Energy & EnvironmentMantsie Hlakudi, Chief Engineer, Eskom

It was an honour and a proudest moment to be counted among the Rising star 2021 winners especially in the category of Energy and environment.

Winning of the award, challenged me to greater amounts of courage and has taught me to acknowledge the presence with so much grace, knowing that I still have so much to learn and much further to Go. I look back with so much gratitude and to the future with so much Hope, Faith and Patience.

Special Thanks to my Employer #Eskom, Mentors, Family and Friends and various communities which I am part of, you are all a great pillar behind my success.

This award will be an essential part of my life. It will motivate me for the rest of my future.

As a young leader, I believe that our future will never be bright if young people assume a dispassionate posture and do not actively participate in engineering a future of their liking. I therefore conclude with one of my favourite motto “Whatever your hands find to do; do it with all your might, for in the grave where we are going there is neither planning nor working; nor knowledge; nor wisdom.”

EntrepreneurICT (Telecoms & Technology)

Apiwe Hotele Technology Commercialization Specialist South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO)

I met some of the finalists before my interview and had read about some of them. I must say I was in awe! For the first time in my life I was ok with not winning :), I actually said to myself Yes  Ï would like to win, but if I don’t any of the finalists is worthy of the award” . When I was called on stage I started thinking about how far I’ve come as an individual and some of the setbacks I’ve had in my quest to fight for the voiceless. I was suddenly overwhelmed with all kinds of emotions, mostly happy emotions.

The whole experience forced me to think about the kind of a leader I want to be and how I will ensure that ICT products are accessible to everyone regardless of age, race, gender, sex or background. Winning the award assured me that I am in the right direction, it feels like someone whispering in my ear saying I see you’ve been walking, now you can run, and I intend to run.

Service: Public & PrivateMelene Rossouw: Executive Director- Women Lead Movement

“Being named as one of the 2021 Accenture Rising Star winners was an immense honour especially considering that all the finalists in my category were distinguished leaders with incredible track records in public and private service.

I realised from the time I received the notification of my nomination that the entire process was going to be rigorous and it was. It challenged me to critically assess and review the impact of my work and leadership abilities. Through the process I could identify many areas where I could improve as a young leader and grow my organisation by introducing innovative approaches and practices which would enable us to have an even larger reach and impact in society. One of the biggest lessons I take out of this, is that all of us, irrespective of which sector you work in, has an important role to play in solving wicked socio-economic challenges plunging our country into a bottomless pit of despair and turmoil.

Thank you to the exceptional judges in my category for ultimately selecting me. I will ensure that I continue to strive for greater and fly the Accenture Rising Star banner high” Melene Rossouw – Founder & Executive Director of Women lead Movement

Mining & MineralsThomas Conolly, Senior Asset Manager, Anglo American Platinum

Being given the opportunity to participate in the Accenture Rising Star Awards 2021 has been an incredible experience.

When I read through the bios of the other finalists, before the awards, I was certain that I could not win.

As Elsie Pule said when she handed the award to me, “this event challenges the perception that there is an exodus of skill from our country” – the calibre of young professionals that get showcased by this initiative is truly astounding.

When Ms. Pule further reflected on the judging process and the interview – I was humbled by the very kind words that the judges had to say about me. However, I feel that their sentiment in this regard is also reflective of the environment that was created during that interview, where I felt at ease to have an authentic and meaningful conversation with the judges – who are all very accomplished individuals, in their own right.

I also feel truly grateful of the opportunities that Anglo American Platinum has granted me over the last 14 years – raising me from a veritable school kid, to now granting me the chance to lead changes and innovations in a company that means so much to the South African economy. The guidance and leadership I receive from my management is truly confidence inspiring, and the support I get from the team I lead is remarkable.

We have incredible need in South Africa, but opportunity in more than equal measure – I think initiatives such as the Accenture Rising Star Awards is the inspiring enabler to the Butterfly Effect needed to change our country’s trajectory.

Professional ServicesCharity Simamane Senior Manager PwC

This is my first nomination of this calibre and an indedible honor. I am thankful to the 2020 Rising Star winner Andile Nkosi for her encouragement to accept this nomination. I am embarrassed to say I underestimated how challenging the process would be. From the onset the process forced me to dig deeper and challenged the type of professional and leader I am.

I was challenged not only to focus on the impact I have within PwC, but also the impact I have in our industry and society at large. I got to reflect on my 9 years of being a professional; the plans I have for my future. I had to demonstrate what I am currently doing to innovate myself in order to remain relevant and impactful in this ever-changing world. What was most special for me was that upon reflection I realised that while the pandemic has brought upon hardships for me as it has for many of us; that there is still HOPE and I was reminded how resilient Iam. I am incredibly proud of my achievements which have earned me my new Rising Star family forever.

Thank you to the Rising Star project team for their support and encouragement. The judging panel that received me with so much grace, professionalism and warmth. I left the final interview already feeling like a winner as it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and solidified the vision I have not only for my career, but how I can give back to society. The work continues and I am now even more fortunate to have gained a life long network of other professionals I can work with through Rising Star.

Imposter syndrome is real and it tried to get the worst of me. I believe many of us as young professionals struggle with imposter syndrome, opportunities such as this can be intimidating. My advice to you, is that when opportunities like this knock on your door; grab them without hesitation because really what is the worst that can happen?

Transport, Logistics & SecurityAmber Louise Sterley, HR Manager, Fidelity ADT - A division of the Fidelity Services Group

When I received the nomination for the Rising Star Awards, I was so honoured as it meant someone in my company saw me and the efforts, I was putting in.  It was so exciting to be noticed and if I had gone no further in the process, I would still have been happy for that acknowledgement alone.

As I progressed through the process I was exposed to some amazing people.  Firstly, the organisers, who are doing something so special by creating a platform to lift people up and give them an opportunity to be recognised for their hard work.  Then the judges who were very inspiring and who I really enjoyed engaging with and finally the other entrants who are some incredible people who have achieved so much that I was humbled to be associated with.

On the night of the actual awards, I was accompanied by my current Leader Jo Modisakeng, who put me forward for the award, our Group Executive for Corporate Support, Rodney Kekana who was my previous Manager as well as our Group Corporate Affairs Executive, Nonhlanhla Ndwandwe and Kathleen Vundla our Group Corporate Wellness Manager.  All these incredible people were right there beside me to support me and cheer me on.  The awards ceremony was accessible on YouTube to allow for viewers to watch live. I sent the link to my family, friends, and my incredible work team. Throughout the evening I received messages of support from all these special people who contribute so much to my life and my career. It was such an amazing experience to feel so supported that I felt like a winner before my name was even announced.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Black Bark Productions and Accenture Rising Star Awards for this awesome initiative of recognising and connecting people.  I would also like to thank my company Fidelity Services Group for seeing me and making me feel valued.

Manufacturing & FMCGNtsako Baloyi, Environmental Manager, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa

When I received my nomination, the plan was not to submit, especially after doing extensive research on the awards and looking at the calibre of candidates who made it to the Top 5. It seemed like something very far from me. I then received a final reminder to submit for the first round. I decided to give it a try as I had nothing to lose. It is a lot of hard work and thought that goes into the submission process. It took several days to complete everything and after submitting, I literally forgot about it.

Weeks went by and I received an email to the official announcement of the Semi-Finalists which is equivalent to the Top 10. I RSVP’d for compliance and again I forgot all about it. The day of the announcement came, and I missed it. I had to go and listen to the recorded event and Lo and Behold my name was there. I was a Semi Finalist. There was a little bit of confidence boost there and I looked forward to the next steps. The next assignment came, and it was harder. It included a timed video interview which was challenging as you never know if you said enough in the limited time. This time I knew I would not go further. Another email came for an event to announce the Finalists (Top 5). I RSVP’d as expected and again I missed the announcement. I watched the recording and I saw my name.

The final assignment came, and it had to be in person. Of course, it was an intimidating process especially looking at experience and statue of the judges. I was nervous but the judges were extremely accommodating. It was an intense presentation, and I was happy with my delivery but I didn’t think it was winning material. My peers were a force to be reckoned with. The night of the Awards came. The Hilton was filled with amazing people doing amazing things in their respective sectors. Everyone looked good. Everyone sounded smart. I was just happy to be there. Our category was called up and the Sponsor mentioned my name as the ultimate winner. It didn’t register that I had won. She read it again and I realised that I had won. I think it officially registered when the judges were explaining their choice.

My confidence has been boosted significantly. I have been exposed to greatness and I plan to embrace that greatness. My LinkedIn profile views incresed by 5000%. I received connection invitations from hundreds of professionals in various sectors. I received several calls from reputable recruiters asking if I was in the market for new opportunities. The Rising Star Awards have certainly played a critical role in improving my profile. I have already been invited to give an address at an event. What an experience!

I would also like to thank and acknowledge my organisation Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa who never gave up on me but always pushed me to reach my best potential. I was fortunate to be seconded to a number of departments within the business including the Mintirho Foundation and CCBA Group Office which contributed immensely to my strategic thinking and business acumen. This award is just testament of my growth.

Toursim, Retail & HospitalityLazo Karapanagiotidis, Digital Omnichannel Executive, Massmart

Winning the 2021 Accenture Rising Star ended up being more about the journey, which continues today – versus the destination.

It has taught me to reflect on, and appreciate the many people who have pushed and supported me during my career, those that have directly and indirectly helped shape me to be the person and professional I am. It made me realise that I am, because we are – I am the lucky one to have got the prize.

Over the last two weeks I have also come to appreciate the Rising Star platform a lot more than when I was first nominated. The manner in which it has been delivered has been exceptional, and we need more of this in South Africa – we have tons of talent that is not, and should be exposed. I hope that Rising Star moves from strength to strength and continues to shine the light on South Africans doing their bit to progress our country’s amazing people and purpose.

I also want to thank Massmart for placing a specific focus on people, and driving a refreshed agenda on creating an open and collaborative work environment. I will lean on my experience in Rising Star to further our push, and reference the values Rising Star espouses throughout my interactions with my team, colleagues, and extended network.

Finally, I want to thank you to all of the people who took a moment to show support. We don’t celebrate and push people upwards enough, and this was a stark reminder for me to celebrate and encourage and support colleagues, friends and family working to achieve more.