Swazi PDMM graduate who ‘intimidated job applicants’
The Postgraduate Diploma in Media management (PDMM) offered by the Sol Plaatje Institute (SPI) for Media Leadership at Rhodes University has enriched the African corporate world with high-ranking managers and intellectuals who have joined the working world and excelled there in many ways. One such person is a Swazi national who studied the PDMM in 2006, Sazi Tsabedze-Hlophe. SIPHESIHLE NKWANYANE (SN), a PDMM student of the Class of 2015, recently sat down with Sazi (STH) to find out how the PDMM had shaped her career. Excerpts from their conversation:
SN: How has the PDMM shaped or influenced your career path?
STH: A lot on two levels – personally and professionally. At the personal level, the PDMM is an intense programme that boosted my ability to influence others through learning and practice. It was my first time away from home (when I studied the PDMM) and I learnt to be independent and strong. I made the top three at the end of the PDMM, passing with a distinction, which boosted my confidence.
At the professional level, let me say that before I enrolled on the PDMM, I was already in management as Community News Editor at The Times of Swaziland. Although I was good at my job, the PDMM helped to sharpen my management skills. I have also learnt and appreciated that in order to understand the essence of good leadership, one must be exposed to the industry because it is a challenging one to master.
SN: What career path did you want to take before you enrolled on the PDMM, and how did the course change your thinking afterwards?
STH: I aspired to be a more influential leader in the local press industry. However, being a female leader in a male-dominated industry was not to be without challenges because you should be extra-skilled and have more knowledge and experience in order to compete with your male counterparts. Another challenge was working in a private-owned media company, which has its own way of doing things (house style) which, as a leader, you must abide by and not make your own decisions based on your education and what will benefit the reader.
SN: Let’s talk about Kaledioscope (a Swazi national magazine which Sazi edited). It was a brilliant magazine with brilliant content. Was it before or after the PDMM when you edited it and what inspired you to start a mag of your own?
STH: The magazine was inspired by the PDMM and the idea came while I was at Rhodes: to have a magazine that would talk about various issues that inspire people, especially women, to rise above the rest and be conquerors. I felt ready to make a difference in my own country as I was already armed with experience and knowledge from the course. The magazine addressed various issues ranging from education, inspiration, religion, art and entertainment and was loved by both young and old but mostly the youth. It ran for two years, from 2007-2009, and one major setback that resulted in its downfall was that it could not generate revenue from traditional advertising. Other challenges included:
n The lack of a shared vision with my partners who wanted quick returns.
n There was a need to be build long-term relations with our audiences and assure credibility but because the partners did not understand this, it became very challenging for me to wait for that moment on my own.
n We had only three freelance journalists who needed training and mentoring and when we got experienced journalists, the challenge was that we could not pay them well and so they left.
n Lack of local advertisers. We had targeted big corporate companies but they already had contracts with other media entities.
SN: Did the PDMM certificate add any value when you made applications to different institutions?
STH: First of all, the value of the certificate comes with the fact that it is from Rhodes University which is a world-acclaimed institution. I certainly got recognized wherever I applied for a job and I intimidated fellow applicants.
SN: The PDMM also grooms media managers and businessmen/women. Did you at some point in time think of starting your own company or is it something that you are still considering doing?
STH: I feel there is a niche market in Swaziland for telling our stories using magazines such as Kaledioscope and it is something I want to pursue in the near future. I feel I am in the right position to do that now with the experience I already have.
SN: Did the PDMM influence the position you now hold at Standard Bank Swaziland as their Communications Officer?
STH: Certainly! I am a Communications Officer at Standard Bank now. The PDMM has a great influence in various professional fields as it gives graduates the ability to compete with academics who may have majored in specific fields of study over many years and yet the PDMM is done in one intensive year.
SN: What can you say to others about the PDMM as a course?
STH: I would strongly recommend other young people, especially women, to take this course because anyone who has the PDMM will have the skills to shape any media institution and come up with content that promotes healthy public debates. PDMM graduates come up with news stories that get people thinking and take up challenges.