Dumping the pen for the work-suit

Dumping the pen for the work-suit

IN 2011 Mamontoeli Mothisi (Nee Kananelo Sematlane) was idling at home after she voluntarily quit her job as an accountant.
The company was going through tough times and was about to cut jobs.

Mothisi was supposed to be part of the scaling-down team but opted out. “I thought I was still young and could get a job somewhere,” she recalls. “I asked the employer if I could get a package so that some of my juniors could keep their jobs. He agreed and those people are still in their jobs today.”

It was an act of generosity that would be richly rewarded in ways Mothisi never expected. Shortly after leaving her job she was hired at Kao Mine as one of the five people who were to be trained as diamond sorters. Diamond sorters identify diamonds based on classifications such as size, model, shape, colour, clarity and fluorescence. After a three-month training programme, Mothisi found herself earmarked for a supervisory role.

The mine was growing fast and she had to help train other people who were coming in as sorters. She would also act in senior roles in her department when the managers were away. Mothisi says she never thought she would work in a mine. Being a diamond sorter was diametrically different to her previous job as an accountant.

She has a financial accounting diploma from the University of Pretoria and is a qualified accounting technician. She was about to move on to the general accounting level when she started have family issues that forced her to quit.  Now she was working at a mine, dealing with precious minerals. She has exchanged her pen for a work-suit. Mothisi says the first few months

were tough because she had moved from her “comfort zone”. “I would wake up in the middle of mountains away from my home. The culture shock was distressing. I was not used to this life but I knew I had to quickly adjust if I wanted to succeed.”

And succeed she did. After four years as a sorter she was promoted to Recovery Superintendent. Last year she became the Recovery Manager, one of the most important positions in a diamond mine. Her main responsibilities are to ensure that diamonds are recovered and targets are met.
She supervises 16 people.“I never dreamt that I would be a Recovery Manager one day,” she says.
The lesson, she says, is that everything is possible if you are self-driven and focused.
“Before you get into something you are intimidated because you think this is an area for other people. But if you conquer the fear you will succeed at anything.”

Mothisi says she has learned a lot in the eight years she has been at the mine.
She says what she loves about her job is that it keeps her grounded.

“You need to have integrity to succeed in this job because you are dealing with a product of very high value.”
Instead of improving her accounting qualification Mothisi is now thinking of studying Geology.

She says she believes this is possible because the company has a policy to empower its employees.
“They gave me a chance to prove myself. They did not look for a manager from outside. They promoted and nurtured me. They are always willing to help employees improve themselves.”

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