NDA CEO on Kraaifontein upbringing
NDA CEO on Kraaifontein upbringing, conquering the corporate world, and owning your truth
By Charnel Collins – CEO of National Debt Advisors
As with all females leading within male dominated industries, the biggest challenge is always overcoming engendered factors of inequality – be it financially, authoritatively, or otherwise. Due to assumed incompetence, women often find themselves having to find an innovative niche to succeed while men are welcome on often mediocre traditional paths. Women are also often unfairly chastised for being ambitious and assertive while men are praised for it. But we should be these things anyway – and my story is testament to this.
Don’t wait for opportunities – get your hands dirty and make them
My career at National Debt Advisors (NDA) began nine years ago where I joined as a Team Leader of the call centre with 15 agents reporting to me. The company had just started and there was no real structure as yet, so I decided to take a proactive approach to go beyond my role as a Team Leader and ended up managing HR activities, some administrative tasks, and several other functions within the company. After a year into the position, I was promoted to Sales Manager, and three months later, a General Manager.
My life journey has not been the easiest. After I matriculated from Bernadino Heights Secondary School in Kraaifontein, I knew that college or any other form of tertiary education was not an option for me. Both my parents were factory workers and finances at home were not always readily available. I landed my first job working in the stationery department at one of the retailers during the holidays in the year that I matriculated. Soon after that, my dad got me a job at one of the factories he had worked at, and I believe that is where my work ethic began to develop. Growing up in that environment taught me the value of hard work and tenacity
As the CEO, I wear a lot of hats. I am the Sales Manager, the Team Leader, the Back Office Manager, the Call Centre Agent, the General Manager, and the Customer Service Agent all in one. There are no royalties at NDA and if I need to get my hands dirty and get the job done that is exactly what I do. As much as we are an industry leader, our company culture is not hierarchical and instead encourages inclusion and innovation at all levels of the business.
The corporate world in general could do a lot better with a whole lot of diversity
This is in terms of gender, race, class, and education. I am fortunate in that I work for a company that recognises this and I have managed to avoid much of the brunt of these inequalities. NDA’s human resource structure currently has a 33% female representation in top management, 100% in senior management, 50% in mid-management, 74% in professional careers, and 81% in skilled labour.
The company has always provided a platform for acceptance and inclusion of all people, regardless of gender. There is a strong drive to provide an inclusive and diverse workforce, with consideration to Affirmative Action and Employment Equity strategies. The company has provided opportunities to people of any gender with the eradication of discriminatory practices in the workplace, through robust analysis of our recruitment and promotion policies.
The best advice I can give women in business is to own their truth
Don’t be afraid of allowing your ‘softness’ or kindness to show in your management style. You would find that a compassionate and collaborative management style yields much better results. It is best to always be yourself. I believe in rules, in consistency, having values, and in having a purpose. These are the same beliefs that I lean on to run both my household and business.
The best part about being a South African woman of colour, heading a major company, is that I can be an inspiration to women by showing that with hard work, determination, and staying true to oneself – you can achieve anything.
Charnel Collins is the first female CEO in the top large debt counselling sector shares her story of modest beginnings, grit and tenacity on her journey to the top