SANDTON INTERCONTINENTAL, JOHANNESBURG – Nissan South Africa (Nissan SA) was one of the finalists today at a glittering CEO Magazine awards ceremony which recognises South Africa's Most Influential Women in Business and Government. Veralda Schmidt, Nissan's SA's media relations manager, was nominated in the Automotive, Logistics, Shipping and Transport category of the competition, which honours women who have made a significant contribution in their respective sectors. Around 350 nominees were received in the 20 categories which cover a range of spheres from agriculture and arts and culture, to telecommunications and tourism and leisure.                 

While only 17 category winners were ultimately recognised, chairperson of the judging panel, and former CEO of the Business Women's Association (BWA) Tina Thompson, commended the high standard of entries. "Although the awards have only been running for two years, we are delighted at the calibre of nominees and the excellent work they are doing in their respective fields. Once again, the judging panel had a difficult task deciding on the finalists in each category," Thompson said.

Joining Thompson on the adjudication panel were Chairman BHP Billiton Vincent Maphai, CEO JSE Stock Exchange Russell Loubser, UNISA Business School lecturer Professor Stella Nkomo and independent business consultant and coach Yvonne Finch.

"Although one never actively seeks recognition, it is always gratifying to receive affirmation that one is on the right track in a number of key areas," said a delighted Schmidt.

Nominees were adjudged on five primary workplace criteria: people skills; promoting world class performance/best practice; ensuring profitability/sustainability; promoting sector/industry interests; and corporate social investment (CSI).  

Schmidt, who joined Nissan in January 2006, performed outstandingly in all five areas.  Key successes include interface with internal and external audiences. Within the company, she has played a vital mentoring role and has been instrumental in developing and fast-tracking talent within her department, as well as promoting the 'Nissan Way', a global concept initiated by CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn, which encourages cross functional and cross cultural practices in the workplace. As a member of the automotive industry's PR forum, she also plays and active role in the activities of the SA Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ).

Through forging strong relationships with, particularly, the motoring media, she has played a key role in lifting the company's media scores to an average 75% positive reputation after once languishing in the low 50s. As a member of the SAGMJ she also has an opportunity to interact with counterparts and management in other automotive companies, not least Renault with whom an Alliance was formed, under Carlos Ghosn, in 1999. "Indeed a joint project is anticipated on this platform later in the year," says Schmidt excitedly of the R1 billion investment programme which will see the production of two separate Alliance brands at Nissan's manufacturing plant in Rosslyn.

And last but not least, in the company's efforts to make its mark on uplifting the communities in an around its area of operation as well as further afield, Schmidt, together with the strategic projects department, is responsible for the implementation and promotion of a number of CSI endeavours, chief of which is last year's flagship mobile eye care clinic, rolled out to rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal. Such is its success that the project concept is to be replicated by Nissan's parent company in other countries where Nissan has a presence.

Mike Whitfield, MD of Nissan SA, acknowledging Schmidt's achievement, saying, "As a company committed to the advancement of women, reaching the finals of such a prestigious competition is proof of the calibre of women we are grooming. We are delighted with Veralda's success, which comes in a month when the focus is on women who have made a contribution in the political, economic and social arenas.  Hopefully other employees – both men and women – will be encouraged by her example."

Ntokozo Mogorosi MD of Sebenza Forwarding and Shipping and Lindsay Pieterse Group Lifestyle Communications Manager of BMW SA were the two other finalists in the category which was won by Mogorosi.


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