Andisa Liba – a catalyst, connector and storyteller

Her decision to make a career shift from journalism into human resources opened Andisa Liba’s professional world.

When she is not driving the people agenda or advocating for employee financial wellness in the Human Capital fraternity, Floatpays’ chief people officer Andisa Liba runs Women’s Tech Connection, an ICT non-profit organisation that is a holistic development programme geared towards providing technical skills and personal development for women in ICT aspiring to be Cisco certified engineers.

In its three-year history, the programme has produced two Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) engineers, a certification that distinguishes the top echelon of internetworking experts worldwide to assess expert-level infrastructure network design skills worldwide.

Andisa best describes herself as a catalyst, a connector and a storyteller.“I enjoy being in environments where I can start things – where I can be innovative and creative. I find a great deal of joy in environments like that.”

“I love being in a space where I can sit with executives and take the strategic pillars they articulate in driving business objectives and injecting human capital and keeping it at the forefront of those conversations,” says Andisa.

While she studied journalism as a first career choice, she says human capital as a profession found her along the journey and she leaned into it and embraced it. She adds that human capital has taken her on a journey of self-discovery and given her an enormous sense of fulfilment as a professional.

Prior to her work in human capital, Andisa worked at Shanduka as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s personal assistant, a role she says helped her find her purpose and ultimately what inspired her to make the transition into human capital.

She recalls going to meet President Ramaphosa for the first time for an interview and she chatted his ear off and did not give him a chance to think twice about hiring her.

“I was young, bold and impressionable. I thought I would take over the world. I said to him [Ramaphosa], ‘Well, our interview was more than an hour, surely you are going to hire me,’ and he laughed,” Andisa says with a chuckle.

She describes her experience of working for the president as “wonderful” because it stretched her and gave her an opportunity to really learn about the business world at a tender age.

At the end of her tenure, Andisa made the transition into human capital, starting off in an administrative role and eventually working through the whole employee life cycle and across all the human capital disciplines.

“I am encouraged to see the evolution of human capital over the years, and I think there is a greater and broader expectation for us in the fraternity to play a very strong advocacy role around employees and employee wellness,” she says. “Covid-19 has forced us to recalibrate our thinking in redefining what employee support that is fit for purpose looks like for the modern-day employee.”

She describes working at Cisco, her former employment, as a “phenomenal” experience and one of the highlights of her career.

“Professionally, working at Cisco opened doors and allowed me to really position myself as a subject matter expert in human capital and carving out really amazing work. Cisco was incredibly supportive when I launched Women’s Tech Connection, giving me access to their resources and support structures to ensure the success of this movement,” says Andisa.

“When we established Women’s Tech Connection, we were bold and audacious in our intention of producing black female CCIEs for South Africa’s ICT sector. There is no other development programme uniquely positioned quite like ours currently in the market and Cisco as a brand really supported our efforts in bringing the programme to life and building a bridge for growth opportunities for aspiring female IT engineers,” she says.

Andisa recently joined Floatpays as the CPO and brand advocate for employee financial wellness. “Floatpays, as an organisation, really echoed the things that I value both from a personal conviction perspective as well as a professional values perspective,” she says. “The organisation is purpose driven and incredibly intentional about advocating for the importance of financial inclusion for all South Africans by making financial education and proximity to simple financial instruments accessible to all, but more importantly, shifting the needle from the socio-economic perspective of breaking the debt cycle,” she says.

“I’m proud of where we are as an organisation and the direction we are going, knowing that the kind of work that we advocate for touches the lives of millions of South Africans. I firmly believe in what we are doing and the value that it adds to employers and employees alike,” Andisa adds.

Andisa acknowledges that her job is not free from challenges. “Having tough conversations about people and making tough decisions is always the hardest part of being a chief people officer, because while you want to morally do the right thing, which is largely what our profession is anchored upon, there are also business objectives that need to be met. It’s always trying to find the balance between those two worlds.

“Having moved away from traditional corporate organisations, I think this is where I’ve been wanting to land professionally. Doing work that is closely linked to my personal purpose and values whilst using my expertise to drive meaningful conversation in achieving sustainable solutions to socio-economic societal challenges is what I have been yearning for, for a really long time.

“Being in a space where I can work with some of the country’s top human capital professionals, and helping them elevate their EVPs through the lens of employee financial wellness has been very rewarding to me as a professional,” Andisa says.

While on this journey she adds that one of her biggest learnings has been about conscious leadership. “Leadership is not just about skill, it is more about your ability to learn and change as you experience the world. And this learning and changing can only happen based on the distinctions that you have about the world”.

In her spare time Andisa enjoys spending quality time with her young sons, who are 10 and 13 years old and are both avid soccer fanatics on and off the sports field.

Among her many passions she’s an avid hiker and enjoys the great outdoors. Having summited Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago, she is now contemplating her next big adventure to take her to the Himalayas and make her attempt to reach Base Camp Everest as her next personal goal.

She says, “While I don’t have the appetite to fully summit Everest yet, I'd really like to try to get to the base of that mountain.”

Reflecting on her journey and process of becoming, as she calls it, Andisa says, “I always strongly and with conviction encourage people to do what they are naturally wired to do because it enables them to become strong problem solvers. This personal philosophy that I have adapted so many years ago really holds my centre and is a gentle reminder for me every day to continue to remain true to who I am – not only as a person, but as a professional.

“So many times as humanities students we’ve heard how limiting or safe a choice it was choosing HR as a career pathway. For many HR professionals the choice has proven to be an incredibly rewarding one. Being able to influence the careers of others and the work environment that fosters their growth and development is a blessing.

“I’m glad I didn’t listen to that piece of advice and boldly made the career shift from journalism into human resources: it’s really opened my professional world exponentially. Yes, it took courage and a great deal of risk on my part and so many times I was frightened, because I didn’t quite know where it would land me. But it has paid off so beautifully and I couldn’t be happier, more grounded, or more purposeful with the work that I do.”