Women in Wheels | How this young woman reached her goal at VWSA in just five years

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• Siyanga Madikizela joined Volkswagen SA in 2011 as a trainee in the Communications division.

• Madikizela has been VWSA's PR Manager since 2017.

• She has four passions in life, including people and cars.

For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

She could never have believed that her life would take on the journey that it did, but Siyanga Madikizela never stopped dreaming about the life she envisioned for herself.

Siya, as she's so affectionately known in the local motor industry, is a no-nonsense personality with a zest for people, writing, travelling, and cars. And as lady luck would have it, she's living all four passions as the Public Relations (PR) Manager for Volkswagen South Africa.

But the road to where she is now wasn't an easy one. Like many children, her parents divorced at a young age. And being the second-oldest, and the only girl, of four children, she quickly grew nerves of steel to be ready for the boys-will-be-boys onslaughts. Everything in life was a learning school for her, but a process she wouldn't exchange for anything.

And judging by how she carries herself, this process is one of the backbones of her remarkable journey.

Do you know a phenomal woman who's made an impact or difference in any sphere of the auto industry? Email us your/their story, with images.

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Siyanga 'Siya' Madikizela (Supplied by Siyanga Madikizela)

Joining Volkswagen

Her mother, a tremendous support and driving force behind her education, ensured that her children, including Siya, got the education they deserved. Siya always knew that media was her passion and, after Matric, enrolled at the Nelson Mandela University where she studied journalism. Though never easy, Siya graduated from the University with her degree, but the realities of life kicked in almost immediately.

Employment opportunities were scarce, but she never gave up: always hoping and praying that luck would accompany her applications. In 2011, her life would change forever when an opportunity to join Volkswagen South Africa came knocking.

"I joined Volkswagen South Africa in October 2011 as a Corporate Business Trainee in the Communication Division at the manufacturing plant in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape," Siya recalls in an interview with Wheels24. This, for any young person joining a big company like VW, was a daunting experience, but the excitement of finally entering the workspace erased any fears. And it soon became apparent that she is a diamond in the rough; a talent waiting to be unearthed.

In 2012, she joined Volkswagen's Graduate Programme and occupied the position of Communication Coordinator at Uitenhage plant, before being promoted to PR manager in July 2017.

Embracing the culture

Siya could barely contain her passion when she began talking about Volkswagen South Africa, detailing how the company's values resonated with her from the beginning.

She explains: "I really love the culture in our company, as well as the company values, which are Integrity, Respect, Excellence, and One Team - these resonate with me."

Siya made these values her own and implemented it all in her daily operations. She further explains that VW is a people's company, putting its employees first and empowering them with career development opportunities and ensuring career fulfillment. These are all chances Siya made sure she embraced, which have led to her winning several internal company awards.

In her three years as PR Manager, she's won a total of seven awards, including 'People and Leadership Culture Award', twice-winner of the 'Plant Support Award', and 'Think Blue Environmental Engagement Award'.

Memorable cars and launches

Having been around for several years, Siya has had the pleasure of launching quite a few new vehicles in South Africa. But her favourite, she says, was the Polo Vivo launch in February 2018.

"The reason it was my favourite is because the Vivo is an important model for the Volkswagen portfolio. It is also South Africa's best-selling passenger car and is manufactured here in South Africa," she says and recalls how the event had a uniquely South African touch to it that included dinner under the stars.

But for Siya, a new vehicle launch should be about fun, too, not just work. As such, the events she organizes will always have an element of fun, whether it be an activity or entertainment. And importantly, she always welcomes a good dose of laughter and banter.

Although driving every VW vehicle is part of her job, Siya mentions a few that stood out for her:

•The humble Polo Vivo with the very nimble GT derivative;

•The e-Golf: the first all-electric VW I have driven, with its silence and quick (and exciting) acceleration;

•The Amarok 3.0 V6: It's the fastest bakkie around and always impresses me with its prowess;

•The Touareg with its refined and smooth drive and the impressive InnoVision cockpit;

•The powerful 228kW Golf R with the Akrapovic exhaust, which induces endless giggles;

•The iconic Golf GTI: such a pleasure to drive.

Looking to the future

Having been in Siya's company on several occasions and getting to know her as a person, you quickly realize that she is a woman with dreams, ambitions, and tons of passion for what she takes on. And above all, her love for Volkswagen and VWSA.

As her occupational home, Siya refuses to ignore the impact Covid-19 has had on the business and has begun thinking of ways the business can avert similar situations in future. Covid-19 is both a major issue and a learning experience for her and the rest of the Volkswagen Group. However, it opens the door "to implement the crucial learnings this pandemic taught us in terms of future-proofing the Volkswagen business, as well as constantly innovating," she says.

Having come the path she did, Siya knows first-hand how challenging it can be to find opportunities and making the best of what is presented to you. Her closing remarks are for to the young women in South Africa:

"Know what you want to achieve, write it down and place/stick it somewhere where you will see it every single day. Work hard and consistently towards these goals and watch as the universe make them happen. Nothing you dream is too big for the universe to accomplish.

"I was a trainee back in 2012 when I wrote on my vision board that one day, I will be PR Manager for the Volkswagen brand. And five years later, it happened."

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