Mentor vs. mentee: Nutun’s Dineo Sekwele and her mentee, Lerato Maselela, share the golden nuggets of their working relationship


Dineo Sekwele, group HR executive at Nutun, has taught senior HR business partner, Lerato Maselela, to never stop learning.

Dineo, what have been the most important things you have tried to impart to your mentee, and why?

I have been in a mentorship relationship with Lerato for a couple of years, and through our journey we engaged on different topics. The few prominent ones that we focused on over the years were on building confidence and courage, staying close to her stakeholders to make an impact, and mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. We are operating in a world of many critics that could easily make you lose confidence in yourself and ultimately lose focus and stunt your career growth. From a work perspective, I was fortunate that Lerato forms part of my team. Though she does not report directly to me I continue to mentor her in different areas.

I gave her challenging tasks/assignments that forced her to get out of her comfort zone in a very fast- paced and pressurised environment. Though this was not easy for her, she took the challenge with both hands and dived in, and she is continuing to do so even today. Many of her stakeholders believe in her and take her input and guidance when making decisions. The second one that we spent more time on was spending more time with her key stakeholders to understand their needs and business. Her business acumen has improved considerably, and she understands the business that she is providing service to.

Her stakeholders, which include employees and executives, have built trust in her and involve her in most of their meetings and business decision-making. Lastly, Lerato works for an organisation that is highly pressurised and fast-paced with lots of changes taking place continuously. I have supported and encouraged her to invest in herself by embracing holistic health and wellness so she can be more productive and be in a better space emotionally and mentally. I am a firm believer in health and wellness and the positive impact it brings to your work and personal life.

Lerato, what valuable lessons you have learnt from your mentor, and how they have been useful in your development and career?

The first lesson I learnt from my mentor is to continue learning and developing yourself. It’s never too late – this is the very same message she echoed in the early parts of my career to date. While I acquire technical experience, I still plan to pursue a master’s degree. She says start small and you will get to the finish line. The knowledge you have acquired can never be taken away from you. She encourages me to take on new challenges and complex assignments, even outside my scope of duties. It’s a challenging experience, but it’s rewarding when you receive positive feedback from stakeholders on the work done. My mentor always encouraged me to embrace new challenges that not only stretch me, but also expose me to higher levels of work, allowing me to establish a strong reputation and expand my knowledge. She always emphasised that I should seize opportunities and make the most of them. A month after I was appointed at Nutun, I was tasked with overseeing one of the subsidiaries in addition to supporting one of the major revenue-generating debt collection departments of the business. This was a significant responsibility, but I learned to cope, adapt, and adjust quickly. I managed and worked on key projects, such as facilitating changes in employee benefit structures, restructuring, compiling exco HR reports, and representing HR at exco.

This opportunity taught me that I am capable, possess perseverance, and am agile in responding to the multiple demands of the business. She also taught me how to present myself to the business and clients. Lessons learned include looking professional, always being prepared, and owning your area of specialisation. Be confident in your presentations and provide sound advice to the business. Set high standards for yourself and maintain a strong work ethic. All of these aspects combine to create a perception of how you are perceived by your stakeholders. I have learned to always be mindful of how I carry myself. The execution and commitment to my work are key in building and maintaining a strong brand. I value my work, prioritise my stakeholders, and continue to collaborate with the business to achieve its objectives.

Dineo, what have you learned from your mentee in the process? And how has it helped you as a leader?

I learnt the resilience and courage that she demonstrated when she took on a senior role in one of our entities in Cape Town. She did not have family or friends in Cape Town, and she had to leave her son – who was still young at that time – with her family to take on the role which was new to her and came with lots of responsibilities and accountabilities. In her role as an HR manager, she reported to the CEO of the entity, and she had to make decisions that impacted all stakeholders in the business. Lerato thrived and pushed boundaries. She never gave up, even when she was faced with challenges that could have made her give up and return to her hometown in Johannesburg. Her relentless, courage and assertiveness made her overcome any challenges that came her way. I have learnt from Lerato the importance of courage and resilience and that taking a leap of faith can help one grow within your career. It has given me much pride to see how sacrifices and challenges have helped her develop and shown me the importance of support throughout one’s journey. 

Lerato, what do you think the current generation of business leaders could learn from those who are coming up?

Leaders could learn to empower teams, share knowledge, and enable flexibility. This will cultivate a culture where teams are able to explore, be innovative and not be limited by authoritarian leaders. Upcoming leaders are flexible and technologically savvy. These leaders are constantly looking for ways to apply current and relevant technologies to work smart and efficiently, and this is what current leaders could learn.

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