CHRO Palesa Ntoagae supports women at different stages of their lives

The new JSE HR director has already found connection with a “powerhouse of a team”.

Palesa Ntoagae was humbled by the warm reception from the CHRO community when her appointment to the role of human resources director at the JSE was recently announced.

“I’ve made a conscious decision to do the same and congratulate fellow professionals who are transitioning in the industry. It was assuring to have a network that has been incredibly generous in sharing their pearls of wisdom for my own journey over the past few weeks,” she says.

She adds, “It can be very lonely when you’re an HR executive, considering the sensitive nature of some of the issues we often have to mediate, taking decisions that are unpopular or pitching an initiative that may appear to be “fluffy”. It’s really great to have a community of professionals to connect with, whom you can relate to as thinking partners and exchange ideas and best practices on emerging people issues.”

Now, just over a month into her new role, Palesa has also found connection at the JSE, working with a “powerhouse of a team”.

“The environment is inclusive and I am able to see myself around the table in my fellow exco colleagues – the real, tangible outcome of working for a diverse organisation,” she says. “My learning curve has been steep in understanding the business and its mechanics, but I don’t feel like I’m not worthy, because people issues are the same regardless of the type of organisation you’re in and that is where I have an opportunity to contribute as a functional leader,” she says.

She has already noticed great opportunities to shape the JSE’s HR agenda: “Certain things come to life when you are in the organisation and start to look at what to prioritise short-term versus long-term. The JSE has talent with globally relevant skills, which makes them appeal to international markets, and we have lost employees with critical, niche skills abroad. When you reflect on where we are with the emergence of new, global remote work models, it’s forcing my team and me to think very differently about retention and accelerating development tactics to arrest a skills deficit. We’re a key player in the economy and a prominent exchange on the continent. The rest of my journey continues to unfold,” she says

Palesa is forthright in talking about her journey and acknowledging her growth since starting out as an HR administrator about 20 years ago to being a presiding officer today. “Previously when I didn’t have the knowledge or skills, it used to feel like something that worked against me. That young girl who used to say, in her head, ‘Don’t ask that question, it is stupid,’ is no longer there,” she says.

“I have learnt that if I don’t speak up, I will walk away with a different understanding and will be doing myself a disservice. This is who I am and authenticity is a powerful way to show up as a leader. That’s what colleagues and team members need. I have found over the years in various leadership positions that it helps to drive a culture of openness with teams. Our role as leaders is to create a space that allows people to show up fully – as who they are,” she adds.

As part of this value system, Palesa is also proactive and passionate about people development outside her career. “We all have seven days in a week and 24 hours in a day and I have been humbled by how people I have met over the course of my career make use of their time and I have latched on to that. I am deeply invested and passionate about rallying behind girl children,” she explains.

As part of this outreach, Palesa is an ambassador and mentor affiliated with a few NGOs that focus on women and girls. This includes a foundation for girls unified against eliminating period poverty, a legal firm that supports women who need a fresh start after bravely walking away from abusive relationships, and a business etiquette and skills training initiative for school leavers. “In this way, I can support women at different stages of their lives,” she says.