“Some strive to make themselves great. Others help others see and find their own greatness. It’s the latter who really enrich the world we live in” ― Rasheed Ogunlaru
Mohlomi Felix Chabeli, Managing Director of Blue Pencil Professional Services, is a strong advocate for enriching others; and has experienced the transformative power of mentorship from both sides of the spectrum.
As a young professional, several significant people helped him to develop his career – he remembers them all and thanks them by name. Throughout his career, he has actively sought out, and learnt from, successful people and organisations. “I follow and draw inspiration from both people who have succeeded, and successful organisations.” On the other side of the spectrum, Felix has not forgotten to reach out and help others. “I have a high regard for mentorship, and I try to give back as much as I can.”
Felix started with Blue Pencil nine years ago in 2011 and has been in the position of MD since April 2019. He started this journey as a SAP Solution Manager Consultant, was promoted to Team Lead and then to Delivery Manager, with one of the largest banks in South Africa as his client. From here, Felix proved his value and became involved in management and decision making. “I started being involved in bigger decisions in the organisation and that is how I grew through the ranks.” He began looking after multiple customers in delivery, while also consulting on major projects, drawing on his many years of experience, and building strong relationships with clients.
His current role involves looking after business development and related activities – from looking for, and finding, new customers to devising or refining existing services; while staying abreast of the market to monitor where the industry as a whole is going, “so we can adapt and refine our service offerings to make sure we remain relevant in the market.”
“I focus mainly on the sales component of business development,” Felix explains. “I am also accountable for the operations side of the business, which is making sure that once the customer is on board our team is well equipped to deliver on our mandate.”
Felix also sits on the monthly Blue Pencil directors’ meetings with shareholders, to report back on the position of the organisation from a financial and operational perspective; as well as what activities are planned, or are already being executed, from a business development perspective.
He attributes his success partly to the guidance and disciplined approach to life and work instilled in him by his parents. “I was very focussed and serious during my studies – I did not have a social life, but I never saw this as a burden, it was what I had to do to get what I wanted.” Felix adds that, because his family were not affluent, failure was simply not an option.
And, of course, there was no chance of failure with such dedication and commitment. He completed his qualification in software development from the [then] Wits Technikon in 2006, prior to this institution’s merger with the old RAU to form the University of Johannesburg.
“In my career at Blue Pencil, I have personally benefited directly and indirectly from mentorship – no one is an island and no one person knows absolutely everything. If you surround yourself with people who have already travelled the journey that you are still undergoing, the decision-making process is more informed. When you have the right input, you can make the best decisions possible.”
Because he holds mentorship in such high regard, and to help ensure that the talent pool continues to come though, Felix founded an organisation in 2016 called the Realema Foundation for young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds who are in their high school phase.
Loosely translated from Sesotho, realema means ‘crop farming’ – the rewards will be determined by the effort. A good English equivalent of this idiom could be ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. The foundation aims to give information and raise awareness about careers that exist in the industry and “where we see the world going in the context of the 4IR,” explains Felix.
The foundation’s vision is firmly congruent with Dynamic Technologies’ value of ‘diversity by inclusion’. As well as the impact on individuals, creating a talent pipeline and closing the skills gap has the advantage of addressing unemployment and creating a diversity of perspectives and problem-solving approaches in the workplace – ultimately improving social and economic prosperity in the country. “If we bring our talents together, we can build a great business and a great country.”
Since 2016, Felix has driven the vision of the foundation and has also been involved on the operational side. As well as career guidance, the foundation assists young people with their on-line university applications – a formidable barrier for many families, both in terms of the cost of the application, access to the Internet, and the skills needed for on-line registration.
The foundation is still self-funded until Felix is confident that they have perfected their model. The foundation will likely be sourcing funding from next year, in the wake of notable success.
Talking about some of the challenges he has faced in his career, Felix points to a critical cultural mismatch between traditional communities and the global business environment. “Many black people are taught to be very respectful towards authority, but this does not work in the corporate world, where respect is often misconstrued as lack of assertiveness or confidence.”
In his mentoring of young adults, Felix has become acutely aware of how widespread this problem is, and how prohibitive it can be to the fruitful integration of students into universities and ultimately into the workplace. Sometimes this misunderstanding can arise from an act as simple as calling someone by their title and surname as opposed to their first name. Early on in his career, says Felix, “I had to learn to separate the two worlds in order to engage constructively with colleagues.”
The advice that Felix imparts to young people starting their career pathway is: “knowledge is power!” He adds: “I draw my strength and confidence from my knowledge. I keep seeking greater and specialist knowledge in my area – there is no limit. If you invest in knowledge, success will come.”