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Pheona Härtel: Head of Legal, Risk and Compliance, on building a rewarding career

How did you find yourself on this career path?

To be honest, I sometimes think that this career chose me. I was running away from a career in legal advice and found that regulatory risk management suited my qualifications at the time. Throw in an inspiring mentor, and a deep love for regulatory risk management was born. That was the springboard that launched me to where I am today.

What and who inspires you?

So many things inspire me but I will make specific mention of two. The first is the women I am privileged to know on a personal level. Witnessing their dedication, commitment to excellence and unwillingness to accept failure as a foregone conclusion in the face of adversity, inspires me.

These testaments range from pursuing personal dreams, completing tertiary education qualifications, to managing international organisations. They have shown me that it does not matter how small or big the achievement, if it is worth having, it is worth working hard for until the point of success.

The second thing is a quote by Steve Jobs. In a nutshell, the quote challenges you to push past the barriers of societal expectations and make your own defined mark on the world. No matter how small the mark, it is worth taking that step. Nothing great has ever been achieved without pushing against the “barrier”.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out their careers?

Be open minded. We all start our journey stepping out of the proverbial front door, we know the end destination but we all take different routes getting there. Each route has its risks and rewards.

You cannot compare yourself to others as we all have different aptitudes that serve us differently. Learn from others. Invest in your relationships, they will be your biggest asset. Use your time wisely.

Know when to be still and when to take action. And if you are in doubt, there is no shame in asking for help.

What has been the most valuable skills you have ever learned? And how has this helped your career?

The irony of this skill is that it is not one that comes naturally to me. It is patience – or let me qualify by saying the right amount of patience. I have learnt that sometimes in order to move fast, you need to go slow. Taking time to understand, time to learn and time to plan usually yields a better result than rushing into things without due consideration.

In this line of work, the ability to analyse and determine the best response requires time. That analysis however needs to be completed with an appropriate level of urgency to suit the situation.

The second skill, is the importance of transparency. With me, what you see is what you get. Building credibility is founded in consistency and reliability even when the conversations are difficult. My integrity is my biggest asset in this line of work.

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