Paving Her Way in the Automotive Industry
In the dynamic world of the automotive industry, where progress is fuelled by innovation and passion, there are trailblazers who shine through with their determination and unique perspectives. One such inspiring individual is Annabel Govender, the General Manager of two of the busiest test stations in KwaZulu-Natal. Her journey in the vehicle testing station industry is a testament to the power of authenticity, resilience, and the pursuit of one’s dreams.
Defying Expectations at 19
At the tender age of 19, Annabel embarked on her professional journey as a reception clerk at Westmead Vehicle Test Station. Armed with only a high school education and a one-year certification in secretarial studies, she fearlessly stepped into the male-dominated industry. From the very beginning, Annabel faced the challenges of breaking gender stereotypes and earning respect in a world where women’s roles were often underestimated. And with no previous work experience and being an only child from a home of overprotective Indian parents, her experience of the world was very limited. She was unprepared for the kind of work environment she was thrust into at such a young age and felt very much out of her depth.
Acquiring a Diverse Skill Set
As she worked her way up the ranks, initially starting as a reception clerk, Annabel showcased her dedication to personal growth and professional development. Through perseverance and hard work, she acquired a diverse skill set encompassing leadership, communication, project management, administration, finance, and human resources. These skills formed the foundation of her rise to becoming a General Manager, a role that requires a unique blend of grit and EQ.
A Turning Point in Annabel’s Career
Annabel says there were many defining moments in her twenty-year career including diversifying the businesses and growing the new divisions. She says some succeeded and others failed and having to navigate those highs and lows in business prepared her for the Covid Pandemic in 2020. Like many other businesses these also suffered great financial loss and low staff morale but having overcome many hurdles in business previously, they were able to bounce back successfully. Another significant moment that shaped her growth and bolstered her confidence was obtaining her Bachelor of Commerce degree while working her high-pressure job.
This commitment to continuous learning exemplifies her passion for personal and professional growth.
Fitting into a male-dominated industry
The road to success in a male-dominated industry was not without its challenges. At first, Annabel attempted to fit in by emulating her male colleagues, believing she needed to be more assertive and independent and stronger in business to prove her worth. However, she soon realised that true success lies in embracing one’s femininity . Embracing her femininity became a powerful tool for Annabel, allowing her to flourish and show that success is not about conforming to stereotypes but about finding one’s unique path.
Innovating in a Traditional Industry
As a woman in a male-dominated field, Annabel brought a fresh perspective that challenged traditional norms. Her innovative ideas have led to initiatives to streamline processes and enhance customer experiences and service efficiency. By embracing diversity and inclusion, she fostered a positive work environment that encourages collaboration and supports the growth and development of all team members and their families. This holistic approach and management style have made a huge difference as she cares about individuals and their families, not just their performance on the job.
The True Measure of Success: Nurturing Others to Thrive
Mentoring and empowering others have become an integral part of Annabel’s career journey. She actively seeks out opportunities to guide and inspire aspiring professionals in the automotive industry. For her, the true measure of a leader’s success lies in the achievements of those they have mentored and nurtured along the way. She believes the greatest achievement in a leader’s career is not just their personal success, but the success of those they have helped grow along the way. She is eternally grateful to her mentor, Surray Naidoo, owner of the business who has helped shape who she is as a woman in business – making her strong, yet gentle and giving Annabel the tools to succeed in business through her wisdom and knowledge as a woman in business herself and greatly Inspiring Annabel with her leadership style. To be empathetic towards others whilst still being dynamic in business is one of Annabel’s greatest strengths today and Annabel thanks her partner who further cultivated this in her. And finally in terms of her life long role models she refers to her wonderful parents who have always encouraged and supported her, and most importantly, taught her the value of God in her life and placing him above all else.
A Future Filled with Enthusiasm
Looking ahead, Annabel’s aspirations for the future are filled with enthusiasm and motivation. With two decades of experience and a solid foundation and wealth of experience, she is committed to continuing her growth and pushing new boundaries in her career and the vehicle testing station industry and her personal life. Her impact goes beyond just the industry; it reaches into her personal life, where her dedication to excellence serves as a model for others.
Inspiring the Next Generation: Advice for Young Professionals
To young professionals, especially women, entering male-dominated industries, Annabel offers profound advice. She encourages them to believe they can achieve any success in their careers through perseverance. Success is not about conforming to stereotypes or trying to be someone you are not, but about finding your unique strengths and leveraging them whilst embracing your authenticity. Embracing femininity can be a powerful asset, empowering women to excel in any field they choose. She reminds young people to remember to seek out mentors and support systems, as they can provide guidance and inspiration along the way and never to stop learning and growing. One must pursue your goals relentlessly and not be scared to put in the hard work. One of the things Annabel began doing very early in her working career “Working above your pay grade”, be enthusiastic about your job functions at whatever level you are within your company and do more than what is just required of you, contribute to the business with innovative ideas, you will stand out from your peers and get noticed which will lead to promotions and the success you aim for.
Annabel believes a woman’s voice and contributions are valuable, and they have the potential to make a significant impact in their industry. Finally, it is important when you are growing that you always turn around and help others, lift as we rise.
Annabel’s journey in the automotive industry is a story of courage, authenticity, and relentless pursuit of excellence. Her unique perspective and innovative ideas have carved a path of success, inspiring others to embrace their true selves and make their mark in male-dominated industries. As she continues to make a lasting impact on the vehicle testing station industry, Annabel’s story serves as a guiding light for women entering this challenging yet rewarding field.