown and was not able to go to his funeral, it was a difficult time that weighed on me both mentally and emotionally. It made realize to never take anything for granted. It’s important to slow down, put things in perspective, and appreciate what’s happening in the moment, be present and enjoy the journey – that’s my advice.
2. Own your power
There is an enormous power in authenticity. When I was younger, I would try to be what l thought was expected of me in the corporate world. It took growth and the wisdom of experience to show me that people connect to other people. They don’t need to see strength – especially in a leader – they need to see authenticity. People are inspired to follow when they feel connected to you and buy into the same vision. They need to see their worth and feel heard.
To be truly authentic, however, you need to be comfortable taking risks and making mistakes – what’s the worst that could happen? Failure always brings the gift of experience.
My kids are 9- and 7-years-old and l try to teach them the principles of hard work, taking responsibility for your actions and staying true to themselves. A non-negotiable in our house is making your own bed – you lay on it, you make it.
3. Learn your lessons and pay them forward
I believe as we get older, we get a little wiser and that’s why everyone should mentor others where they can, and it does not necessarily have to be a formal set up. It could be as simple as helping someone with how they present their ideas to key stakeholders.
When you reach a certain level of leadership, however, you should also look for someone who you can sponsor. A sponsor is a person who carries your name into a room when you are absent, and it is the most powerful thing that can happen for you in your career. My sponsor made an enormous difference to my growth trajectory. The challenge is that you can’t ask for a sponsor. It happens naturally based on who you are and whether someone trusts you enough to do what they can to help you build your career – often without you even knowing they are doing so.
4. Build your performance currency and network currency
Performance currency is consistently doing work above and beyond your job description. People learn to trust you and expect certain standards from you not because of what you say but because of what you consistently deliver.
Once you have performance currency, you can build up your network currency. Your performance standard is now expected, and it is maintained through the people who trust you (and hopefully, you attract a sponsor).
Once again, authenticity is important. It’s difficult – if not impossible – to be consistent if you are not doing things for the right reasons, and you can’t fake authenticity.
5. Empower the people in your life
I believe in empowering other people; it is through empowering others that you magnify and amplify your impact. So, lend a hand and pull someone else up. Empowering people is about giving them enough knowledge and trusting them enough to make decisions in your absence so that the greater vision is achieved.
When we empower our people and they can empower our clients, there is exponential growth. We are all connected. Sasfin succeeds when our clients succeed and their businesses grow, and that happens when our people are empowered.