Pheliswa Mayekiso handles media and internal communications for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in its marketing and corporate affairs department. She tells us more about her career path so far, and why it’s so important to demystify what goes on at the JSE.
What made you go for a career in communications?
Well all I wanted to do from Grade 10 was to travel the world and take a break from it all. My mom quickly bought me back to reality asking, ‘exactly what is it that you are taking a break from after years of eating, sleeping, going to school and me supporting you!’ So that was the end of that. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do so she shipped me off for an aptitude test and one of the options was communication – sounded like fun so I signed up and the rest is history. Thinking about it now, it was the best fit for me.
Tell us a little more about your career journey so far
What a journey it has been. I started off my career after graduating in Cape Town at a small agency called HWB – then owned by Ann Wallis Brown and former veteran journalist Evelyn Holtzhausen. I was really wet behind the ears when I started there doing my internship and that’s where my strong foundation was formed. I supported the various teams with collating of media lists and the first drafts of the smaller client’s media releases. My first big event was managing media relations when the Homeless World Cup was hosted at the Grand Parade in Cape Town as our pro-bono client was The Big Issue magazine. I knew then that I was here to stay.
My next stint was at a slightly bigger PR agency and from there I moved to Atmosphere Communications where I stayed for five years and really honed my skills in PR. After a while, the CEO, Nicola Nel, felt that I needed a bigger challenge and threw me in the deep end into corporate communications and I worked with the legendary Alice Jordan who sadly passed away a few years ago. She was not only my director but also a mentor and a mother to me. She pushed me hard and I can honestly say that she really shaped my career path and love for corporate communication to what it is today.
After Atmosphere I packed my bags for Johannesburg and ended up working for an agency that did the PR for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, fast forward five years and I am at the JSE. It’s been such a great, challenging and eye opening journey and I wouldn’t change a thing as I am doing what I love in an industry I love.
What achievements are you most proud of?
My life hasn’t been the easiest, so I am proud of myself for being resilient through both personal and professional challenges and never giving up and always pushing myself to be greater. It doesn’t happen overnight and more recently I have had a business coach who has really helped me to push myself to even greater heights and I am not stopping anytime soon!
What makes working in communications for a powerhouse like the JSE so exciting?
It’s exciting indeed, because every day is never the same. You can never take your finger off the pulse, as there are new challenges and opportunities every day. From having political parties marching to the JSE, to the ongoing work of educating South Africans about how they can invest, how easy it is to invest and the importance of investing to grow ones wealth or save for children’s education, the JSE is really a platform for everyone and my biggest aim together with the team is to demystify it to South Africans every day.
What is rewarding about your job?
Recognition and reward but also seeing the results of the work that we do, making a real impact. Like I said, its about educating ordinary South Africans that there are other options of saving and investing and that the JSE is one of these and not just there for the elite and rich, seeing people realise this is the best.
And the most challenging aspect?
Dealing with barriers of doing what you need to do and more often than not those barriers tend to be in the form of people. So it’s important to understand various personalities, understand why they are your barriers and how to lobby and convince them that we can work together to achieve a common goal. Challenging but doable.
What is your view on the development of top communications people in South Africa? Is training all it should be?
When I think back I am so grateful for the practical training and internship that was part of my fourth year at university. Theory is great but practical training and exposure to the real world is crucial in building competent communications professionals. Training is also important, because the challenge as comms people that we tend to have is not learning/understanding enough about the eco-system of our clients (if you are at agency) or if you are in corporate of your companies eco-system – what is impacting the business, industry, both local and global impacts and how do you/we through communication speak to these – in that way communication people turn from just the ‘taker of instructions’ to having a seat at the strategic table. So I think training is crucial, but we need to educate ourselves more, network more – not just PR circles but broader business etc.
How do you relax?
My work life balance is not always the greatest. But I kick back and revive my energy by spending time with my partner and daughter and with friends, and a glass of good champagne goes a long way too.
What three things can’t you live without?
My mobile, a good book and a good series.
Who is your superhero and why?
My mom; she is retired and has overcome so much to carry and support her family and is always giving of herself to others, even now at 75 years of age.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Either heading up my own agency or heading up a ‘shit hot’ communications team at a corporate.