Being a woman is a superpower. Let’s celebrate this!

Being a woman is a superpower. Let’s celebrate this!

Being a woman is a superpower. Let’s celebrate this!

Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fall. Failure is another stepping stone to GREATNESS – Oprah Winfrey.”

To all the queens in my life, and to the queens of this world! Do you know why we are celebrating womens month? I didn’t….

So we haveWomens Month as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched the Union Building on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

I know the Womens in my life werent part of that, probably not yours either. However, Women needs to be honoured, we need to celebrate womanhood!

Being a woman is a superpower

To my granny – being selfless, and giving up what she wanted.

My Grandmother would have turned 95 a few days ago, can you imagine what their lives have been like? In her young days? What has she gone through? She had 5 other siblings, she was very young when her mother passed. She had to eventually start working when she was 13 years old to help care for the family. She mostly did needlework for the wealthy peoples’ towels, blankets and clothes with her initials. I have yet not met someone else, who is so kind and selfless. She always gave and never wanted anything in return.

“The world needs strong women. Women who will lift & build others. Who will love & be loved. Women who live lavely, both tender a fierce. Women of indomitable will.”

To my mom,

To the woman who loves me unconditionally, who always puts us before herself. To my mother who can take the place of all others, but whose place no one else can take. She is patient, she is selfless.

She is the strongest woman I know, having to put our wants and needs before herself. Having courage when we were scared, even if she was scared she never showed. Teaching us that even if we dont know what is next, to step forward with grit anchored in grace. My mom is my superhero, being able to juggle life, a job, a husband, three children, a household. Not too long ago, she had to start doing all of these alone, and here she stands still strong and fierce.

To all the other woman in my life, my sisters, my mother in laws, my work colleagues and clients. For being strong, for fighting for what you want in life, for fighting your rights as a woman. To never being afraid.

This month, I will be celebrating all the woman in my life. For us still facing the hurdles of being a woman and being under-appreciated. Celebrating the strength and courage our ancestors passed on to us. We are forged through all the challenges in life, however, we move through these challenges with our heads held high. We are moms, we are wives, we have careers, we are cooks, we are maids, we are sisters, daughters. With these multitudes of roles we have in life, we are independent, strong, confident, loving and kind.

When life gives us a challenge we wink at it and say bring it on.

This month, we celebrate womanhood. In any age, a woman is to be loved, to be admired, to be loved and honoured for all we are and all we do.

Finding inspiration from this strong businesswoman

Finding inspiration from this strong businesswoman

Finding inspiration from this strong businesswoman

It was no easy feat choosing a Woman Entrepreneur that has inspired me the most. There are so many wonderfully successful women these days and they all inspire me constantly. Consistently it is their drive and perseverance together with a passion for what they do that leads to their success.

The journey of Maria Ramos

Maria Ramos is one of these women that really inspires me personally. As a South African, I am so proud of what South African women are achieving.

Maria moved to South Africa as a child from Portugal. She studied at University of Witwatersrand and gained a Bachelor of Commerce degree. As a student she heard about a men-only scholarship offered by Barclays Bank, where she worked as a clerk and she herself lobbied for the prize and won!
Maria worked in banking and finance and taught Economics. I graduated with a major in Economics and have a passion for investment banking myself. So.. Maria’s drive and ascent in her career have been a source of inspiration for me.

Maria worked in banking and finance, she taught Economics, and served as an economist for the African National Congress’s Department of Economic Planning. In 1996, she was appointed the country’s Director General of Finance. Here she worked closely with Finance Minister Trevor Manuel whom she married in 2008. These two people effectively guided South Africa toward a free market economic model.

In 2004 she moved to Transnet, on operator of ports and shipping, bus and other passenger transit systems, rail systems and fuel transport lines. This seems an unlikely choice, but the sheer size of the firm and its monopoly on transportation within South Africa, allowed her an opportunity to transform the country’s economy by reorganizing one of its most inefficient and debt-ridden companies. She was CEO and embarked on a campaign of privatization. Unions resisted and there were strikes, but she persevered. In 2009 she moved from Transnet to ABSA as CEO.

Maria’s influence in the banking sector

I read an article recently that specified the earnings of Maria Ramos currently and it is astounding what she has accomplished.

‘Absa CEO Maria Ramos was paid a total package of R37.6 million for the 2017 financial year, almost matching what Nedbank CEO Mike Brown earned.

Brown is typically known as the highest-paid CEO in the retail banking space, which covers the country’s ‘big five’ banks, including Capitec. He earned R38.1 million last year. Ramos’ total pay package was made up of a basic salary of R8.23 million, benefits of over R328,000, bonuses of R12.5 million and deferred income from previous years totalling R16.6 million.

Absa paid its top five executives a combined total of R123 million for the year. David Hodnett, deputy CEO for SA earned R33.2 million, and Peter Matlare, deputy CEO for the rest of Africa, earned R20 million. Financial director Jason Quinn scored R16.2 million and Nomkhita Nqweni, chief executive of wealth, investment management and insurance, earned R16.4 million.’

A powerhouse woman

It is women like Maria who fight for what they believe in and know their subject and believe in themselves, that have paved the way for so many after them. I find her so awe-inspiring! To say the least!

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

To learn continuously is to be a successful Virtual Assistant

Continual learning as a Virtual Assistant

The world is always changing.  New technologies offer new challenges and new methods.  Clients have different needs as their business changes and grows. A must keep up with all these changes to deliver the best service to their clients.  Apart from this working for a variety of businesses also exposes the Virtual Assistant to new industries and markets.

Doing research is a great part of learning

My first assignment with Connect was research on Smart Home products.  I was amazed at how a Smart Home works.  There is a huge range of products available which makes life easier and safer and they are integrated to varying degrees.   In many cases the system is controlled by a smart speaker which is voice integrated systems from e-commerce providers.  The irony is that such a system is also known as a Virtual Assistant.   Many people already rely on artificial intelligence systems which remind them of appointments, book a restaurant or orders food based on what stock there is, or isn’t, in the smart fridge.   I could give many more examples but cannot list them all. The most interesting product I learnt about is a device which releases a scent upon request.  Various aromas are available which create the mood required.   Because this costs around US $400 I am not interested in buying one, but it would be nice.

Being a Virtual Assistant also teaches me life skills such as managing my time and prioritising. On a typical day I have a routine so that I can do the necessary chores and fit in my client’s work as planned. Of course, there are days when my plans don’t work out and I need to get up early and put in a few hours before breakfast.  At other times I work late into the night, but the work gets done and I meet my deadlines.

Learning new life skills

What I have also learnt is that I can be disciplined as well as flexible.  I perform better when I don’t allow myself to feel stressed. There is no manager or colleague anxiously hovering over my desk, breaking my concentration and slowing my down. I have also learnt how to manage my family’s needs and we are all more organised as a result.

The new technology I have been exposed has opened my eyes to the wealth of products which I would never have known about. My confidence has grown as a result.

Because clients rely on their assistant for help it is also important that I acquire skills and learn how to use new technology.  There are many, many options for learning on the internet – YouTube, online courses and help forums are some examples.   If I cannot manage, there is always the team at VA Connect who can point me in the right direction.

The 5 best things to do in Durban, South Africa, by T. Barkus, Virtual Assistant

The 5 best things to do in Durban, South Africa, by T. Barkus, Virtual Assistant

The 5 best things to do in Durban, South Africa

As a based in Durban, South Africa I wanted to share what’s best about living in this vibrant and culture rich city that I now call home.

Durban is situated in the KwaZulu Natal province on the Eastern coast of South Africa. It is known for its African, Indian and Colonial influences and offers a range of sites and activities for both locals and tourists.

Here’s my top 5 recommendations for things to do in Durban.

  1. Hit the beach

Durban has beautiful stretches of beaches on the Indian Ocean. The main city beach called the Golden Mile, underwent a dramatic upgrade and transformation for the 2010 Soccer World Cup and is today still very well maintained and popular amongst day trippers, sun bathers, surfers and swimmers. There is also a lovely promenade for cycle rides and walks. 10 km out of Durban, Umhlanga Rocks offers another stretch of beautiful beach. As its name suggests, it is more rocky and provides a great place for children wanting to explore the rich sea life in the rock pools (be sure to check the tides).

  1. Take a trip to the Valley of 1,000 Hills

A 45 minute drive out of Durban is the beautiful terrain of The Valley of 1,000 Hills.  A typical visit to the area might consist of watching a Zulu ceremony and dance at PheZulu Cultural and Safari Park, having a pub lunch with a view, seeing crocodiles and snakes at the Crocodile and Snake Park and generally taking in the beautiful scenery and enjoying some relief from the humidity of Durban.

  1. Visit Moses Mabhida Stadium

The stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa and is now used for local soccer and cricket matches, live concerts and other performances. It is also home to the local soccer team AmaZulu. The stadium features an arch extending over the length of the field and offers visitors the opportunity to ride the cable cart to the top for fantastic views of the city. For thrill seekers, there is the Big Rush Swing which is a bungee free fall swing that hangs from the centre of the stadium’s arch.

  1. See Durban’s historic city centre

Although a lot of decentralisation has occurred over the last 20 years or so, the city centre is still worth a visit for the diversity of the markets, historical colonial architecture and an array of interesting museums. Of note is Durban’s City hall – also known as eThekwini City Hall where you will also find the Durban Art Gallery and Natural Science Museum.

  1. Enjoy fun in the water at uShaka Marine World

Last but not least, we are back to the water. uShaka Marine World comprise of uShaka Sea World Aquarium, uShaka Wet and Wild waterslide park, uShaka Village Walk (shops and restaurants) and uShaka Kids World (including Africa’s biggest jungle gym).  It is a haven for kids and the young at heart alike and offers a full day of entertainment for all.

These are just a small selection of what is available to see and do in Durban and although not as well-known as the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg, Durban is well worth a visit for both local and overseas visitors.

The Importance of Continual Study and Improving Yourself by Rene, Virtual Assistant

The Importance of Continual Study and Improving Yourself by Rene, Virtual Assistant

The Importance of Continual Study and Improving Yourself

I feel that it is very important to keep studying and learning not only more skills but also more apps and programs as you continue your career as a . If you do not do so you will get left behind and never progress any further with your career as a Virtual Assistant.

New Apps and other Tools

Constantly your client finds new techniques and ways to do things or implement new programs and even cell phone apps into their day to day workings and it is up to you as the Virtual Assistant to learn, not only how to install but also how they work, how to implement them in the way that your client expects and even to maintain this programs and sometimes in the worst case scenario to even do some basic fault finding regarding these programs.

For the lucky few of us this might become a little bit easier if you know a friend or someone in the business that is currently working on these programs and is able to assist you in doing so, but for the rest of us it takes a lot of research and skill development to be able to implement these processes. This may include skill advancement courses, YouTube videos and even some self-taught “tinkering” and seeing what happens. Often times your client himself will be a huge resource and help whilst implementing this new “technology” into your day to day activities. Showing and teaching you how he/she wants the newly added programs and/or apps to work and how he wants you to implement it. On the job training is an excellent way of learning but can also be hard being thrown into the deep end, so be very cautious so that you do not find yourself under too much pressure or feel too overwhelmed.

Skills advancement

On the other hand, by doing skills advancement in terms of doing online courses and training in new software and techniques can also boost you’re “CV” and thereby you can make yourself a lot more attractive with potential new expertise and the more you stand out to new potential clients. So it is better to rather do more online courses. Continually increase in skill development can at the end of the day ensure that you have a bigger earning potential with additional clients.

Having the right attitude

However often times doing the course and actually working with this new programs, skills and techniques mean little by having it on paper if you do not have actual hands-on experience in working with this skill set. For example, it is one thing for a dental assistant to know how to mix different materials work together,  but to actually be the most effective you need hands-on training and experience to know what consistency and relations make for a better mixture. Nothing beats good old hands-on experience. And often times that counts more than a whole wall full of certificates showing that you have the theory but you have never put this theory into practice. So rather try, even if it is just for a short time to actually use and try to implement that theory that you have learned into practice so that you can with confidence add it onto your CV and know that when someone calls, you are ready, willing and able to do the job required by the potential client.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

Welcome to Cape Town my hometown. Perched between the ocean and the iconic Table Mountain, which serves as a backdrop to the “Mother City”.

Table Mountain using the Aerial Cableway

The Cableway takes you to the summit in under 5 minutes and allows you a 360 degree full view of the city and the mountain. Go early to avoid long queues and wait for a sunny day or you may get lost in the fog. Everyone gets a fair view through the open windows, as the car rotates as it travels, so very clever, and amazing views.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is internationally acclaimed as one of the seven most magnificent botanical gardens in the world. The 528 hectares estate includes a cultivated garden and a nature reserve. The developed garden displays collections of southern African plants including many rare and endangered species. The Treetop Path is an amazing treetop walking path that allows you to meander through the foliage, and peer down through the canopy.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

Robben Island

Robben Island is situated about 10km offshore from Cape Town. The name “Robben Island” was given by Dutch settlers and roughly translated means “Island of seals”. It is accessed by ferries that depart from the V&A Waterfront. Many visitors come with some understanding of the prison, but seeing Mandela’s tiny cell and viewing Table Mountain from the island will give you a far deeper perspective than any history book could ever achieve. Whether you are visiting Cape Town for the first time or you are a local wanting to explore the city’s history, a visit to Robben Island is highly recommended.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

Penguins at Boulders Bay

Just around the corner from the seaside village of Simons Town is the famous colony of African Penguins. Once called Jackass Penguins for their hilarious braying call. After you have fallen in love with the penguins head to the secluded Boulders Beach and take a swim in the comparatively warm waters of the False Bay.

Swimming with penguins at Boulders Beach, is a real thrill. A small public beach is set apart from the main penguin colony that resides here, but that doesn’t stop the penguins from sitting on your beach towel or darting around your legs while you take a refreshing dip in the Ocean. A boardwalk has been built around the dunes so you can get a great close-up look at the entire colony eating, breeding, preening, swimming, and chatting away.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town

Company’s Gardens

Right in the middle of the bustling CBD of Cape Town you will find The Company’s Garden. Started by the Dutch East India Company way back in 1652, this beautiful laid-out garden provides a cool, leafy break from the city noise. Beside its green lawns, huge trees and cooling fountains and ponds, it’s all set about with fascinating places to visit.

The Company’s Garden is home to an overwhelming amount of fauna. There are the famous squirrels, who you can purchase bags of nuts to feed. There are pigeons, Egyptian geese, herons, and rodents, and there is even an aviary where dozens of species of birds can be viewed. I love feeding the squirrels, who will scamper right up to you for a snack.

5 Interesting things to explore when visiting Cape Town