MBS in Management, Waterford IT
Phillomon Sithole was one of 74 recipients of the Irish Aid Fellowship award who was selected to study in Ireland in 2016. With a background in education, Phillemon hopes that what he has learned studying at Waterford Institute of Technology will help enable him to better support young students and entrepreneurs in South Africa.
Before coming to Ireland I was working at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria as the coordinator for academic excellence. The primary role of my job was to come up with academic improvement activities, and programmes that would ensure that the pass rate within the faculty increased – that would ensure that those students who are struggling would be able to improve their performance. I was also involved in academic research, and had an advisory role to some local NGOs, especially when it came to policy issues because I majored in policy studies.
I chose the MBS in Management at Waterford IT for two reasons. I registered a company with two friends back home, so we needed the business side of things as none of us had studied business. The other side of it, then, was that I wanted to switch more from the public management side of things into business. I looked at how the course was packaged and designed, and the skills and knowledge that I would acquire from the course, and I feel that this course will enable me, when I go back home, to conduct high quality research and to conduct business workshops training young entrepreneurs. Next year, in July, we have planned a one-day workshop with friends, and I will be mentoring other entrepreneurs in various businesses.
So far, the biggest benefit of my course has been the reflective writing – they have lots of reflective writing here, unlike back home where it’s all academic. When you reflect on something, you are able to draw a self-analysis of yourself, and you are able to improve areas of yourself where it is needed. Through all of the reflective writing that I am doing, I am able to link theory to practice, to look at my own skills, my own personal and professional development, and then I am able to make improvements on that.
Another aspect is the academic writing. I think the standard of academic writing is a little bit higher here compared to South Africa. I think that I have approved a lot so far.
I think the biggest impact of my studies here in Waterford on my work when I return to South Africa will be the standard of my work. I am going back to an academic environment, so I can instil what I have learned here in my students so that they can become better and do better assignments.
Also, I think that I will continue with reflective writing because I find it so useful. I think that it will make me a better person in terms of carrying out my duties in the workplace. I will also try to instil this in the students and the people I will be mentoring through workshops. For them to be able to have the sort of skills that I have learned here will greatly assist them.
In terms of my research here in Waterford, I am going to focus on the area of knowledge management. Knowledge management is one of the modules that I am doing here, and since the first readings that they have us on the subject, I have been struck by the importance of knowledge management within organisations.
It is the notion that organisations operate based on what they have learned in the past – you keep on record what has transpired in the past in the organisation. There are two sub-branches of knowledge management: tacit and explicit knowledge. With explicit knowledge, the organisation’s procedures, processes and policies are recorded, so that whoever comes in will know what to do and how to do it.
My interest in terms of my study is in the area of tacit knowledge, which is more about individuals’ skills and how they use them in terms of their jobs and executing tasks, which are harder to transfer. So my biggest question is: how do organisations and companies retain this tacit knowledge? If you are an employee, for example, and you are highly skilled at your job, if you have to leave today, how is the organisation going to ensure that whoever comes after you will be able to have access to those skills and the knowledge that you had?
So I’m looking at the strategies of South African companies and asking, “What strategies are they using to retain the tacit knowledge of their employees?” The argument today is that we are living in a “knowledge economy” and we hear about “knowledge workers,” so there is more and more emphasis put on knowledge. And more and more, companies and organisations are asking themselves, “How do we ensure that, when this knowledge worker leaves, we will be able to access or at least retain some of his knowledge so that whoever comes after him will be able to access that knowledge?”
My hope for the future of South Africa is that we will be able to reduce youth unemployment, which is very high right now. But even more I hope to see more and more young South Africans taking part in entrepreneurial activities – not just looking at being employed, but looking for opportunities that exist within the market so that they can start their own businesses and be able to create employment amongst themselves, for themselves as well.
In terms of my own ambitions, my immediate goal is to get first class honours in the MBS, and then to enrol for a PhD. I want to continue in the academic field, to continue engaging in business, and to continue imparting knowledge to young students and entrepreneurs. I really hope that whatever I learn here will in the future enable me to achieve personal career development and contribute to the broader betterment of society.