Celebrating International Women's Day: Meet Nissan Africa's ALTA Deysel, Senior Manager for Sales, planning and Production.
ALTA Deysel started her career as a hairdresser, today she is the senior manager for sales, planning, production and delivery of Nissan vehicles into 38 markets across Africa. She is literally proof of the company's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion – and she is not finished yet either in Africa or in terms of her career.
"I really hope that one day, I will be the general manager or director of the division I work in – because if you have worked in the export market, you can't get it out of your system," she says.
She has just added North Africa to her responsibilities and hopes to include Algeria, Libya and the Sudan to her portfolio before the end of the year, literally making it a full house of the continent. Her job is the full 360-degree package; from looking ahead, sometimes as far as six years ahead right down to the now; ensuring that the Nissan National Sales Companies (NSCs) get the vehicles they have ordered, by overseeing their ordering, manufacture and finally transfer to the individual markets in Africa.
It has been a difficult journey in a male dominated world – that began in one of South Africa's state arms procurement agency.
"I was the first lady in the boardroom, and then, there was still some scepticism from colleagues because I was a woman, but I proved them wrong," she remembers. It was not just the gender bias she had to navigate, there were also cultural gulfs that had to be traversed, both in her own country, South Africa and across the continent.
"South African women are very feisty in general and we stand our ground and that's something I learnt to harness effectively," she remembers, "my male counterparts and I soon learnt to respect one another and work together."
It helped that she had a lot of great mentors, who helped her and guided her as her career progressed. Her advice to younger women climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder that she has been doing is simple: "focus on the prize.
"There is never the perfect scenario," she says, "there are always roadblocks and difficulties, but the key to success is working as a team, using the people around you and working with your managers. My experience with Nissan has been simple; if you give 100%, the company always gives you back 110%. Be open to management, be honest, use the open-door policy to your benefit."
It's important, Deysel says, to see hurdles and obstacles as opportunities rather than journey ending roadblocks.
"Some say it's still a man's world, and even though I agree, this is not an excuse to hold back as women." In fact, she says, one of the biggest challenges is to understand and work together, with such diverse backgrounds, sexuality and even gender, however it is important that we learn to support one another in the workplace and understand each other's differences.
"We shouldn't be fighting one another but fighting for one another. We all share the same struggles and the same battles, at home and at work; as mothers, spouses and professionals, we need to accommodate one another, not exclude each other."