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Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger.

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These are the four words that Parmi Natesan CA(SA) lives by. Besides her prestigious position as Executive: Centre for Corporate Governance at the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa, Parmi Natesan recently received a Rising Star Alumni Award from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality (NMMU). She took time out to respond to our questions

The Rising Star Award shows that alumni like Parmi Natesan not only acquire strong technical skills at NMMU, they also acquire the professional and personal skills to enable them to go out and make a change in society and act as role models.

Right now, she’s putting in her best efforts to improve the governance in South Africa – no easy feat.

Describe yourself in three words. Intelligent, organised, perfectionist.

Best piece of advice you ever received? There is virtually nothing that girls/women can’t do!

In five years time, what difference do you want to see in Africa? Ethical and effective leadership, like the newly released King IV calls for.

What do you believe will make more ethical and effective leaders? First, the appointment process is very important. There tends to be more of a focus on qualifications, skills and other technical competencies and less on the personal competencies, the so-called soft skills that are required of leaders. Second, stakeholders holding those leaders to account for their actions with tangible consequences.

What difference are you already making? Doing my bit to improve governance in South Africa through thought leadership, advocacy, training, etc – something that I am passionate about. To quote from the IoDSA’s tagline: Better Directors, Better Boards, Better Business.

What does a typical day at the office look like? There are many meetings, as I am an Executive Director and also serve on many forums and committees. Then strategic management and oversight of the business; keeping track of and addressing emails and staff queries in-between meetings; attending many internal and external functions/events, with the IoDSA being a membership body and a key player in the governance landscape. And then finding some quiet days for my passion – to write articles.

How did your career evolve to this point? After completing my BCom and BCom Honours at NMMU, I served articles at KPMG.  Thereafter I moved to KPMGs technical department where I served as senior manager focusing on aspects of corporate governance. I joined the IoDSA in 2010 as senior governance specialist and was promoted to Executive: Centre for Corporate Governance in 2014 and an executive member of the IoDSA board from June 2015.

How has being a CA(SA) assisted you in your role? The CA(SA) qualification and process equip an individual to apply themselves to almost anything. People often get surprised when they hear I am a CA(SA), but being a governance specialist, I do not work in the financial field per say. That is the beauty of the CA(SA) designation – there are really no limits. The depth and breadth of exposure that a CA(SA) designee gets means that they can adequately fulfil a vast array of areas and responsibilities.

What drives your passion to make a difference? An absolute love for what I do and the company that I work for and a strong belief in the power of governance to transform business and ultimately the country as a whole.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced and how did you overcome it? Probably gender discrimination. Being a youngish-looking Indian female, I am often underestimated. I’ve overcome this by not backing down, by proving to the sceptics what I am worth. By always giving my best.

What do you do to relax? I am a recent Zumba dance fitness addict. I am also a very creative person and enjoy sewing and other crafts. With this demanding lifestyle, a regular Thai massage is a must for me.

How do you balance your career and family? With lots of planning and organising, a good support structure and – fortunately – tremendous flexibility in my working arrangement. With the digital world that we live in, it’s become a lifestyle for me to take my work with me – any time, any place. There are no separate eight hours for work and the rest for family. My career and my family are integrated throughout my days and each gets the attention it deserves.

What is one change every person can make to make Africa a better continent? Without a doubt, ethical behaviour – that is, doing the right thing.