Debbie Ralph, who has worked for the GSB for 20 years, is now playing a pivotal role in making sure the GSB’s Sandton campus runs smoothly and efficiently.
The GSB has had a presence in Gauteng for many years, and the new Sandton campus is strengthening and expanding that presence, in Gauteng and into other African countries. “This new venture is very exciting,” says Debbie, “and I’m sure it will grow from strength to strength. Our new campus is really a beautiful space, it’s perfect for us, and we are close to where it all happens.”
Debbie has worked closely with the Cape Town office, for 20 years, in alumni relations and has helped co-ordinate the GSB’s presence in Gauteng. She is now working with the Sandton campus business development and executive education teams and is providing support for all GSB departments – Alumni, Marketing, Admissions and Executive Education.
The Sandton campus hosts alumni events, executive education programmes, marketing events, workshops, and talks with guest speakers, and whatever the event, Debbie is behind the scenes making sure it all runs smoothly and that the delegates and speakers have everything they need. “It’s not like hosting an event at a hotel, where if something is wrong with the audio-visual you just call banqueting and they send someone to sort it out” she laughs.
Debbie also plans and attends road shows in other cities, liaises with sponsors, sources speakers, arranges catering and does whatever is required to get any GSB event to go according to plan. She humbly says, “it doesn’t matter what you call my role, it changes all the time, and I’m just doing whatever needs doing”.
Over the years at the GSB Debbie has worked with many alumni. “The best part of my job has been the people I’ve met. The alumni are always so energetic, and always want to do something for the school. The people I’ve worked with have been amazing.” She is looking forward to continuing her work with alumni and expanding their networks, and the school’s.
She reflects that expanding the GSB’s presence in Gauteng, and in Africa is a difficult task. “Politically, economically, and in terms of our competition, it’s a tough environment right now, but the GSB brand is very strong, and we are doing some amazing work.”
“Recently, we ran a programme for a big multinational, and all of the delegates were either from Europe or from countries in Africa”. Debbie feels that “this is great exposure for the school, and the work that we do”. She adds, “when each of those delegates goes home they will carry a bit of the GSB brand with them.”
Newly appointed Business Development Manager at the GSB’s Sandton campus, Jacob Makgato, works closely with clients to design customised programmes which match faculty expertise with client’s needs. He believes in experiential learning which ensures knowledge transfer back at the workplace, and supports students and clients to grow and tackle their specific business challenges.
The GSB’s Sandton campus offers customised Executive Education for corporate clients, and Jacob emphasises the importance of the diagnostic process to ensure that GSB programmes meet the clients’ needs and give them a return on their investment. “We practise active listening, and have a high level of client interaction to understand exactly what the client wants”, says Jacob. He also believes that “there is no such thing as strategy without the client in the room”. “We are not offering off-the-shelf courses,” Jacob explains. “The business development team is building long-term relationships with clients, developing understanding and building rapport with key people in companies, understanding their culture and their challenges so that we can grow with them.”
Jacob’s enthusiasm for the value of education and for his work is clear. “The best part of my job,” he says “is when I go into a client meeting I feel like I’m an artist and I have a blank canvas to create with the client. We paint a picture together. It’s collaborative, we work together towards the client’s success.” Nothing makes Jacob happier than seeing student growth and having satisfied clients. He laughs as he says, “I feel the reward for doing good work, is doing more work!”
Previously, Jacob spent four years as the Business Development Manager for Executive Education at Wits University. He holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Johannesburg; a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from Wits; he also studied Project Management at Stellenbosch University, and Sales Management at UCT. He has many years of experience in education, and designed and implemented after-school educational programmes which prioritised experiential learning over textbooks in classrooms. This led to his belief that “experience is key to learning, it makes it easy to understand and remember”.
A key part of the GSB’s Executive Education courses is that knowledge is relevant and applied back in the workplace. For example, “for some of our clients, ex-co members are in the syndicate groups with the students, and projects are assessed by the client. This ensures targeted impact and relevance. In another instance, the course projects were fully implemented in the workplace.”
Jacob sees immense potential for the GSB to grow and form lasting relationships with African and South African businesses. “I am excited to be a part of it, and I believe in education and growth on a personal, team, organisational and wider societal level. When you grow as an individual it affects those around you, it challenges all of you to do more, and everyone benefits”.