Nthabiseng (Nthabi) Mokoena has just celebrated her first year as Public Relations Manager across Africa for e-hailing platform Bolt. Based in Johannesburg, she engages with the platforms teams and agencies in countries as diverse as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, the United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, and of course, her home country too.
She joined the global platform – where the average age of employees is well under 30 – from a career in agencies, but her academic journey and career path have taken a couple of detours along the way.
“I started my university studies at the University of the Witwatersrand where I enrolled for a B.Com degree, Nthabi says. “I only took it up because I received really great matric results that were good enough to be accepted into that faculty. However, I didn’t enjoy it, and failed my modules badly, partly out of rebellion, but also because I realised that I’m just not a numbers person.”
Nthabi was intrigued by what her friends in the Arts faculty were studying, and was particularly interested in law, politics, sociology and communications.
“My mother was steadfast that I wasn’t going to waste away at home. She gave me a second chance to study where my passion lay: in the broader field of journalism, public relations and communications. I grabbed that last chance she gave me – because it really was my last chance – and enrolled to study public relations at Varsity College in Pretoria.”
Nthabi’s extreme work ethic saw her graduate in the top three of her diploma group. She was also inspired by Adri Human, one of her lecturers, who instilled a ‘combination pit-bull and golden retriever approach’ to the public relations industry.
“She always emphasised that being smart and charismatic, with a dash of emotional intelligence, would take me far in the industry,” Nthabi says.
Her following lessons – professional and personal – came during her B.Tech in PR Management at the Tshwane University of Technology. The lesson learnt from her peers was focus, determination and that there are no excuses in life -“You just need to soldier on and show up for your desires and dreams authentically, and as though you know nothing!”
In her time on the agency side of the PR table, Nthabi worked across lifestyle and fashion, ICT, Fintech, eSports and Events.
“I genuinely liked how I managed clients and was accountable for the outcomes of projects and campaigns,” she says. “As I grew from junior roles, I became more independent and assured in my ability to manage and service my clients. I particularly loved working in sport and entertainment, when I felt most fulfilled and challenged in this space.”
Nthabi has some solid advice for young women entering the public relations industry – much of which applies to other working environments too:
· Be teachable – you are not always right.
· Love what you do
· Respect the work you do and the industry you are looking to work in
· Earn your stripes: Don’t rush anything you want in life – you are far better off being patient than rushing the process.
· PR is not for lazy people! It may look like it’s fun on paper, but PR professionals work really hard.
· Networking in different stages of your career is vital, so change with the times.
· Never be complacent – constantly work on bettering yourself personally and professionally.