Alumni – Baja Gigaba

Baja Gigaba is from Durban, South Africa and is currently an MBA student at the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science. Before business school, she obtained an applied science degree in Clothing Management, from the Durban University of Technology. She also holds vocational certifications in Project Management from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Textiles Professionals Programme from the Technical University of Liberec, in the Czech Republic. On the professional front, she has worked in the footwear industry over the past 11 years with a well established career in the corporate retail industry where she advanced as a senior footwear buyer across national chainstores in South Africa and Dubai. Over the past four years, she has ventured into a footwear manufacturing career, where she leads in design innovation and product development for a group of local shoe factories. In addition to that, she has worked as a part-time lecturer at the Durban University of Technology teaching retail management and business studies to first- and second-year students. In her spare time Baja enjoys good wine, traveling, paddle boarding, piano, reading, and relaxing by the beach.

INTERVIEW

What PGLF school did you do and what was your most memorable moment or takeaway? 

I was PGLF class of 2014. I was actually unemployed when I applied and attended the school and was fortunate for my dad sponsoring my trip all the way from South Africa to the Republic 0f Macedonia. Everything was memorable; in fact it still plays in my head as a fresh memory, as I am still in close ties with most of my fellow alumni. However, the most memorable moment was on the first day when Sam Potolicchio asked us to introduce ourselves and share what we felt was most special about us. I probably said something ridiculous to sound “cool” at the time but the question of what was really special about me stuck in my head for years, even long after the program. That one question raised the issue of conscious self awareness and a re- assessment of how I am sharing myself with the world and its people, environment, and even animals. I have since then been conscious of the responsibility I have in offering something special to the world—in my case, it is my deep passion for shoes and how I have managed to express this passion in different platforms, with different people, and have even used it to change peoples lives.

What is something that you are confident about, but most people would dismiss?

I am most confident in the power of being me and being aware of it as my value proposition. I am confident in how my past life experiences have shaped me into the unique individual that I am. I am very aware that I am unique and am confident that people are always enriched by my uniqueness.

What have you done since PGLF and what are you up to now?

Aquick snapshot of what I have done since PGLI: I had a goal of progressing my academics to achieving a masters degree and I am currently pursuing that goal as an MBA student. I have also had an opportunity to relocate and work in Dubai as a retail fashion buyer for 2 years—BEST life memories ever! I have had an opportunity to evolve and explore a bit in my career path, even though I’ve remained within the same field of fashion and footwear—I have worked across retail fashion buying, to a part-time university junior lecturer, to footwear manufacturing. I am absolutely in love with shoes and the art of making them! I also made my own amazing human—I am a mother. I feel absolutely blessed and privileged for the opportunity.

When international travel opens back up, what’s the spot you’d most recommend we try out?

 Kruger National Park—a game safari in Mpumalanga, South Africa. I have seen the most amazing beaches, mountains, monuments around the different countries I have travelled but nothing ever compares to that early dawn game drive experience. Experiencing wildlife in its natural habitat unexpectedly reconnected me with nature and gave me a different appreciation of the privilege of being alive and experiencing this planet.

 What is a trait that will become increasingly important for young professionals?

 Integrity. In this rapidly progressive socioeconomic climate, it is so easy to succumb to pressures of unethical practices in order to fast track to the socially perceived “success” norms. I believe integrity to be a conscious decision and behaviour that can be adopted as habit. If young professionals adopt the trait from the beginning, I believe it would eliminate the majority of current leadership challenges the world is constantly experiencing and transform leadership into a more deliberate and impactful approach.

What’s a signature productivity hack that has worked well for you during your career?

Goal Setting. I am obsessed with setting goals!!! I love it because it is challenging, thus stimulates progress and growth. I find goals to be quite a powerful tool to achieve undivided focus and ultimately turn your vision into reality. Goals give that sense of purpose. I love the feeling of both being haunted by a goal in progress and the sense of accomplishment and pride once the goal has been attained. Goals prompt us to do bigger and better.

What advice would you go back and give yourself at 18?

 We all exist to fulfill a particular purpose in life—that then makes life a big deal! Life is a serious affair and thus it is critical to be lived with intention.
1. Always be open minded to explore unfamiliar territories- be curious.
2. Celebrate your failures as an opportunity to learn.
3. Make a conscious decision to be kind—to your self and those around you, including strangers.
4. Do the right thing all the time, even when nobody’s watching.
5. Give and receive love. It gives life a better meaning.
6. Just have FUN!!!

Also, I’d like to share a link to my favourite Ted Talk.