Beyond the boardroom: CHROs reveal surprising passions and hidden talents


CHRO South Africa asked some of the country’s leading executives to unveil the 'human side' of themselves by answering the question what is the one interesting thing that many people do not know about you?

CHROs are often perceived primarily through their professional lens, but their lives outside of work reflect diverse interests and commitments. Away from the boardroom and corporate strategies, CHROs embrace a variety of personal pursuits that balance their demanding roles.

Sameera Balkissoon, group senior HR manager at Naspers and Prosus, says, “I have a deep love for music of different genres and attending music festivals/concerts around the world, a passion that has taken me to over 20 countries in the past eight years.”

Leola Britton, talent and leadership development executive at Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) says she is pretty much an open book, but what is however interesting is that she is an Irish twin, “I was born on my sister’s first birthday. We are exactly one year apart.”

Meanwhile, British American Tobacco’s (BAT) area HR director for sub-Saharan Africa, Diana Johnson, speaks four languages including Sign Language. “I was exposed to sign language because I have a half-brother from my mom’s side that was born with a hearing impairment and we were extremely close when growing up. Using sign was almost like our secret language that nobody else understood. Today, in an inclusive workplace, it is a great skill to have.”

Award winning HR executive Dineo Sekwele of Nutun, who is a holistic wellness enthusiast, shares her desire to participate in the gruelling Ironman championship – a triathlon that includes a marathon, swimming and cycling. This is despite learning how to swim much later in her life. “I have been training for the Ironman and I firmly believe that you can achieve anything you visualise. It’s about setting your mind to it and putting in the effort.”

Rahab Matebane, director for human resources and facilities management at Mekan Group, said her hidden gem is more personal than expected. “In 2009, I pursued an MBA, but later halted my studies to focus on my bible studies for three years until 2011. This was important to me because without an able and filled soul one cannot accomplish their goals purposefully. I needed to embark on this journey to be a better me.”

Others are more lighthearted and playful. Autoboys CHRO and young CHRO of the year 2020, Kyle Chetty’s little secret is as simple as not being able to whistle. “One might say it is nothing important, but can you imagine what it felt like as a little boy growing up and not being able to whistle?!”

Tebogo Baloyi, head of HR at Bryte, shares his secret desire to one day be a world renowned chef. “It's something that I want to pursue when I grow up,” he says with a chuckle.

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