Teboho Mofokeng is a professionally licensed civil engineer with a master’s degree in wastewater treatment. By the age of 30 She was a mother of two and an associate director at that engineering firm which at the time had its headquarters in Australia. She was the only female and person of color to hold that role at the time. She has since then held various management positions. Teboho Mofokeng currently runs an advisory and training company that was founded to help build capacity in the water sector and broaden the view of water and wastewater at a society level. She’s a gym fanatic and sport enthusiast.
TBE: Can you tell us a little about your new guide, ‘Finding Your Seat at the Table’? What prompted you to write this, and whom can it benefit? How did you get the idea of this book?
Teboho Mofokeng: I was inspired to write the book because I went on a journey to redefine by seat at the table. Having held various management positions, I felt the technical role definition was narrow and had no agility to take advantage of advancements in technology to play a more meaningful role in the water space. I realized that if I didn’t redesign my technical career, it would no longer be relevant in the future if nothing changed.
This book will benefit anyone who is looking to start a new career, make a career change and improve their leadership and management capability in leading diverse teams of the 21st century.
On reflecting on my career and the process I took to redefine it to suit my personal goals, I realized that there were some principles that that I could share to help many more people also find their seat at the table. The definition of the table being any place where you can influence and leave an impact. The definition of the place is up to you.
TBE: What is the key theme and/or message in the book?
Teboho Mofokeng: The key message is that change is inevitable and that we must design careers that are adaptable to change. The book gives the tools to help design the ideal career in a world that is constantly changing.
TBE: What was your writing process for this book? What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Teboho Mofokeng: Because I think in a structured way, I need the structure to find my creativity. First I spent some time thinking about the tile, some of the options that didn’t make it are the following “In search for a fulfilling career” “Tips to building and engineering career” “Breaking all the rules” before landing on “Finding your Seat at the Table”.
I then worked on the book outline and decided on the key principles that would be instrumental to find your seat the table. This then created the chapters in the book. I spend quite a lot of time researching the themes for each of the chapters then it was down to writing. I randomly skipped from chapter to chapter when the creative juices where low!
My literary pilgrimage was my bedroom! I wrote the book during the lockdown period – so there were limited options to travel. As a consequence my family had to put up with a lot…
TBE: During your journey from the idea of this book to the publication, what was the most difficult thing you faced? Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Teboho Mofokeng: The most difficult part was building the internal confidence to think of myself as an author! I knew that what I had to share would be extremely helpful but, in my head, people like me are not authors. So, I had to get over that thinking. Secondly – I had to acceptable that I wouldn’t be introducing earth shattering, never-been-written before stuff. But my interpretation of the guide to finding your seat at the table may still be useful even if it is to benefit one person. After some serious meditation and research into indie authors – I eventually started the writing journey. Writing was not particularly challenging because in my profession we write a lot of reports.
TBE: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Teboho Mofokeng: I hope that people will be inspired to really re-imagine their careers and be part of the solution in solving global problems such shelter, improved health care, equitable water supply, food supply and access to energy. If we frame our career options in this manner, then we will always be able to adapt to the future. It will take all us to create new jobs and skills to address the challenges faced by humanity. We should not leave it corporation and organizations to inspires us to change how we think – we should take the lead and create new tables and new seats.
TBE: Often in life, it’s our greatest challenges that make or break us. What do you think is the determining factor between whether we grow by our adversity or are destroyed by it?
Teboho Mofokeng: The defining moment for me is when you realize and accept that no one is coming to save you and that you have to help yourself if you want things to change. How people deal with this defining moment determines whether they grow or are destroyed by the adversities they meet.
TBE: What are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to changing careers?
Teboho Mofokeng: Some people leave careers because of bad bosses only to find more of them at the new career! Changing careers should be through deep introspection of why you are currently unhappy with where you are and how much of that is your own doing and whether a change in career will really solve your current problems. It is also important to fully understand the requirements for you to succeed in your new career and determine whether they play to your strengths, what additional qualifications/experience is required and also accept that you will be ‘starting from the bottom’ and that success will not be quick.
TBE: What would be the number one piece of advice you’d give to someone who is currently struggling with career?
Teboho Mofokeng: Do a deep dive and honestly assess if it aligns with your strengths and passion. Nothing is as demoralizing as being in a career where you are not competent at the core requirements of the job. A close second is that if you don’t have a picture of what you want the end of your career to look like then, there won’t be much motivational energy to help you survive the low points of careers. Not everything is always going to according to plan and striking a work-life balance will not always be easy. Having a picture of what success looks like for you helps you weather the low points and create the strategies to adapt and thrive.
TBE: It’s tough to find a good job, any job, these days. How to Choose or Change Your Career for a Lifetime of Satisfaction and Success?
Teboho Mofokeng: A career that solves humanities lifetime challenges will always be in demand and will adapt and change to meet the continued challenges. The challenges of housing and feeding growing populations, improvements in health care, water supply and sanitation, and access to energy are unending and offer room for innovation.
With technology advancements and increased access to knowledge some of the solutions required do not have a job description yet. The key is change how we frame the question of job seeking. Instead of saying ‘I’m looking for a job’, how about ‘I’m seeking an opportunity to collaborate and be part of the future the solution and this what I can offer…’ How can you leverage your skills in IT to play a role in solving healthcare and water problems? Framed differently – it increases the infinite possibilities that the mind can create to help you re-imagine how your skill can be used differently.
TBE: We live in what often feels like a crazy and stressed-out world. What do you think the world most needs today?
Teboho Mofokeng: Time to pause, think and develop creativity in whatever career you are in. With technology eliminating most of the repetitive work, the ability to think creatively is the super skill of the future.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Teboho Mofokeng: I’m thinking about a new book on creating your own table as I start the next chapter of my career. Also percolating, is a book on raising a family and a career. We will see how things go!