Nikki Maritz - the woman behind IBTC
We recently sat down with IBTC CEO, Nikki Maritz, and had an in-depth conversation about the journey that led her to become the CEO of one of the most recognised business colleges in South Africa.
It was through her hard work, sacrifice, contribution from incredible people from different parts of her life and her strong belief that no matter what happens in your life, you always end up where you are meant to be, that resulted in her current success.
"The truth is that I never had a dream of opening a college. I had a dream of being in business. I love business, - the strategy, culture, exposure to talented, aspiring people keen to learn (staff and students), the constant change, the myriad of balls one needs to keep in the air, deciding which ones take priority at different times. My dream was to surround myself with talented individuals and have fun while creating something that gives people real value," says Nikki.
Read more about her journey:
Please share with us how your career in education began:
I started my career in education at a private distance learning college as an editor and translator of study material. I stayed there for 12 years, because of the people I worked with and the company culture. I am still friends with the people I worked with back then and many of them are women - all of them strong and inspiring. At the college there were a lot of strong females in key positions at all levels of the organisation. On my team, which was the Business Management team, 75% of the managers were female.
The Senior Management had 70% female representation, and Exco about 50% at different times. So, I guess I'm used to working in a predominantly female business within a traditionally-male industry. I was not aware that women were paid differently to men or that there was a glass ceiling for women. If you were talented, you would move up in the organisation. That is something that I've taken with me when I started at IBTC. I remember meeting with a delegation from the UK in which the CEO couldn't hide her delight at meeting with an all-female Exco team. We don't think it's that unique, but maybe it is. The mere fact that I’m writing this article, indicates that there is still unconscious bias against women-in-business.
Which remarkable men and women have you met along the way? Especially those who helped build IBTC?
I owe a lot of gratitude to my mother who used her pension to send me to university, which opened a lot of doors for me. I owe a lot of gratitude to my mentor and manager at my first job - the same person who invited me into IBTC. He was gracious with his time, his mentoring and his support and taught me everything I know about business and taking care of the customer. And I owe a lot of gratitude to all the men and women who currently work and once did work at IBTC, as everybody played a role in pushing the company forward as it grew through the different stages.
What tips can you give to women in the work place?
My top tips for success in life and business are not specifically aimed at women, but it comes from a woman:
1. Work hard at everything. Hard work beats talent every time.
My favourite story is how we got a temp to fold boxes for our Dispatch Department. She was extremely slow and maybe did five boxes by lunchtime. We asked them to send another temp. When we checked in on her at lunchtime, she had filled a whole room with folded boxes. We loved that. Then she was employed in our store room to fulfill orders. What stood out for me is that she looked at what she was packing (bookkeeping study material) and asked us if she could have some books. We enrolled her on an ICB course. She studied for years, passed and failed many times, tried again and eventually succeeded. She is now the second most senior person in our finance department and someone we completely rely on. She took responsibility for her own growth, she had a dream and persevered. I respect that immensely.
2. No work is too menial
After university I couldn't find a job immediately, but a friend found me a casual job at Markham as a sales lady. I was employed on a day-to-day basis at first and eventually became permanent. A lot of my friends looked down on that type of work, but I was just grateful to be employed. I learnt a lot of valuable skills, such as business etiquette, stock take, cash handling, customer care and working with difficult people. I also did a lot of labour-intensive tasks, such as carrying and unpacking heavy boxes with stock. To this day, we only employ people whom we think will 'carry boxes'. We all work side-by-side at IBTC - you'll often find executives carrying boxes or crawling under someone's desk to sort out the messy cables.
3. Confidence is a prerequisite to success
My mom kept a photobook for each of her children, in which she put this newspaper clipping for me, it read "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right". What we think about ourselves determines our level of success. We need to be conscious of the noises in our head because whatever you tell yourself, will become true. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news is that we can change our self-talk immediately. Doing so will change what we think of ourselves, which changes our confidence level, which directly impacts our destiny. There is no grey area here.
Lastly, I encourage each person I work with to always plan, do and ask for help!