Donald Kau: Talking the talk

2013-08-28 11:00

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This communications dynamo heads up corporate affairs at a large insurance company.

After a lengthy stint at Transnet promoting their corporate social investment programme, and six years as MD of one of South Africa’s top public relations companies, Donald is now spokesman for insurance giant Santam.

Where did you grow up and what motivated your career route?

Naledi, Soweto. My gran kept a cupboard of comic books that inspired my love of reading and writing. I’ve simply followed where the need for my skills allows me to go.

What inspired you to make the move from communications to corporate affairs?

I’d worked in the public sector for many years and then become a consultant, which was totally inspiring and fun.

I always felt the next step would be to take my skills into the corporate environment, particularly the financial services sector, which is highly competitive. I wanted to test my skills and apply my experience and maybe make a contribution to the transformation agenda too.

What did you study?

Public relations, media management and graphic design. The most significant learning, however, has not been in the classroom but from my mentors. Everyone should develop relationships that are a source of guidance and inspiration when it comes to issues of the workplace and life in general.

What are you most proud of having achieved in your career so far?

Working with some of the smartest young communications talent in our industry, and watching them move up through the ranks.

I keep in touch with most of them and hopefully I’ve been able to inspire them.

What has been your biggest professional challenge and how did you overcome it?

Overconfidence means that sometimes I’ve ignored the advice of others, as I often want to do things my own way. I’ve since changed my approach to one that elicits more feedback.

Advice for youngsters who want to emulate you?

Anything worth having is worth fighting for, and always arrive earlier than the person you work for.

3 things i’ve learned the hard way

1. Living your own truth is key.

2. Work can be satisfying, but make sure you have a life outside of it.

3. Wishing for something to happen is different from working towards making it happen.

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