Our ambassador Qhayiya Beza gives us his thoughts on our podcast with Scott Mordell about ‘The Power of Networking’.
Episode 6 -Scot Mordell – The Power of Networking
The caterpillar vs the butterfly
Scott Mordell! What an interesting man and an accomplished one too. Networking is something that I believe we all deem as imperative and also one of the reasons we are a part of the World Business Dialogue. There is something magical about being in a room full of people vibrating on the same frequency yearning to exchange information on how to impact the world and contribute to the greater well-being of society. It can also be something a bit daunting which is why I liked Scott’s view on this as he mentioned that if people view it as relationship building and if you treat it that way, then it is indeed liberating and not humiliating. He stated that we have similar empathy before similar experiences which I think was a profound statement because if we use this as the premise of our attitude and the lens we view networking from, then it is indeed liberating. We live in a world that shuns the caterpillar and praises the butterfly and individuals do not want to seem like caterpillars. Everyone tries to create bogus wings to appeal butterfly-like in networking; it is okay to not be a butterfly, enjoy the process of becoming and not chasing the grandiose appeal of the butterfly and the attention it garners. Enough with the insect analogies, basically you do not have to flash your accolades to build a successful network!
I also concurred with the notion of the more people you interact with on the same journey, the more inspired you get and the more you grow. Scott also touched on the enablement of purpose around you and peer to peer learning which I also feel is something that is underrated when it comes to networking. Do not stress and make more connections with purpose.
Speaking of peer to peer learning, I spoke to 3 of my dear friends who are all doing extremely well in their particular fields and I asked them what they think about networking. I spoke to Jonathan Ruwanika who is a 2015 South American Business Forum delegate and Co-founder of the Young Professional Africa Podcast , which is a platform that helps students and young professionals navigate through careers and career choices. I then spoke to Diana Ceballos, who is a 2016 South American Business Forum Delegate and former World Business Dialogue Ambassador. Lastly, I spoke to Qhawekazi Mtini who is a graduate from Africa’s number 1 university (University of Cape Town) and a trailblazer in the Banking industry. I would have preferred having the conversations over some sundowners but my friends still managed to deliver some beautiful insights without the wisdom of the gin kicking in.
I firstly reached out to Jonathan whom I consider to be a big brother and he stated that, “In my opinion, networking is a process of building mutually beneficial partnerships. The most effective networking relationships are built from a giving mindset rather than a receiving one.”
Jonathan stated that even in the early stages of your career, there are many more ways to add value to your contacts. I then asked Jonathan what he feels is the importance of networking and any advice he would give to any young adult out there trying to get over the fear of networking. He replied with the wisdom of Dumbledore and wrote, “Where talent and hard work are one side of the coin, networking is the other. The biggest impediment to realizing opportunities is access to information. Effective networking allows you to counter information asymmetries and positions you in close proximity of opportunity”. I read the text and I thought to myself, wow, he really is a smart dude. He left me with some advice before rushing to his busy work day by saying, “At its core, networking is about building authentic human connections. In a time where physical human interaction is at its lowest, we need to leverage networking platforms like LinkedIn, Zoom, and also build platforms for networking for young professionals within our communities”. After the philosophy 101 class with Jonathan I waited for my best friend Diana to wake up as we live 5 hours apart in terms of our time zones and posed the same questions that I had for Jonathan to her.
Diana told me she woke up feeling inspired so I knew I had to strike while the iron is hot and ask her the questions I had asked the wise Jonathan. She replied to my WhatsApp text, beaming with rays of positivity and said expeditiously, “I believe the concept of networking has changed a lot, I don’t even think the word does justice anymore. To me, networking is less about growing my contacts and more about connecting with humans that grow my perspective and shape it in ways I could never do by myself. It is about adding but also about building. Rather than meeting people it is about understanding people. Their stories, their projects, and their purpose. Getting to explore what drives them and why they do what they do. I believe if I listen enough, if we connect enough, if we build trust, then my networking will be successful. I am going to be honest; I like to use my network to find inspiration so hopefully, someday, I can inspire someone too.” I felt happy reading that text and wanted to give my friend a long virtual hug all the way from South Africa to Mexico.
I had to think twice before approaching Qhawekazi because I knew she’s always busy through me seeing her frequently posting about being stressed about meetings on her WhatsApp status updates. She is someone I grew up with and have always admired her graceful trajectory from university into the corporate world and I knew that she possessed a diamond mine of knowledge on this topic and boy I was not disappointed. I simply sent her a voice note asking similar questions that I had asked Jonathan and Diana and she replied without wasting any time by boldly stating that the concept of networking is quite an interesting one for a young professional because of phrases such as “Your network = your net worth”. I had always revised the equation when having this conversation by stating that “Your network= your potential net worth” keeping all other variables constant, but let me not get you sidetracked with my shaky philosophies.
Qhawekazi went on to say, “It’s terms such as those (Network Vs. Net worth) that create an imbalance in environments designed particularly for networking; it creates some sense of awkwardness because during breaks at events or in setting such as those; individuals are usually drawn to the most “powerful” individual in the room – i.e.: either the individual that gave a speech or was recognized or asked the questions that seemed most intelligent”. I related to this because this has always been a running narrative in conferences and sometimes I think it is not a conscious decision as we all want to sip from the fountain of knowledge these particular individuals seem to possess and emancipate ourselves from the desert of ignorance. Qhawekazi went on to say that even in engagements with that individual; the conversations tend to be based on what one would think that this individual is interested in; in an attempt to stand out – even if it means that all essence of self and individualism are lost in the midst. I realized Qhawekazi and I share some similar ideologies on the topic (must be a Gemini thing ) when she said that when we term networking; we usually speak of it as a numbers game whereby one can boast or rather be satisfied with speaking to the most people in the room and being the “social butterfly” for the evening. I felt attacked by her statement as I am usually the social butterfly in the room but I then realized I am just that social butterfly because I just love meeting people and discovering what makes their stomachs churn and have the will to wake up the next day and want to create change in such a terrible world.
We delved deeper into the topic and Qhawekazi gave me her thoughts on the topic from the perspective of a black womxn living in South Africa. She went on to say, “Given that connection is important and/or relatability; in mostly male-dominated areas it is usually more difficult for women to network, particularly black women that are part of an audience that isn’t black it isn’t women.” I agreed with her on this as corporate South Africa remains very patriarchal and is still white dominated. She stressed how very few people, especially, if they are male counterparts, are looking for reasons to relate to you; but this is obviously a by-product of inequality. In a room full of men and individuals that are not black;if the networking event is not about black women or how to empower them, it is more likely than not that black womxn would be seen as the least valuable individual to network with. She went on to explain how the perception of the value of a black woman is clipped by two factors; race and gender. Without pronounced significance at the event; you are more likely overlooked as the perception of the potential return you can offer on your engagement is significantly less than everyone else in the room.
She left me with some thought provoking closing remarks where she stated that networking at such events can be lonely for a black woman but it comes as no surprise; in the absence of equality of women; more especially black women- proactive engagement will be stunted if an individual does not do gymnastics to be noted as worthy of engagement, but in the same breathe; what can black women do for most people that are not black women when they are at the bottom of the food chain; still trying to create spaces for themselves. This left me wanting to unpack this conversation further with my dear friend with whom I use to crack jokes with in our 5th grade Math class but I then remembered that I am writing a blog post and not a university dissertation.
I am pretty sure that the conversations would have dragged on longer if they were held in person and not confined by the screen of the iPhone but I certainly walked (virtually) away from each conversation I had with my 3 dear friends a wiser man with a broader perspective on the topic of networking which tied in perfectly with Scott’s podcast episode titled the “Power of Networking.”
Writing from South Africa with love,