From Academic Excellence to Professional Leadership: Itumeleng Likhama’s Inspiring Journey

378
Itumeleng Likhama

Part 1: Background and Experience:

1. Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from? Where did you get your education? And so on…

A: I was born and bred in Mafeteng, as the younger of two siblings, with two girls in the family. From a very young age, I stood out among my peers due to my early drive for excellence. My educational journey commenced at Kingsgate Primary School, where I not only demonstrated academic prowess but also exhibited strong leadership qualities. Even from the early grades, like standard 2, I was elected as a class representative. Among my notable achievements during this time was winning the prestigious ‘Tlalane Maholela’ award for excelling in science during the Primary School Leaving Examinations, as well as securing third place in the National Science Olympiad.

Continuing to Lesotho High School for my JC and LGCSE, I continued to excel academically and further developed my leadership skills. Throughout my high school years, I consistently ranked among the top performers and was honoured to serve as a school prefect from form C to form E. Those who attended school alongside me can attest to the privileges and responsibilities that came with this role. Additionally, I held leadership positions as the chairperson of both The Sesotho Club and the Higherlife Club.

Upon completing my form E, I pursued higher education at the National University of Lesotho, majoring in Economics with a minor in Business Administration.

2. Can you provide a detailed overview of your professional journey, especially your roles at Phuthalichaba Savings and Credit Cooperative Society?

A: My journey into the corporate world commenced in February 2015, shortly after completing high school. I began my career as a bookkeeper at Leqela Finance, where I gained invaluable experience for four months before embarking on my tertiary education at the National University of Lesotho. Although brief, this stint provided me with practical insights into finance and real-world money management, complementing the theoretical knowledge from my high school business studies.

After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in 2019, I transitioned to Neonaturel Skin Care as a sales agent in June 2020. Here, I honed my persuasive skills and marketing acumen by selling cosmetics door-to-door. I excelled in building and maintaining a strong client base through exceptional customer service, which culminated in my earning an award for being a top seller and for high customer retention rates. Additionally, I actively contributed to product development by collaborating with the sales team to incorporate customer feedback to create customer-centric products.

A significant turning point in my career occurred in February 2021 when I joined Phuthalichaba Savings and Credit Cooperative Society as a Finance Intern. This role presented both challenges and opportunities for growth. Initially, as the sole employee at the operational level, I had to navigate various aspects of the cooperative beyond my designated finance role. My responsibilities expanded further when I was promoted to Finance and Administrative Officer in August 2021. In this capacity, I oversaw customer fulfilment, marketing, administration, finance, procurement, and credit, and served as an Executive Assistant to the CEO.

Throughout my tenure, I seized opportunities for professional development. In June 2022, I received training in human-centred design from Lagos Business School, enhancing my skills in customer-centric approaches. Additionally, I acquired expertise in credit management through training at the Kenya School of Credit Management.

While excelling in these multifaceted roles, I discovered my passion for organizational management and customer satisfaction, realizing that my strengths lay beyond numbers. Consequently, when a dedicated Finance Officer was hired in June 2023, I transitioned to the role of Administrative Officer while continuing to contribute to other aspects of cooperative operations.

Part 2: Skills and Achievements:

3. How have your administrative skills contributed to the success of Phuthalichaba?

A: When I first joined Phuthalichaba in 2021, it had less than 350 members and about M500,000.00 in accumulated savings. Some of the tasks I performed within my role entailed marketing the cooperative on social media, explaining it in detail to interested members, and registering new clients. My efforts, as an administrator, and our collective effort as the Phuthalichaba Family helped catapult the cooperative into a multimillion-rand cooperative boasting M5,000,000.00 in savings and close to 1,300 members.

4. Can you share a specific achievement or project where your skills had a significant impact?

A: My skills led to me being recognized by the prestigious “Public Eye” newspaper as one of the greatest leaders of 2022.

5. What strategies do you employ to ensure efficient and effective administrative processes?

A: Addressing this question requires delving into the multifaceted nature of my role, which involves a wide array of responsibilities. Nonetheless, I’ve developed several strategies to streamline administrative processes effectively:

• Firstly, I’ve created a comprehensive user manual, providing detailed instructions for various tasks within the cooperative. This ensures smooth operations even in my absence.

• In addition to administrative duties, my role involves prioritizing customer satisfaction. To achieve this, I prioritize providing thorough and detailed responses to customer inquiries. Not only does this enhance customer satisfaction, but it also optimizes time management, allowing me to assist other clients promptly.

• Proactively identifying tasks that require immediate attention or have impending deadlines is essential. By staying abreast of urgent matters, I can allocate my focus accordingly, ensuring timely completion.

• Given the significance of accuracy and attention to detail in my role, I adhere to a meticulous proofreading process for all documents, emails, and communications. This helps maintain precision and professionalism in all interactions

Part 3: Career Development

6. Reflecting on your career, how do you approach professional development, and what key lessons have you learned from your experiences?

A: A wise man once said, ‘Once you stop learning, you stop leading,’ and indeed, experience is the greatest teacher. Working for a growing organization entails a multifaceted role, as previously mentioned. My approach to professional development emphasizes continuous learning to fulfil my responsibilities diligently, given the diverse tasks I undertake.

Earlier, I mentioned receiving training in Human-Centered Design and Credit Management, which greatly aids in customer satisfaction and credit handling. Additionally, I hold certificates in ‘Administrative Professional Foundations’ and ‘Supply Chain Basics for Everyone,’ obtained through LinkedIn Learning, enhancing my proficiency in administrative and procurement tasks.

Recognizing a gap in Human Resources within my workplace, I am currently pursuing a certificate in Human Resource Management. This proactive step aims to equip me with the necessary skills to address organizational needs effectively.

In summary, I believe in constant self-capacitation as the cornerstone of professional development, ensuring that I remain adaptable and competent in my evolving roles.

7. Are there specific interview questions you find challenging, and how do you prepare for them?

A: As a natural perfectionist, I find every interview question challenging, and I prioritize treating each one with equal importance. This approach ensures that I am well-prepared to provide comprehensive answers to any inquiry posed.

To excel in interviews, I adopt a mindset of treating each day as if I have an interview scheduled for the following day. With abundant access to information nowadays, I leverage resources such as interview preparation videos on platforms like YouTube. These videos not only offer strategic insights but also enhance my ability to think quickly and provide articulate responses on the spot.

Part 4: Personal Growth

8. How do you balance work and personal life to ensure personal growth and well-being?

A. I’ve come to realize that, no matter how I look at it, work will always consume a significant portion of my time, potentially taking away precious moments with my loved ones or personal time. However, I’ve adopted a different approach to achieving a sense of balance—I prioritize being intentional with how I spend my time.

For instance, when I have a scheduled outing with a friend, I make a conscious effort to fully immerse myself in the present moment and enjoy their company. Instead of allowing work-related thoughts to intrude on that time, I set them aside and focused on the quality time spent with my friend. I believe that nurturing relationships and creating meaningful connections is vital for overall well-being.

Once I have savoured those moments and returned from my outing, I allocate dedicated time to attend to my work responsibilities. By doing so, I ensure that work doesn’t overshadow or hinder my ability to enjoy personal experiences and connect with the people I care about.

Ultimately, I’ve learned that achieving work-life balance isn’t about trying to divide my time equally between work and personal life. Instead, it’s about consciously deciding how to allocate my time and being fully present in each moment, whether it’s work-related or dedicated to personal connections. This approach allows me to savour the best of both worlds and find fulfilment in both my professional and personal spheres.

9. What advice would you give any young person who has aspirations to achieve as much as you have in your life…especially considering that you still have even bigger goals you want to achieve in life?

A. Be patient with yourself and your journey. Building something significant is challenging; it stirs up a whirlwind of emotions. Understand that your feelings today may not mirror those of yesterday or tomorrow. Recognize that relying solely on your emotions to make significant life decisions isn’t always reliable. Stay focused on your intention. Let the desired outcome you seek be your primary source of motivation. This approach ensures that, regardless of the journey’s difficulties, your frustrations will drive you toward your dreams rather than cloud your path with confusion and temptation to give up.

Comments

Litsitso Sibolla
Litsitso Sibolla, a dedicated writer for Selibeng.com and catalyst for change in Lesotho, possesses an unwavering passion that ignites transformation. His unwavering commitment to empowering the youth and driving positive shifts has established him as a prominent figure youth empowerment. Through his continually growing coffee shop and music company, centered around the aspirations of young people, he has established platforms that uplift and motivate the upcoming generation. Embark on a journey alongside Litsitso Sibolla as he empowers Lesotho's youth and inspires a promising future for everyone.