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WOMEN’S MONTH: Why mentorship and support is of vital importance

Irene Kakooza - Jaguar Land Rover

Irene Kakooza - Jaguar Land Rover

Published Aug 2, 2021


By Irene Kakooza

PRETORIA - There are few things more empowering and encouraging in this world, than when women support other women on their career journey. Looking back on my early days in the automotive industry, I can confidently say that I had the pleasure of meeting just such a woman, a woman who’s actions I have aspired to replicate for the past 11 years of my career.

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During my time as a Graduate Trainee at Volkswagen AG, my mentor was Carla Wentzel. With her relentless attention to detail and incredible understanding of business strategy and stakeholder management, she shaped and nurtured my perspectives at an impressionable stage in my life. More than anything, she taught me about the ‘big picture’.

Her mentorship led me down a path in the automotive industry where my exposure to doing business for Jaguar Land Rover in Sub-Sahara Africa has afforded some of the greatest, most rewarding lessons in my career. I’ve learned how cultural differences can shape the success of a project, and the need to understand these differences and incorporate them into whatever I’m trying to achieve.

The distinctions between East and West Africa for example, have time and time again reminded me of the great importance individual cultural nuances hold. They are in fact make or break details. That’s when I say to myself – Understand first, then take action. And exactly that approach has allowed me to enjoy my fair share of successes that I never could have imagined while being Carla’s mentee. Whether it was realising the successful conversion of a Jaguar XJ into a hearse in Zimbabwe, completing a huge order of Land Rover Defenders in Tanzania or providing an armoured Range Rover to the president of Rwanda.

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I’d like all young women searching for their big opportunity to know that there are more reasons to believe you will succeed than voices shouting you won’t. The potential gains definitely outweigh the challenges. Actively seek out opportunities to be a part of something bigger than you, never stop learning and always exploring new information.

Irene Kakooza

Lately, I’ve been fascinated with globalisation and the disruption multiple industries are experiencing. Recognising that an event in Northeast Asia can have a ripple effect which impacts the southern tip of Africa is not only important for me to understand from a career perspective, it’s also extremely interesting! This new passion, has spurred me to take on the challenge of further studies.

Keeping that passion and spark alive in your career is so important. It’s infectious and leads to beautiful ideas and outcomes. I have recently been involved in a partnership between Jaguar South Africa and #GiveHerACrown, which is a campaign that promotes female empowerment. The platform uses the power of storytelling and the arts to raise awareness and funds towards the fight against gender-based violence.

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We launched #GiverHerACrown last year with 16 local artists all creating a unique crown in the style and material of their choice. These works of art were then auctioned during 16 Days of Activism, and all proceeds went towards developing a CAPS aligned Digital School Kit to assist teachers in championing gender equality in schools.

For this year’s campaign, we’ve turned to six of our country’s most talented digital artists, briefing them to create one-of-a-kind pieces. All sales proceeds will go directly to Crown bursaries, benefiting young female creatives.

I believe creative expression can be used to communicate our individual and collective values, and this campaign fosters creativity in a very positive way. I encourage anyone interested to visit for more information or to support the cause. When we stand together as women, we truly can make a much needed difference in the lives of so many!

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Contribution by Irene Kakooza, Jaguar Land Rover South Africa


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