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EU Alumna, Marilét Branders, on Change Management and her Influential Role as an EU Lecturer

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Originally from a small farm town in South Africa, Marilét moved to the big city of Johannesburg at the age of 13, and recently relocated to Pretoria. Her native language is Afrikaans. She speaks English fluently, and also knows some German and Sotho, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

After starting her career in hairdressing with sights set on opening her own salon, Marilét began her business education, eventually gaining an MBA from EU and opting for a different path within the tech industry. Alongside her current career as a customer success manager, we are thrilled to have Marilét as one of our online lecturers.

Marilét is a great lover of the outdoors and has an active lifestyle. Her favorite sports include hiking, kayaking and triathlons. Since the pandemic and giving birth to her first child, however, she has started to appreciate a slower pace of life and has switched her running shoes for walking boots!

Can you tell us about your background and path to the position you’re in today?

I originally studied entrepreneurial management with the intention of opening my own business, but I found myself in a strategy department within a telecommunications, multimedia and IT company. Market research, analyzing digital disruption trends and designing strategies for clients became my day-to-day activity. That’s where my love of technology started! After a stint as a program manager as a partner with Salesforce, I developed a passion for relationships, engagement management, project management, change management and customer success.

Most of my roles have involved helping people adopt new systems and learn new ways of doing things, to ensure our clients receive a return on their investment.

I currently work for BlueSky, an ambitious, independent and proudly South African Salesforce partner. I moved from a large, global corporation to a smaller family sized business – it was a nice challenge to join a startup where they had to build a company from the ground up!

What do you enjoy about your role?

I really like to make a difference, and I feel my job as a change manager goes deeper than just doing my day-to-day activities. I’ve got a massive responsibility to pass on my experience and look after my team’s wellbeing – it is my job to uplift, inspire and motivate them!

Could you tell us about cloud technologies and the advantages of using them?

Cloud technology is extremely important – almost everything is cloud based to some extent these days. I think there’s a massive cost advantage by not hosting certain things on premise, and instead sharing spaces in the cloud. However, there are risks involved if you are not cautious with your personal safety.

Technology is evolving every single day, and that’s why I really enjoy the tech space. We’ve seen a massive uptake in technology since COVID, even amongst older people who needed to know how to navigate through tech and use collaboration tools. So, it really changed the world and how we see it in that sense.

Why do you think change and adoption need to be managed?

We’ve learned that most big projects fail after something’s been implemented. If, as a consultant, you leave people with change without making them aware and preparing them for what’s coming, they go into shock and don’t know what to do. It is very important to prepare and train for change.

What is the hardest part of change for people in a company?

As they say, old habits die hard. I think it’s fear. Fear of the unknown and of moving out of a comfort zone can be a big challenge.

Do you think change is easier now than it was 20 years ago?

I think so, because 20 years ago there was more time for people to adjust, and change happened at a slower pace. I believe the rate of change is accelerating daily now. Just look at the software and social technology upgrades, for example. Inevitably, this forces people to be more flexible and open to change.

EU Alumna, Marilét Branders

From a company point of view, what are some of the key things you must keep in mind during the change implementation process?

One of the biggest things is stakeholder engagement. Always have executive buy in to make sure that you’ve got the roles and responsibilities set out. Communication is a massive part of it – you can never over communicate! Training and frequent check ins are also essential.

Before university, you worked as a hairdresser. Could you tell us about your experience of working for a female-dominated verses male-dominated industry?

It’s quite different. What I miss most about a female-dominated industry is that you could be a lot more open, and it was much more emotionally driven. You would share your feelings and have an insight into people’s daily lives on a deeper emotional level.

The more corporate, male-dominated tech industry is much less emotional, and you have to keep your distance. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge – I was young, and having blonde hair comes with judgment, so I really had to prove myself. However, things are starting to change and there are many more women working in tech. Now, I am definitely at a place where I am respected in my role.

What made you decide to become a lecturer at EU?

I’ve always had a passion for education, I think it is very important. It is very rewarding to think that I could be making a difference in someone’s life and kick-starting their career. Lecturing is much more than just the subject in itself, as a lecturer you have the opportunity to pass on life lessons and influence your students’ lives on an emotional, social and intellectual level.

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What do you teach?

The subject that is closest to my heart is management information systems because it’s technology and innovation. I’m also teaching accounting. Even if you don’t have plans to become an accountant, I believe that you come across financial accounting in every aspect of your life so, if you understand it, you can feel comfortable and confident in budgeting across both your personal and professional life.

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What has your role as a lecturer taught you about today’s aspiring young businesspeople?

Our school is so diverse, with students of different ages from all over the world. Some even own their own companies and have come back to school. What I’ve learned from them, and what they’ve inspired me with, is the fact that they are so driven. They are focused and realize that they are tomorrow’s leaders. They know that their career won’t come instantly and that they have to work hard and make some sacrifices along the way.

How did your EU MBA impact your career?

For me, EU was about more than just the certification and an MBA on my CV. The biggest things I learned were discipline and sacrifice. I also learned to push through no matter the cost.

It gave me the ability to walk into a boardroom as a female in a male-dominated world, to feel confident in my knowledge, and to be able to back myself up without people viewing me as a stereotype without substance. Knowledge is power!

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