Alumna profile: Natasha Ashley

Posted on April 20, 2020

Despite achieving remarkable success in her career thus far, alumna Natasha Ashley has set her sights even higher, “never losing sight of who I am and what I believe in”. Read more about her achievements, passions and interests below.
 
Q: What is your current position and what does it entail?
 
A: I am Programme Executive at Adam Smith's Panmure House in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have four main roles: event management; social media and marketing; fundraising and donor stewardship; and teaching Scottish teenagers about the Scottish Enlightenment and Adam Smith, as well as influential Scottish innovations.
 
Q: Briefly summarise your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
 
A: After I graduated with a Master of Commerce from UP, supported by the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, I received the prestigious Skye Scholarship to study for a second masters, a Master of Science, at the University of Edinburgh Business School. I was one of eight South Africans to get the Skye Scholarship to study overseas.
 
My passion and interest for African entrepreneurship inspired my dissertation research. At the University of Edinburgh, I received the Robertson Ness scholarship and travelled to Rwanda where I studied social innovations created by Rwandan tech entrepreneurs.
 
After completing my second master's degree, I worked in Higher Education at Heriot Watt University in Scotland, before moving to join a global NGO called Theirworld, based in London. Theirworld campaigns and advocates for increased global spending on children's development, pilots innovative projects in refugee camps in Lebanon and Turkey and also teaches girls in several African countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria how to code and develop technical and business skills for the future.
 
After gaining valuable experience at Theirworld, I moved back to Scotland to start my dream job of working at Panmure House – the only surviving home of the Father of Economics – Adam Smith, in Edinburgh. My new role entails teaching about the Scottish Enlightenment and Adam Smith's works, handling events, fundraising and marketing. 
 
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
 
A: My degrees (BCom, BCom (Hons) and MCom) from UP taught me how to function efficiently in diverse teams and balance multiple, divergent work streams and workloads. I learnt to be very resilient, and my work ethic has set me apart in my career. 
 
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
 
A: People often ask me how I manage to get so much done in a day, and the simple answer is that we all have the same 168 hours in a week, and there is no quick and easy option: long-term discipline and consistent hard work will go a long way, and most importantly, your attitude determines your altitude. Grab every opportunity you can – be a tutor, apply for scholarships, join clubs and societies, test and challenge yourself. University is such a unique opportunity in life where you can try new things and develop, learn and fail in a safe space. Enjoy the freedom and enjoy every time you get to go home to be with friends and family. Do something every month that challenges you and gets you out of your comfort zone.
 
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful organisation?
 
A: Excellent and consistent leadership. I am a strong believer that it does not matter how famous or well-resourced your organisation is, if you don't have strong leadership and good managers, then the organisation will not flourish to its potential and your employees will end up leaving. It is crucial that companies create a clear vision and consistent messaging, and are supported and led by excellent, fair and empathetic leaders. 
 
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc) do you enjoy reading?
 
A: I read a lot of UK newspapers and international publications such as the Harvard Business Review, the Guardian, Charlotte Street Partners daily briefings and the Financial Times. I purposely read newsletters, blogs and newspapers that have different ideological positions to mine so that I am exposed to different mind-sets, arguments and as a result, I am more creative and my understanding of the world is much deeper.
 
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
 
A: I am constantly motivated by my fear of my light being dulled or being de-skilled, so I am driven to ensure I am always learning, developing and growing. I do not want to live with regret or with a sense of what could have been, so if there is any opportunity that crosses my path, I grab it. 
 
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person – in any domain – who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it, be and what would you like to discuss?
 
A: I'd love to meet Mo Ibrahim, the founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was established in 2006 and has a simple but incredibly pertinent and powerful message: the critical importance of governance and leadership in Africa.
 
He believes that governance and leadership lie at the heart of any tangible and shared improvement in the quality of life of African citizens. I would love to discuss how we can develop great future leaders and hold more leaders accountable for their actions and create more active and engaged citizens.
 
Q: Going forward, what are your career and, personal goals?
 
A: Career goals: to make an impact in Scotland and broaden people's understanding of the Scottish Enlightenment and to ensure I continually learn and grow and develop in my personal and professional life. 
 
My personal goals are to successfully complete a PhD and to run a marathon (or maybe even the Comrades marathon in 2022!) and to never lose sight of who I am and what I believe in. I also want to travel to a few new countries and continue to learn about new cultures.

 

- Author Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Published by Liesl Oosthuizen

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