Nokwanda Mbanjwa or Wanda as most people call her is from Pietermaritzburg in KZN and currently lives in Johannesburg. She is the Head of Non-Fuel Retail at Shell South Africa and a mom to two daughters. I met Wanda at Unilever, we worked together in the same team. I was in a role and department that I had never worked in before, Wanda was kind enough to avail herself when I needed help and answer any questions that I may have had and we quickly became friends. It was an environment where people didn’t really help each other so Wanda was a gem. I have been consistently impressed by how good Wanda is at what she does and always has a positive impact on the people around her. I have no doubt that we have not seen even half of what she will achieve in her career yet.
WHAT DOES YOUR JOB ENTAIL? A BRIEF SUMMARY OF YOUR ROLE
If you think of a typical service station, you get the pumps under the canopy (fuel) and “everything else”, well I lead a team that maximises profits for our retail operators and for Shell on the “everything else”. We try to maximise revenue for every square meter of real estate on the forecourt by offering products and services that people need on their journey. So, whether you need a snack, a car wash, a lubricant oil change, an ATM etc. we want to help our customers Go Well.
HOW HAS THE TRANSITION TO WORKING FROM HOME BEEN FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?
It has been testing and rewarding on many fronts. Testing because the lines and roles are very blurred, I have become a pre-school teacher, a Grade 6 teacher, mom, a partner, the cook, a student and I head up Convenience Retail for Shell. So, the office hours, school hours, teaching hours are all blurred together. This transition has also been rewarding because I have had a chance to spend a lot of time with my little family. We are now always with each other….All. The. TIME. You learn to appreciate those close to you even more during difficult times.
HOW DO YOU START YOUR DAY?
Some days, I spring out of bed and I start my day with a 60min walk in my neighbourhood. In the first two months of lock down I was very disciplined about this and did it almost every morning. I would feel refreshed and motivated to tackle the day. In the last month as school deadlines have piled up, I haven’t been able to wake up for my morning walks before my crazy diary of back to back telecons begins around 8:30am until 17:00. So, I am trying to get back into it.
WHAT IS YOUR GO TO UNIFORM?
Tracksuits, leggings, gym clothes, socks! It’s all about comfort. If I have a telecons that will require me to “show my camera”, then I will try make more of an effort that day.
HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED AND MOTIVATED?
On the work front, I believe there is no other option than to stay engaged. Every industry is in this pandemic together, we are all trying to keep our businesses alive. I believe you can’t obsess about things you can’t control, focus on what you can control, so stay the course, show up every day just like you did before lock down and keep trying to be the best version of yourself in all that you do. I read somewhere, that this is just a chapter in the book, not the whole story.
On the school front there are days when I really want to throw in the towel because the workload gets too much. I am studying this year, doing a Masters in Energy Leadership, it’s an exciting program but it is pushing my mental capacity to new heights. In those moments of being overwhelmed, I disconnect from what is stressing me, hang out with my kids or call a friend to take my mind off things, then when I feel calmer, I got back and tackle the work. The trick is to always get back into it.
HOW ARE YOU STAYING ACTIVE?
In the first two months I was walking daily, and I fell off the bandwagon in the last month or so. So, I am trying to get back into it. I prefer to walk and then do a weights session. I never thought I would ever utter these words, but I seriously miss the gym. I miss going to a safe place where you can train without fear of being violated as a female.
On Sundays I’ve taken up hiking. My partner got me some really great and comfy hiking boots and has introduced me to the great outdoors. I enjoy the peace, the beauty and stillness out in the bush.
HOW HAS THIS PERIOD IMPACTED YOUR INDUSTRY?
I work in an industry that’s all about moving people and fuelling their journeys, whether it’s long or short journeys. So, with less people on the roads, no inter provincial travel, we have felt the impact the pandemic and the lock down. But I also work in an industry that is deemed an essential service, so unlike many other businesses we have been able to continue trading since the lock down, so I am grateful for that. It’s not “business as usual or normal” but it’s still business.
HOW DO YOU UNWIND AT THE END OF THE DAY OR WEEK?
I have really started enjoying cooking dinner for my family every night. I’m enjoying trying new recipes, experimenting and playing in the kitchen and seeing them enjoy my food makes it all worth it. Here’s is one of my new signature dishes Butter chicken served with Basmati rice and broccoli. My kids even enjoy the broccoli!
I enjoy catching a late movie with my partner on Netflix and I’ve developed a strange addiction to an old series “Big Bang Theory” where I literally watch at least 1 episode every night when the kids have gone to sleep.
The kids enjoy taking walks inside the complex we live in, ride bikes and my little one has a new obsession of playing in her tepee. This lock down has just really made us pull together stronger than before as a family.
WHAT DOES BEAUTY MEAN TO YOU?
Beauty to me is loving the skin you are in. It’s about self-care. It’s about embracing all that you are because you are imperfectly perfect.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT BEAUTY ROUTINE?
I use a skin care brand called Nimue. I do the normal cleanse, tone and moisturise. I barely wear make-up since the lock down started, but I occasionally will put on some red lipstick to lift my mood or if I have a tough day ahead. Red lipstick is a superpower for me. Lockdown has made me embrace my natural hair. I treat it often, and keep it in plates and under a doek most days. I haven’t “braved” it out to a salon yet, I am actually enjoying my natural hair journey at the moment and my afro and hairline are thanking me for it!
WHAT IS THE LAST TV SERIES THAT YOU BINGE-WATCHED? SHARE A BRIEF REVIEW
Blood & Water. I watched this over one weekend. I really enjoyed the story line, the fresh young and new talent on the show. I am a former UCT student, and I could have sworn that the show was shot at UCT, the scenery just looked too familiar and took me back to my undergraduate years. A great production.