BCom (Marketing Management) honours student Kerry van Zyl was recently named as one of the top students in South Africa in the GradStar Top 100 awards. This annual programme connects top performing university graduates with employers and business mentors, with a view to nurture the potential of the country’s future leaders. Kerry gives an account of her participation in the programme:
“Was it luck, preparation or opportunity that I, a Marketing Management student along with 30 of my University of Pretoria (UP) peers, was placed in the Top 100 students in the country? Perhaps Oprah Winfrey is correct when she defines luck as the crossroad where preparation and opportunity meet…?
When I received the email from UP Career Services early in February 2018 informing me of the opportunity to compete for a spot among the Top 100 students in South Africa, it was not the words of Oprah Winfrey that crossed my mind, but rather a personal challenge inspired by Emma Watson: If not now, when? If not you, then who? With that in mind, I entered what would be a series of challenging tasks set out by organisers BlackBark Productions and Khonology, to determine who would be announced as South Africa’s crème de la crème graduates for 2018.
A pool of more than 4 000 students from across South Africa took on the challenge and was judged during four rigorous rounds throughout the year, with the number of applicants decreasing with each round. The challenges included evaluating candidates’ ability to think outside of the box, along with their leadership capabilities, problem-solving skills, readiness for the workplace and academic success. The pool was narrowed down to 250 candidates, who were then interviewed and assessed based on their punctuality, social interaction and presentation skills. From this, the GradStar Top 100 students were named.
We were subsequently invited to a three-day conference at the Indaba Hotel, Fourways, to interact with our fellow GradStars, as well as afforded the opportunity to network with top employers in the industry for prospective jobs. The conference commenced with a day of workshops hosted by six potential employers to the likes of headline sponsor DHL, along with Accenture, Comair Limited, Epiroc, Fasken and IBM. The workshops included debates on artificial intelligence (AI) and land appropriation, strategies on company diversification and resource allocation, as well as a thrilling activity from DHL in which a life-or-death scenario was provided with limited time to solve, and continuous obstacles being brought forward. These workshops reminded us to be innovative in our problem-solving, forward thinking within strategy development and most importantly, to work coherently within a team to receive the best results.
Kerry van Zyl at the GradStar Top 100 conference workshop
The gala awards evening was a wonderful way to acknowledge the Top 100 recipients, with motivational addresses from keynote speakers Dr David Molapo and Ms Zipho Sikhane, along with entertainment from South African artist Majozi. UP took home 30 awards within different academic fields, along with four students being named as ‘10 of the finest’. UP students have such potential and this is evident based on the calibre of students produced and the number of students placed in the Top 100, with UP taking home the most awards.
Laura Barker, Managing Director of BlackBark Productions, had this to say to the 2018 GradStars: “We encourage you to embrace your potential and work hard to achieve your ambitions in your chosen field. Never lose your curiosity and continue to strive to make a meaningful difference in the world.”
Kerry van Zyl receiving her GradStar Top 100 award
I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity and to have networked with some of South Africa’s brightest. I want to congratulate each of them for their hard work and the dedication that got them to this point. This is a fantastic initiative and I want to encourage all students to enter the GradStar 2019 competition, because opportunity favours the bold!
I truly believe that I was able to make it this far in the GradStar competition based on the skills, knowledge and confidence that UP, and more specifically, the BCom Marketing Management Honours programme, has equipped me with. I can enter the work environment with the assurance that I am well prepared for the challenges and opportunities that may face me. So, if not you, then who? If not now, then when