Global thinking: How Honoris partnerships boost international mobility, collaborative intelligence and cultural agility

Employability by Honoris Staff Writer

Viraksha Chetty, an MBA graduate of Regent Business School, South Africa, was supported in the opportunity of a lifetime to join the Women Transforming Leadership programme at the prestigious University of Oxford in England. She provides insight into how the experience changed her both professionally and personally.

Honoris United Universities is committed to shaping Africa’s next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. The values of cultural agility, collaborative intelligence, and a mobile mindset lie at the core of this mission.

Through Actis Acts, an Actis foundation that sponsors international scholarships for Honoris scholars, Honoris gives students the opportunity to widen their horizons and benefit from international perspectives, while simultaneously taking their own understandings, forged in Africa, to leading global enterprises.

Why did you decide to study at Regent Business School?

The staff were professional and empathetic, and I felt that they understood me as an individual: working a full-time job, as well as being a mom and a wife. Their student support system was incredible, with an open-door policy offering guidance whenever I needed it.

What were the most significant things you learned during your MBA that you think led to your winning the Actis scholarship?

Self-confidence and the fortitude to push forward and achieve more. I learned to harness my inner self to propel myself to greater heights.

How did you apply for the Honoris Actis Acts international scholarship?

I saw an advert for the scholarship and was instantly intrigued. I had always dreamed of studying internationally, but finances were a constraint. I wrote an essay to motivate my application, and attained the three required recommendation letters. It was quite a lengthy application process, however I persevered as I was determined to win the scholarship.

Why did you apply for the scholarship – what were you hoping to realise through it?

I had been a financial accountant for many years, but could not break into more strategic senior roles. I realised the Women Transforming Leadership programme could help me sharpen my leadership skills and break boundaries within my career. The programme rekindled my leadership qualities and taught me that I can be as fierce and strategic as any of my male colleagues.

How would you describe your experience at Oxford University?

It has to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. To be in such an extraordinary environment, with such a rich history, felt overwhelming at times. I am just an average girl, but I had achieved the opportunity to be among some of the greatest minds in the world.

What surprised me was the diversity and humility. I met people from all over the world and they were so friendly. I forged numerous relationships with amazing women from different spheres of life.

What was included in the Women Transforming Leadership programme?

The programme was wide-ranging, with many activities focused on personal introspection and understanding our own leadership qualities. We covered aspects of peer coaching, women and leadership, sustainable leadership, and negotiation techniques, and we ran group practical case studies. Each one of us took psychometric tests, which a psychologist individually reviewed so we could better understand ourselves. We also had individual coaching sessions with professional mentors and coaches affiliated with Oxford.

The programme was run by renowned leadership expert Kathryn Bishop, who was inspiring and fostered a personal, interactive atmosphere in class. The class was diverse, with women from many different countries, occupations and industries.

How did the programme change you as a person?

It completely changed me as an individual, professionally and personally. Professionally, I have matured into a dynamic, strong and effervescent leader, and I am able to make better strategic decisions. I am now more self-aware, and understand my shortfalls. I am now a Financial Manager in a prestigious group.

Personally, I have become more open to opportunities, and I have realised the world has so much to offer. I have gained many friends and have a strong network of women as a support structure. I have moved forward in leaps and bounds since my experience at Oxford.

How do you put what you learned into action?

I use what I learned during the programme every day. The knowledge and insights I gained have led to enormous growth and maturity within me. I have been inspired to create a platform through which I will reach out to girls and women to motivate them into becoming strong, confident women who can achieve more in life. In Africa, many of us still think men are stronger than women, but women should be much more ambitious.

My ultimate goal is to one day be a CEO, and I am interested in setting up a further education and training college as I am passionate about education. I would like to give back in some way, as Honoris and Actis have helped to give me a bright future.

How has the Women Transforming Leadership programme opened doors for you?

The programme has given me insight into international studies and all it can offer and I am now determined to study for an international degree. I would like to study an MSc in Financial Economics at Oxford as it would help me understand international markets, giving me the necessary insights to be in the driving seat of international trade.

I come from humble beginnings, and am currently bound by financial constraints, but with perseverance and motivation I am sure I will achieve this – the Women Transforming Leadership course has given me an added advantage in gaining admission internationally. I think the prestige of studying at Oxford will also help me forge business relationships as I would be seen as a successful, reputable and ambitious individual.

I would like to thank Actis and Honoris United Universities for bestowing a life-changing experience on me. They have contributed to a making a brighter future for me, and all those around me in a ripple effect.