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Faculty Focus: Jako Volschenk

USB-ED is fortunate to have access to more than 300 part-time faculty, consultants, business leaders and industry experts who facilitate on our programmes.

Today we would like to introduce you to Jako Volschenk.

What is the toughest leadership challenge businesses face today?

Capitalism is at a crossroad for a number of reasons and responsible consumption will become all the more important. It will become a challenge for companies to continue to grow while honouring the limits that the earth imposes on us. Business suffers from a lack of legitimacy and it is our generation’s mandate to show that business can be moral.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from a student to date?

I was teaching at an institution once and I had two extreme individuals in my class. The one student came from a poor background, lived with his grandmother, but was very happy and hardworking. The other student was very clever, had two very successful parents, had all he could dream of and had attempted to kill himself twice before. From numerous conversations I learnt that students (and people) need three things to be happy: (1) To be loved by someone unconditionally, (2) to be good at something, no matter what that is, and (3) to have something to look forward to.

Who inspires you and why?

Nelson Mandela. I know it is a cliché, and I also know he wasn’t perfect, but to me he is the most pure personification of selfless leadership. He painted a vision for a South Africa that everyone could buy into. We struggle as a nation to live up to that vision, but we should never stop believing. If he could forgive the apartheid government for what they did to him, I think we can all try harder to respect and love each other.

What attracted you to work with USB-ED?

I think it was two-fold. I firstly like working at the coal-face of industry, and USB-ED provides an opportunity to work with diverse industries. The second aspect that attracted me to USB-ED was that I could work with “pre-MBA” students. Management Development Programme (MDP) classes are the most fun, because you see people transform from scared and uncertain individuals on the first day, to self-assured team players in a short while.

Do you have a mantra or slogan that you live by?

Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.  

What career advice would you give yourself looking back to when you started out?

That is a tough question because I am very grateful for where I find myself, and I would probably not change a thing if I had to do it again. But I love a video by Leo Buscaglia in which he tells the story of someone who had to reflect on “if I had to live my life over again”. I cannot repeat everything that resonates in that talk, but I would say that I would try to take more risks next time and trust my gut feel a little more. I delayed some decisions in my life because I was afraid that I was making a mistake.

Tell us about a book you have recently read?

Thinking fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is a fascinating read. It explains how our brains make decisions in two different processes, and how we end up trusting our own decisions - even when they are incorrect. Something I also like about the book is the humility of the author in acknowledging what he had learnt from others. Contrary to what people sometimes think, acknowledging those that we learnt from, does not make you look less clever. 

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