Hazel Jackson

“Gaining Local Smarts in South Africa”

What was this rookie assignment (the role, task or event)? 

My rookie assignment was to complete a Merger and Acquisition assignment for GE Medical Systems in South Africa and then to hire and and handover to a local South African employee.

When was it? Set the scene of the time you were in.

t was 1996 in South Africa. I was an independent trainer and HR consultant, and I’d completed a small ad hoc project for the local GE Medical office. They saw some potential in me and asked if I wanted to take the HR role in the M&A and ultimately find a local replacement in 8-12 months. I had no experience or qualifications for such a project.

What were nervous or worried about?

But there were some things that I could see as a rookie that others couldn’t see: That the company they were acquiring had a lot more local knowledge than the larger GE team.  With that I needed to learn a lot about South African labor law quickly and liaise very closely with the commercial and legal M&A teams. I understood that most of my role was about learning, disseminating information, and communication.

What were you hopeful about?

The leader of GE Medical at the time was amazing, Leon Chabannes, ex French military. He had a saying, “One Team, fast, focused and committed to win.” He stretched me to achieve what I thought was impossible. He didn’t expect me to know; he expected me to learn how to solve the challenges as they arose.

What was the outcome?

I made many mistakes along the way, but my main mistake was that I waited too long to start looking for my replacement, so was under a lot of pressure to handover once I found the amazing Moledi Dineo.

What else would you like to tell us about your rookie story?

the highlight of my rookie journey was finding Moledi and watching her blossom, not only whilst I was training her, but for a significant number of years afterwards in GE and in the HR field. I was a rookie who found another rookie, and together we made it work.

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