“I feel strong emotions thinking back to the 1st of August 2013 – The day I drafted my resignation letter, resolving to leave a work environment that was draining my energy.

Sometimes in the midst of toxicity, you can network and meet incredible people. In my case, I met a really special lady – Dr. Hannah Titilayo Seriki (known as Layo) – who not only admired my work ethic but went over and above in offering me a “peace” job, which is how I referred to it at the time. I accepted. I will never forget the initial meeting we had at Wimpy in St. Georges Mall (Cape Town CBD). Little did I know that this “peace” job would open worlds of opportunities within a 10-year frame. I am now a confident Administration, Training and Development Practitioner, whose primary mission is to infiltrate township behaviour with an “I CAN and I WILL” attitude. All this simply because “I could and I did”.

Let’s rewind back to my first day at CIELARKO. It was a windy Tuesday morning, on the 3rd of September back in 2013. Layo was waiting for me at her office. I was going to be her Personal Assistant (PA). And booooy I had no idea what the job entailed. But remember my “I can and I will” attitude! I was super nervous and made numerous mistakes in every single encounter I had with Layo. All my mistakes were seen as teaching moments. All the difficulties I had I can now recognise as GROWING PAINS.

Then my development journey took off hey! I was still a PA for Layo but I was doing things (I am pretty sure) PA’s don’t do. I was participating in a number of professional workshops, including Non-Violent Communication, Reflective Explorations in the Paddock, etc etc. In the meantime, Layo was empowering me with the tools needed to navigate the corporate world. From technical to interpersonal tools. At this point, I was feeling like a Coach, but I was in fact still a PA to Layo. In the meantime, I was getting attention from the outside, with other organisations identifying and wanting to utilise my skills and expertise. And Layo was, of course, low-key driving the idea of filling up my week with other organisations, as long as I did not burn out. As expected in anyone’s life journey, I encountered some personal, organisational, and life-ical (new word I’ve just created) problems. Layo was there to see me through all these situations.

The breakthrough happened in 2019. Layo happened to tell me about some TIFF Provider Licensing Training she had done in previous years and thought it would be a great tool to have. I was sceptical at first, thinking “eish, these are things for people with PhD’s, etc.” Little did I know that that would bring a 360-degree turn to living a thriving and better life, for myself and those around me. I even wrote an article about my experience (mid-training), available here.

And now it is September 2023 and I am sitting here thinking: “WHAT A MESSY JOURNEY. BUT WHAT A BLESSING TO HAVE BEEN PART OF CIELARKO.” Not only have I been empowered with tools and methodologies I use to this day, but I have met incredible people (the list is longish but my thoughts jump to Cecily, Ingrid, Stefan, Laura, Manu, …) who have influenced me to think beyond my bubble, to have an explorative mind, and most importantly to never limit myself in reaching the stars.

What a journey it’s been!

Thank you Layo, Peter, and Stefan (current CIELARKO colleagues) for everything you do for me directly or indirectly. A bigger thanks goes to Layo for introducing me to the Functional Fluency World. I am a recipient of your positive impact. And you are my recipient of the “Best Manager Award”.

Here’s to another 10 years of growth, development, and connections!”

Simphiwe Mahlanyana

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