Meet our New HR Director

Posted on September 07, 2018

UP’s new HR Director, Sovashni Hefele, joins us from her previous roles at Eskom, BoE and Sanlam, which she says have been significant in her development as an HR professional. She attributes her success to “being surrounded by awesome leaders” who were instrumental in her career development and progress. Prior to starting at UP, she took a year-long sabbatical, which she calls a “well-earned career break” and recommends for anyone who’s able to grab such an opportunity. Tukkievaria had a chat with Sovashni to get inside the new HR head’s head.

What attracted you to work at UP? 

One of the reasons I took my career break was to re-evaluate the direction I wanted to take my career into. I knew that the next phase of my career couldn’t just be about the share price and profit. It had to be about something bigger. I wanted to teach at business school level, I wanted to give back to my country, and I wanted to be in a different industry where I have to learn new ways of working and applying my HR knowledge. It came as a blessing that I was approached about the UP opportunity. The role met all my ‘wants’. UP has a great reputation and history. I wanted to be part of crafting a new future for such a great university.  I love knowing that I add value to the lives of young South Africans, and that I am part of growing the future leaders of our country in all disciplines and industries.

What are some of the HR areas you would like to work on as priority at UP? 

Transformation in the bigger sense is a key priority.  I have to craft and deliver on an HR strategy that makes UP an employer of choice, because we have an employment value proposition that is modern, future-fit and inclusive. Making our insourced staff feel that they are part of the UP community is high on my agenda. Being role models to the students we’re teaching is important. This is not just the job of our great academics. It’s everyone’s job. We can only do this if we treat our staff with dignity and respect, while also demand performance excellence. This is the culture we have to further entrench as non-negotiables. A lot of great work has been done already. But like with everything in life, the pace of change is rapid and complex. The future of work brings new opportunities which we must help our staff prepare for so that they are future-fit.

What are your personal likes and dislikes? 

Because I try to be the best me I can be, I have high expectations that others do the same to reach their full potential. I really like working with people that want to learn and grow and are tenacious and committed to excellence. I so enjoy working with young talent and giving them the opportunities for development that I received as a graduate. My pet hate is dishonesty, laziness and untidiness. I have zero tolerance for it. You can just imagine what I am like at home – I’m into neatness and everybody carrying their weight with household chores.

Quick Quiz: Sovashni’s Favourite…

Sports: I admire [Springbok captain] Siya Kolisi, and will follow whichever team he is on. He is an awesome leader. I like Orlando Pirates, maybe because when my son was little he had many Pirates T-shirts, and looked too cute in them.

Food: I am true to my culture, and enjoy a good curry. I’m also a massive pizza and pasta lover, along with peri-peri chicken, and my addiction to chocolates. My dislike is offal.

Travel destinations: Italy is high up as my favourite, as it was one of the best holidays I enjoyed with my family. Locally, it’s Durban, which my kids love too.

Movie: A Beautiful Mind.

Sitcom: The Big Bang Theory.

Actor: Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

Musician: Pharrell Williams and Pink. And I love watching Beyoncé concerts. 

All-time hero? I admire many, so this was hard to single out. However, my motto in life is encapsulated by what Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you are to live forever.”

Other passions? I love animals and appreciate that my kids are obsessed with taking care of the vulnerable; human and all other. I take this as an indicator that my husband and I have done right as parents.

- Author Department of University Relations

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