T-Systems HR boss Sheila Motsepe, one of SA's first black psychologists

Sheila Motsepe, a trained clinical psychologist, has worked for a variety of companies, ranging from the Reserve Bank, where she was former governor Tito Mboweni's director of human resources to her current role as HR director of German telecommunications company T-Systems.

Sheila met with CFO Enterprises CEO Melle Eijckelhoff and Didi Sehume of CHRO South Africa, a soon-to-be-launched organisation that seeks to help HR executives to boost their network, knowledge and careers through events, media and peer-to-peer advisory.

Sheila is passionate about training and addressing the country’s youth unemployment crisis, which is why the company aims to employ 70 percent of the students it puts through its graduate programs. T-systems also runs a training center for matriculants that cannot go to university, and employs some of them on a contractual basis.

She was one of the first black psychologists in the country, and advises young students to take this route into HR as it gives one more perspective. Either that or they should study economics quantitative analysis, or even Economics, because a generic HR degree won’t differentiate them from their counterparts or give them additional skills.

“I was lucky enough to be mentored throughout my career and groomed for senior roles from a young age. A lot of young people are only concerned with the work on their plate or in their immediate division, but I was lucky enough to be given opportunities to see beyond my specific scope of work.”

In a world where most companies are restructuring and reducing their headcount in order to deal with a new economic reality, Sheila says automation is bound to have an impact of the HR activities of any firm. She is also conscious of the role she and her company have to play in addressing South Africa’s socio-economic issues.

“It’s difficult, especially because the primary objective of any multinational corporation is to run a profitable business but we also try to avoid retrenchments, she says.

“We keep the minimum staff complement that we need and bring people in on a contract basis depending on the amount of work we have. And sometimes we postpone or forego salary increases so that there can be zero retrenchments.”