Prof Shirley Zinn, Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Human resource Management and a member of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences’ Advisory Board, launched her biography, entitled Swimming upstream: A story of grit and determination to succeed, at the end of 2015.
KR Publishing, who published her book, describes Prof Zinn as a formidable woman with an amazing story to tell. She has risen to the top of the pile in both academic and business circles, and yet she has retained great humanity and empathy in the face of great personal tragedy.
Born and raised on the Cape Flats, Prof Zinn never allowed her past to dictate her future. She proved that the typical story of a girl from the Cape Flats – that of gangsterism, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy – didn’t have to be her story. Instead she relentlessly pursued her own goals and forged an impressive academic career even when she faced significant odds. And when she’d done that, she set out to conquer the world of business.
Prof Stella Nkomo, Deputy Dean of Research at the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, says that Prof Zinn’s life and career story is one of triumph over adversity and loss. “It will pull every string in your heart and inspire at the same time. Swimming upstream is a page turner that offers hope for every South African while providing powerful lessons on being an authentic leader in today’s complex world."
Prof Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State, called the book one of the most impressive biographies in recent years. “It is a riveting account of how a young black woman rises from the stifling conditions of the Cape Flats under apartheid to take a doctorate from Harvard and eventually become one of the leading human resources professionals in the country today."
Prof Zinn holds an MEd from the University of the Western Cape and a DEd from Harvard, and was awarded the Top Woman in Business and Government and Top Executive in Corporate South Africa by Topco Media in 2008. She was also recognised by the Black Business Quarterly and received the award for most Visionary Woman in 2008.
She served as Human Resources Director for SARS, Nedbank and Standard Bank and is currently the Chairperson of DHL: Global Forwarding SA, and a Non-Executive Director on the Boards of AdvTech, Tuesday Consulting, Business Engage, Sygnia Asset Management, and the Boston Consulting Group SA. She also serves on the Advisory Boards of Monash, African Society for Talent Development, and UP’s Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and is an Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Human Resource Management. She is the President for the Harvard University Alumni Association South Africa and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors SA.
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