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We chat to Thuli Sibeko, Founder of Girls Invent Tomorrow

Posted in Entrepreneurs • Posted 18 November 2013  21 COMMENTS

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Thuli Sibeko serves as Event Manager at Anglo-African Events and is also the Founder of Girls Invent Tomorrow.

What did you think you were going to ‘be’ when you grew up, and what changed that?

Initially I wanted to run my own business like my dad but my parents were not sold on the idea. They were supportive, but they felt that I had to go to university and get a degree before venturing out on the entrepreneurial journey. I decided that I would pursue an Accounting Degree.  

When I started working as an assistant to an accountant and the project accountant at an engineering company and got to see what happens on a daily basis, I got worried as I found the job very mundane. Granted each of the projects we were managing were different, but ultimately the same principles were applied and I was just not passionate about the Job. Going to work was starting to become a bit tedious.

It was at that stage in my life that I decided to dig deep and really think about whether or not I was going to pursue this career further. At the back of my mind I knew that I wanted to run my own business. My friend/ex business partner and I had plans to start our company but we were both waiting for the right time and opportunity. When an opportunity arose we both jumped ship and Anglo-African Events was born.

The decision to start the business took years of planning and we would have meetings at her house after hours as to how. It was not an overnight decision. What made it a lot easier back then was the fact that I still lived at home with my parents and had few responsibilities.

What advice do you have to give to young women who want to work within your industry?

The job is not as glamorous as it looks. Our job is to make events/functions look good, but you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and get involved - especially when you are working with tight deadlines.

What do you wish you knew before you started your first business?

Saying NO is not necessarily a bad thing. When starting your business you are so caught up in wanting to make it a success that sometimes you say YES to projects just so you can keep clients happy, but they take a lot out of you and you will not reap the rewards.   

What is your favourite motivational quote?

“Your life is your message to the world.  Make it inspiring” - attributed to Lorrin L. Lee

What are you excited about?

Being involved with projects or campaigns that make a difference in other people’s lives, and about technology and how it’s affecting our lives in a good and also perhaps a bad way.

What are you currently reading?

I’m between two books at the moment: The Athena Doctrine - How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio and Necessary Ending by Dr. Henry Cloud.

If you could do anything now, what would you do and why?

Work more on Corporate Social Investment projects. My late mother instilled the importance of helping out and giving back to the less fortunate. As children we donated our old school shoes, uniforms and clothes to other children at the school. She taught us that, and doing it from a young age, this has ultimately had an effect on me wanting to be involved with CSI projects. 

How important has Social Media and Online Brand Management been in managing your career?

As a person who runs an event management company, I now have the ability to market and sell what I do. I can post pictures on Twitter and Facebook about the work that I’m doing, and it’s all instantly available.

How do you measure success?

I set goals for myself; I also have a vision board of things that I want to achieve and see happen in my life. 

Who has had the most positive impact on your career?

It has to be my family. My parents for believing in me when I first started the business and left a comfortable job in the corporate environment, my husband who has been through this journey with me, from when we first met 12 years ago to where I am now, and my sister and brother-in-law for keeping me motivated and supporting me.

Tell us about your role models or mentors?  Who would be your dream mentor?

My father for his entrepreneurial spirit, my late mother for supporting my dad, and the role she played in raising my siblings and I and also the role she played in our society as a whole. My mother carried the world on her shoulders and did it so gracefully. I have two dream mentors: they would be Richard Branson and Robert Kiyosaki.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of entrepreneurialism in Africa in general?

Absolutely, Africa is slowly giving rise to entrepreneurs and that’s a good thing. The only thing that can improve our growth is more support from government and corporates. The reality is that entrepreneurs are part of the solution to job creation and growing the economy.

What have you learnt from your mistakes?

I have learnt not to take on too many projects at the same time; it’s a recipe for disaster.

Who would you most like to have dinner with, and why?

I have five guests on my dinner party wish list:  Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, she just has the ability and drive to make things happen and affect change; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for becoming the first elected female head of state in Africa; Melinda Gates for her incredible work with the Gates Foundation; Oprah, because her story and journey is truly inspirational and Vladimir Putin, as I believe he is currently the most powerful person in the world. 

What do you love most about your career?

Every event is an opportunity to create something new and exciting. I love the fact that days are different and events are different. I love seeing my clients happy with the quality of work that we deliver.

Tell us about the South African Girls in ICT event, what it means to you and what it means for South African women.

The South African Girls in ICT event was created from an observation that I made about the people attending tech events that I was managing over the years. The people attending the events were male and only every now and then you would see a woman. I then remembered my experience and exposure as a child. Growing up, I was always fascinated by technology, I used to play a lot of video games and that’s as far as it went for me with technology. To me technology was for boys and I never imagined a career in ICT. The problem was the fact that I was never exposed to careers in ICT and there were no females around me that were pursuing careers in technology. I guess I wanted to help other girls like the younger me to be exposed to the possibly of a career in this industry.

On the 30th of April 2013, we hosted our first Girls in ICT Career Day Event. International Girls’ in ICT Day is an initiative backed by ITU Member States in ITU Plenipotentiary Resolution 70 (Guadalajara, 2010) to create a global environment that empowers and encourages girls and young women to consider careers in the growing field of information and communication technologies (ICTs). In the spirit of the day, ITU members are encouraged to organize their own events in a way that serves to inform and educate, as well as to celebrate.

From a local perspective, I saw an opportunity to be part of this global initiative, so I knocked on doors and got support from some of my clients, who ultimately saw the need to host such an event.

While planning for the event, I have been exposed to the most amazing women in technology in this country, who want to be part of the solution to inspire and affect change in the industry. They want to mentor young girls not to fear technology and to pursue careers in ICT. For me, Girls In ICT is more than just a once off event but an entire movement.

How, and why, should women and girls be encouraged to embrace a career in tech?

Technology is changing how we do things, technology is around us, whether you are a doctor or an accountant. We all ultimately rely on technology to do our work. Generation Y is fortunate; they are growing up in times where access to information is so easy. There are so many organisations that are actively working towards empowering women and girls to embrace careers in tech. It would be awesome if the next Zuckerberg was a woman.


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