Monthly Archives: September 2018

DA VINCI @ WORK: MKHULULI MOYO MEETS MAGIC THROUGH MOTIVATION

Three and a half years ago, Mkhululi Moyo started a chapter of his life. It would be a start to something life-changing.  Mkhululi was no stranger to education, having completed his National Diploma in Computer Science. However, when enrolling with The Da Vinci Institute for his BCom (Business Management), he liked the experiential learning approach used and the emphasis on self-discovery, and the practical application of learning in a workplace.
 
His learning journey paralleled with full-time employment as he continued to work as a Software Developer in Global Markets Technology at Rand Merchant Bank (RMB). This was both life and career changing because Mkhululi soon realised that to get the most out of his BCom studies, he had to change his career and be in a role aligned to his BCom studies. Mkhululi then joined the Client Strategy team in Coverage. Part of Mkhululi’s struggles in balancing work and study lied in procrastination. “During the first half of year one, I would start working on my assignment close to the deadline. After going through the pressure of having to accomplish a lot within a limited time, I decided to overcome procrastinating and start doing my assignments early and completing them in time.”
 
This alignment of study and work became more integrated as Mkhululi started applying his learning in the workplace. His role as a Client Strategist at RMB includes driving the origination and retention strategy by providing deep corporate client and industry sector insights. “I enjoyed my experience of learning and working as I was able to apply most of my learning in my workplace. My work-based challenge was based on an existing situation within the RMB Global Markets technology division. I shared my research paper with my line manager and they were appreciative of the work I had done and committed to using the information from my research paper as input to make informed decisions.”
 
“When the energy was low my motivator was knowing that the theory I was learning in class was applicable in the real world of work and there were noticeable and immediate benefits in my contribution in the work that I was doing.” In this context, motivation and support came from those closest to him. “My wife who is an academic was very supportive. She helped to simplify some of the assignments that I was overthinking.”
 
Mkhululi Moyo graduated on 20 September 2018 at the Annual Da Vinci Graduation Ceremony and was awarded a Cum Laude for his BCom (Business Management) qualification. When asked how it felt, Mkhululi stated, “It felt good. I am pleased with myself. In fact, I am proud of having achieved the BCom qualification and the recognition I received for obtaining a Cum Laude. It is humbling to have been supported and provided with an enabling environment that has allowed me to unleash my potential.”
 
“Studying while you’re working is different from studying to complete your studies and get a qualification. It is beneficial because when you study and work you are not just dealing with theory, there is an existing work “sandbox” environment available to test and apply your learning. It is this experimental approach that will ensure that you will always remember what it is that you study. It becomes transformative because your contribution towards your work environment and society becomes fact based and is supported by credible sources.”
 
What is next for Mkhululi?
 
“I intend to study further. Da Vinci has cultivated in me the culture of being a learner and I intend to use education to equip myself with the knowledge to contribute meaningfully in corporate and entrepreneurial business initiatives in South Africa.”
 

In the big wide world of research, Marcus is not alone

At least 50 people from around the world have read Marcus Desando’s master’s dissertation since he uploaded it to ResearchGate, an opensource networking site for scientists and researchers.
He uploaded his dissertation about a year ago and it clearly struck a chord among other researchers, focusing as it does on leadership regeneration in the performing arts in South Africa.
“Initially, a few people followed me and after a while I realised my dissertation was being read by people all over the world, including the United States, Europe and India,” says Marcus, an alumnus of The Da Vinci Institute and CEO of the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT).
Marcus, who has since embarked on his Doctorate in management through Da Vinci, says ResearchGate has also made him aware of other researchers in his field, which could be useful as he makes progress with his Doctorate, which is about how to integrate the creative arts into the mainstream business.
“Sometimes I come across questions that other people have asked on ResearchGate where the answers might be relevant to my own research. An example was the question, ‘Do you think entrepreneurship principles can be applied to non-profit organisations?’,” he says.
This caught his attention since Marcus heads up an NPO and his Doctorate research is about how to integrate the creative arts into the mainstream business from the point of view of artists. “There tends to be a perception that the arts are a pastime or charity, and not revenue-generating.”
So it helps to know that the mainstreaming of the arts is a subject that concerns other researchers elsewhere, he says. “ResearchGate has opened my perception of the research world and the fact that there might be others out there who are doing similar work.”

The fine art of using ResearchGate: a Doctorate student’s experience

For several weeks, Da Vinci Institute Doctorate student Estie Serfontein had been struggling to find out more about the research technique known as “purposive sampling” and was having precious little luck. She turned to ResearchGate, an opensource platform for researchers around the world.
 
“I found an article that explained the different kinds of sampling and sizes and research paradigms. It helped me quite a bit,” says Estie, who has a master’s degree in fine arts and a day job as Quality Assurance Manager at Execujet, a private aviation jet company.
 
“Whenever I find a source on ResearchGate, it’s quite specific and explanatory, which is helpful,” she says, adding that she has also benefited from the platform’s Q&A Board. “I haven’t asked a specific question on this forum myself but have found quite useful information by looking at other people’s responses to questions that have been posted.”
 
Estie started her Doctorate in Technology and Innovation in April 2017 and is preparing a descriptive case study on process control systems in South African aviation. She became a member of ResearchGate a few months later, attracted by the concept of being part of a worldwide community of people with a lot of information and research experience.
 
“I’m not an expert researcher and it helps to be able to follow other researchers in my field,” Estie says.
 
One of the easiest ways to do this is to request automatic alerts when people doing similar research upload their work. “You add keywords connected to your project and profile, and receive alerts when someone using related keywords uploads material.”
 
Apart from following other researchers, ResearchGate members can ask the community for input on their work. From Estie’s experience, the response has not been overwhelming. She uploaded her research proposal in February 2018 and has had four reads so far but no specific responses.

She does not find this discouraging. “Once I have completed my first chapter in the near future, I’m sure I’ll be able to use ResearchGate and its functionalities much more to my advantage.”

Da Vinci @ Work: Meet our Alumnus – Zain Reddiar

How Zain faced his fear and came out winning
 
Having lived and worked across continents, including in a war zone or two, MTN’s Zain Reddiar doesn’t scare easily. He admits to having been petrified of one thing, though: the thought of writing a dissertation.
 
“The idea scared me to death”, says Zain, Human Resources Director at MTN Cote d’Ivoire and before that, in war-torn South Sudan (where shelling literally occurred outside his house at one stage).
 
It was during his stay in South Sudan that he faced his fear of formal study and signed up for his master’s degree – dissertation and all – through The Da Vinci Institute.
 

“I had been a senior executive at MTN for a long time, done tons of short courses and worked in nine different countries, but had no formal tertiary education,” says Zain, who is not linguistically challenged and has a language repertoire that includes Sotho, Farsi, Arabic, French and South African sign language.

 
“Then MTN Group introduced recognition for prior learning (RPL) and people at the office kept saying to me, ‘You should do it.’ So I tried Unisa and my application was rejected. I felt despondent.”
 
The Da Vinci Institute, on the other hand, interviewed Zain and was willing to accept him as a master’s student, provided he achieved at least 60% for his research proposal. He succeeded and started out on his dissertation, which was on the topic of transforming HR from the traditional delivery model to shared services.
 
Life happens
 
“Being in South Sudan, I couldn’t attend any lectures. That was very challenging because it was all new to me and academic writing was a nightmare – I’m a minimalist by nature,” Zain says. To make up for losing out on lectures, he read voraciously, doing double or triple the required reading.
 
Then his personal life took a dip. “My dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer and I flew between South Sudan and South Africa every weekend to see him. This shifted the priority of my studies and increased the pressure of adhering to timelines.”
 
Round about the same time, mid-2016, the civil conflict in South Sudan intensified, forcing NGOs, multinationals and foreign nations to leave the country. In the interest of employee wellbeing, MTN took the decision to evacuate its staff as well. This led to Zain’s move to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
 
Amid all this turbulence, Zain continued with his master’s studies but realised that he still needed to earn some additional marks to fulfil the academic requirement. Da Vinci suggested that he write a critical review to make up the balance of marks, and Zain agreed.
 
“Eventually I wrote a full dissertation along with additional reviews and no credits for RPL was granted. I earned the full qualification.”
 
Defending his master’s dissertation was a challenge he did not relish, though. “I was sick to my tummy when I arrived at the campus; I didn’t know what to expect from the assessing academic panel. My topic was very real to me – it was an experience I had lived – and I managed to do it.”
 
Zain, who graduated in September 2017, is now working on his research proposal for his doctorate, this time looking at the impact of international assignments on expatriates and their families. This is another very real topic for Zain: not only does he work for a multinational that has a footprint in 22 countries but is also away from his family based in South Africa.
 

 

Clearly, he has lost his fear of academic writing. “Once I took the plunge, I started enjoying it. It changed my perspective on the world, the way I think and the manner in which I approach things. I have become far less judgmental. Conducting research has taught me that my view is just a very small lens into a very big and complex picture. It humbles you to some degree.”