Alumni Showcase: Dr Felleng Yende

Alumni Talk: Meet Dr. Felleng Yende, who is at the helm of the Fibre Processing & Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&MSETA), and our remarkable alumnus


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Dr. Yende is on the rise – her patience, perseverance, resilience and humility give her the momentum to move forward.  In addition, she also attributes her remarkable strides largely to the helpful liveliness of those she is closely associated with. That is, family and her supervisors, as well as The Da Vinci Institute’s team, for always being there throughout her research journey when needed.

Dr. Yende’s academic curiosity and journey undertook a critical reflective work-based challenge, as articulated in her thesis, after having realised that the nexus of leadership and the 4th Industrial Revolution have been under-researched within the context of organisational adaptability – thus her thesis titled:

Enhancing public sector leadership in the age of the 4th Industrial Revolution to lead SETAs: Towards a conceptual framework.”

This study employed eclectic theories of socio-evolutionary and responsibility attribution underpinned by systems thinking. In addition, the study was designed to document 11 purposively selected key stakeholders in the Post School Education and Training (PSET) ecosystem as active participants in education, training, and innovation on how Public Sector Leadership (PSL) performance in the SETAs can be enhanced by adopting and optimising the 4IR.

Dr. Yende’s key findings following this case study, “indicate a high level of awareness and understanding of the interrelatedness of technological innovation and organisational performance … Digital technology offerings can offset the material mismanagement of resources at the SETAs.” Furthermore, “through collaborative efforts of public-private partnerships, the SETAs, and the PSET system can change the skills development path by adopting and optimising 4IR to enhance the performance of organisations, and stimulate the economic growth and development of South Africa and the African continent as a whole, which is sorely needed as a result of the COVID-19 health challenges and subsequent job losses. The timing of the 4IR Presidential Commission in South Africa is a lever to implement these recommendations.”

Dr. Yende further adds that, “as one of the few scholarly works in PSL in South Africa, the study contributes to the body of knowledge in organisational adaptability and the nexus between PSL and the 4IR. Limitations and future research areas are delineated.”

When asked about the origins of this study and the in-depth ensuing journey thereof, Dr. Yende traces it back to 2013 when she first joined the SETA system. Upon joining the system, Dr. Yende noted the substantial amount of media coverage surrounding SETAs and for all sorts of negative reasons. In Dr. Yende’s own words: “So much was written about the SETAs that since their establishment in 1999, they have been criticised mainly for poor performance, weak financial management, fraud and corruption, irregularities, excessive bureaucracy, poor stakeholder relationships, lack of governance and long turnaround times. More concerning was that prior research established that less than 10% of the total number of SETAs are efficient concerning funds management to promote education and training outputs. The study found that only 24% of the SETAs consistently met their set targets.”

Furthermore, “as CEO of one of the performing SETAs and the chairperson of the SETAs CEOs, the critique kept me awake at night. In 2016 I decided to investigate the concerns raised in the media, grey literature and what I was reading in peer-reviewed scholarly research reports.”

Delving curiously as she did into the related literature, Dr. Yende’s “curiosity and concern about the above said criticism set the scene in starting my five-year research journey in understanding the nature of the problem and what possible solutions can be found to address it. Towards the end of 2017, I first assessed Doctoral programmes across the South African & International universities. I contacted The Da Vinci Institute to register my intentions of pursuing a Doctoral research interest in leadership and technology management. [Chiefly,] because the institution offered the flexibility of applying a [work-based challenge] through the TIPS (Technology, Innovation, People and Systems) model.”

Dr Yende explains that this challenging academic journey, “has been [about addressing] the challenges and performance of the FP&M SETA [Fibre Processing & Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority, and turning it] into a functional, high performing organisation. The lessons therefore, that directly contributed to my personal life in many ways are unimaginable. I learnt, however, to be more patient and understanding in the fact that the nature of any research needs patience, emotional maturity, and open-mindedness about my opinions and take advice from my supervisors and those who had taken this journey before.”

Most importantly for Dr. Yende, “the [biggest] impact was dealing with personal challenges that could otherwise have easily side-tracked my research journey. At a spiritual level, the journey has helped to stand firm on my belief. It has strengthened my faith by the realisation that there is no substitute for prayer and oneness with God in our daily lives…”

The next, or perhaps additional, move on Dr. Yende’s path of remarkability, she states her wishes “to set a good example and be a good role model to youth and women. I want to continue coaching and to mentor others with authority in my space academically, leading management and technology and publishing on the topic in accredited journals.” Additionally, Dr. Yende wishes to “[p]lay an influential and critical role as the 4IR adviser to the Presidency and government, including business.”

With her vast experience spanning decades in leadership roles, and with her privilege as one of our remarkable alumni, Dr. Yende advises our students to dare “to be uniquely remarkable with humility, allowing guidance and direction from others. To also allow yourself to be a student regardless of the position you hold.” In addition, as a conclusion, she says: “Read widely as if your life depends on it.”

Dr. Felleng Yende is such a gem of an inspiring woman, and we wish for her a path in perpetual remarkability.