- Player: Naadiya Moosajee
- Claim to fame: World Economic Forum Global Shaper; Board Director for the International Youth Foundation
- Organisation: WomEng, WomHub, Saray
- Visit: womeng.org and www.saray.co.za
The best advice I’ve ever received was from my dad when I was in high school
He said that in life you should never choose what’s going to make you money. Passion is important. Whatever you do you’ll be doing daily, so it’s important that you love it, particularly because every job has good and bad points, even if it’s your dream job.
It was good advice, but that doesn’t mean I immediately knew what my passion was
I wasn’t unique in this. So few people know right off the bat what it is that they really love. I learnt that the best way to discover your passions is to do as much as possible. Get involved in projects, help out where you can, expose yourself to new things. Find who you are and what you love. This is particularly important and perhaps easiest when you are in your 20s, but it shouldn’t stop — ever. We keep changing and developing.
I was lucky to discover my passion in my third year at varisty
I was a woman studying civil engineering, which brought with it unique challenges. I wanted to help others like me, but also to show girls that they could enter a traditionally male dominated discipline, and so we founded SAWomEng.
By engaging both my mind and my heart, I realised that developing others is what drives me, whether it’s assisting young women in their career goals, creating a transport system that changes lives for the poor and disenfranchised, or developing talent, which I did as a consultant for niche management consultancy Pegasys, it all feeds into an overriding purpose for me.
Once you have purpose, it’s incredible what you can achieve and overcome
WomEng will soon be operating in four countries across the African continent. We have already empowered 10 000 girls through our GirlEng programme, and this success has cemented a joint venture with Unesco in which we aim to empower one million girls across ten countries in ten years on the African continent. It’s a huge goal, but one I’m confident we will reach.
We’ve also launched a for-profit arm, WomHub, which focuses on women across other industries
We were constantly approached by women in finance and investment banking, medicine and so on, all coming to us and asking if we could do a WomEng for them.
It’s been an amazing revelation: If something is important to you, and you do it with authenticity and passion, you will tap into those same values in others. It’s why we’ve had such huge support and demand for what we’re offering.
Of course, not everything can always go smoothly
WomEng and my time at Pegasys have been successes, but I’ve also had failures. For example, I’ve learnt that likes on Facebook don’t make a fashion start-up successful. Income, cash flow, customers — these count. I took a major financial knock, but it was at least all my own. Failures like that are hard. They shake your confidence.
It’s important to remember that if we only ever have good days we’ll never value or appreciate them. The bad days are necessary to make the good days shine. I recently had a girl come up to me totally randomly and say, ‘I’m studying engineering because of you.’ Those are the moments that make everything else worthwhile.
You can always make more money
At least the fashion start-up’s loss was mine alone. WomEng has an angel investor who has also invested in my latest venture, Saray, a Turkish restaurant that I’ve opened with my husband. We’ve developed an excellent working relationship based on trust and mutual respect, and failures haven’t detracted from that. He was very comfortable investing in the restaurant, because he understands my passions and how I approach everything I do.
Authentic relationships are essential to ultimate success
I’ve seen this in the business partners I work with, my angel investor and our clients. WomEng had a bad financial year last year. Engineering is taking strain; companies are closing and our customers are in trouble. We know that everything in life and business has an ebb and flow though, and so we know it will get better; what’s important is how we maintain our business relationships and connections until things improve.
If you have good working relationships and trust with your clients and suppliers, you can have honest discussions around how you can work together and support each other through tougher economic times. At the end of the day, it’s about human engagement, and an understanding that we’re all in this together.
Balancing so many different businesses and opportunities takes great partners
I run Saray with my husband, and WomEng with Hema Vallabh, a volunteer who joined SAWomEng a few years ago. We soon discovered how well we worked together, and partnered to co-found WomEng and WomHub. I’ve learnt that great partnerships work if you prop each other up.
We support and rely on each other. We’ve also reached the point where we are interchangeable. Either one of us can arrive at a client meeting. We’re in sync, we’ve outlined our goals and values so clearly that they’re second nature, and we trust each other. We never disagree.
We know what’s more important to each of us, and we defer situations and decisions to each other based on that. It’s a practical and pragmatic approach that has allowed us to make WomEng so successful while also focusing on other businesses and roles.
To manage my time, I colour code my diary
It sounds simple, but giving each company, my home, family time and forums their own colour means that at a glance I know who needs me when. This streamlining means I can give concentrated and focused time to each task, which allows me to get a lot more done each week. I spread myself out, so when I’m at Saray, or working on WomEng, or performing a board duty for Pegasys, I need to be completely present.
Build a team you can trust and delegate to. A sign of a good leader is that things get done when you aren’t there. We have an amazing team at WomEng. You need to have this. You can’t be everything in an organisation, especially as you grow and scale.
Passion drives success. If you love what you do, you’ll find a way to make it work — even if you have some failures along the way.