So, the word is out, and after much anticipation, Dr Joseph Sekhampu was announced to be the new chief director of the Business School at the North-West University (NWU). But who is Joseph Sekhampu, and what is his vision for the school and for life in general? Who is the man in the golden seat and how does he operate workwise, life-wise and dream-wise?
Dr Sekhampu’s managerial expertise includes the role of executive head of commerce and management (from August 2022), chief operating officer (2019 to 2022) and dean of the School of Commerce (2014 to 2019) at Milpark Education. He is also by no means new to the NWU, as he graduated here with both an MCom (2004) and a PhD (2010) in Economics. He worked as senior lecturer and research leader at the University from 2009 to 2013. During this time he coordinated the first-year Economics programme and established the PoSER research group, which involved researching poverty and socioeconomic issues. Joseph’s other qualifications include a PGDip in General Management (2018) from the GIBS Business School and a diploma as part of an international study programme (2004) from Molde University College in Norway. He also enrolled for an MBA at the GIBS Business School.
He feels his joining of the Business School comes at the perfect time and he very much looks forward to the journey ahead. He says that he is in a fortunate position, as the Business School has a solid grounding and institutional support and the NWU is on a journey to give the school the independence it needs to really fly. His dream is for the school to be among the best in the country, but also to ensure that it is visibly making an impact. The University and management are as committed to this vision as he is, so the road ahead is filled with possibilities.
Dr Sekhampu is a family man and the loving father of four children. Although his children initially found moving from the Western Cape to Potchefstroom a little challenging, they are well-adjusted now and happily attending a well-known Christian school in town. Dr Sekhampu originally hails from the Free State, and says that he is happy to be closer to his family now. He has the intention of visiting his mother more often, and living in Potchefstroom just makes it that much easier. He jokingly says that moving to Potch in the middle of a heatwave is not for the faint-hearted, and he wonders if he should expect this kind of weather all the time.
When asked about one aspiration he has for the next five years, he replies that he wants his life to represent possibility. His humble beginnings in the Free State could easily have limited him as a person and also his dream for his life, but, following a conscious decision, he was able to climb both corporate and academic ladders to where he is today. He wants people to look at his life and think, “if he could do it, so can I.”
As for his new role in the Business School, he says that there is pressure for change, but that he is excited about the challenge. Although he will be working with a diverse team of people with various personalities, the vision has been set and buy-in into the vision of really empowering leadership in the whole of Africa has been established all around, so that makes life a whole lot simpler. He knows very well that people are people and challenges may arise, but he seeks to bring productive authenticity to the table. He wants the people he works with to see someone who wants to work with them and wants to implement positive change. The truth is, as Dr Sekhampu states, “the world has changed and so should we”. In a post-Covid world, all business schools have to change. His intention is for his role to be collaborative by working with the team to identify the most critical areas and, subsequently, to ensure that change is happening.
In terms of change that he wishes to bring to the Business School, Dr Sekhampu shares his passion for using technology to bridge the gap between people, processes and technology to increase productivity.
“I believe that technology can be used as an effective tool to enhance teaching and learning. However, it must be used wisely and with caution so as not to undermine pedagogy, which is at the heart of our mission. Using technology in teaching and learning has the potential to deepen engagement. It can also create further efficiencies in learning by allowing delegates from around the world to learn together at a time that best suits them and could completely upend traditional educational models. There are areas in which technology is currently implemented, like the Business School’s summer schools and the online webinars it offers. However, now the key is to look beyond technology solutions and consider how we can better integrate technology into our teaching and learning strategies. This, together with bringing meaningful education, greatly excites me.”
When asked how he manages work-life balance in a time-consuming and demanding position such as his, he replies that the key is to be intentional about important family moments, and also saying no. Of course, it is not always easy, but he feels strongly that one needs to set and maintain those boundaries. “If my kids are playing netball, I am going to be there. I will finish a task tomorrow if I need to help with homework now or take my child for a walk,” he says. A while ago, he wrote an article on LinkedIn in which he gives himself permission to stop working all the time. He also believes in creating a work environment where everyone understands the importance of family and allows space for that.
Finally, something personal that the average person would not necessarily know about him is that he is a part-time runner. He explains that the road is a great listener and that he has solved many problems while running. He has no desire to become a professional or to run a marathon – it is simply his way of taking time to destress, organise his thoughts and plan his life. “I enjoy it a lot, and really, running teaches many lessons about resilience,” he says. He also enjoys spending quality time with his family and says that their favourite way of spending quality time together is having a good old Saturday afternoon braai.
The NWU is delighted to have you on board, Dr Sekhampu, and we look forward to seeing you steer this ship with great success!
Dr Joseph Sekhampu